GarageBand notes

First off, the iLife ’04 installer does not ask if you want icons for all five apps added to your Dock, it just puts them there.

Second, when you launch GarageBand for the first time (or, at least, when I do), it pops up a dialog box saying:

Can not find /Users/jgreely/Music/GarageBand
Please make sure this directory exists

Why won’t it just create it for me, or find it after I create it? Because GarageBand can’t follow aliases. iTunes is happiest if your iTunes library remains in ~/Music (although that bug might be fixed finally), but I wanted to strip down my home directory for backing up onto DVD and investigating FileVault. So I made ~/Music an alias to /Users/Shared/Music. iTunes is perfectly happy with this, although .Mac Backup is not. Add GarageBand to the list of Apple-supplied applications that are incompatible with Apple OS features.

Third, only one project can be open at a time. This would be fine, given the memory requirements, if it weren’t for the fact that the program exits when you close that project. Just as bad, it insists on opening the last active project at startup, so if you want to start a new one, you have to sit through the overhead of loading the old one, and then remember to use “New” in the menus before closing it. Blech.

Workaround: clear the “Open Recent” menu. On the next launch, you’ll get the Open/Create dialog again.

Fourth, faux wood grain and “dark brushed metal” looks silly.

Update: the overhead of loading a project is non-trivial. I created a simple 32-measure “song” with four loops, and loading it at startup added fifteen seconds to the application’s launch time (1.25GHz PowerBook G4, 1GB RAM). Oddly enough, the far more complicated demo song “Reflection” that’s included in the package added only eleven seconds.

Update: changing the length of a song does not trigger a “do you want to save?” dialog box. I thought that was interesting, especially since it’s ridiculously difficult to drag the end-of-song slider around. As far as I can tell, it has a selection area that covers approximately 3 pixels, and if you miss them, you move the playhead instead. Hello? UI designers? Make the damn triangle bigger!

Other than that, I’m having fun mixing loops and discovering just how much (or, more precisely, how little) I retain from the piano lessons I took 24 years ago. On that note, I’m glad I didn’t order one of the USB keyboards that Apple is pitching as a companion to GB. I got to try one out at an Apple Store, and while it’s a decent enough gadget that fits nicely on a desk, I grew up with an honest-to-gosh piano in the house — a spinet grand — and cheap plastic keys just feel wrong.

Then I spotted this Roland FP-5 with a USB interface…

It will be a while before I recover any kind of skill at playing, so for now I’m amusing myself with loops. Since all the other kids are doing it, here‘s a highly-repetitive background track I knocked together out of the included percussion loops. I used all the default settings for a new “song,” so it’s 6:40 long (at the default tempo, the shortest possible song is 1:02).

Mind you, it loops every four seconds, but both iTunes and my iPod insert a short delay when they loop back around, so the long version minimizes the breaks in the sound. If you don’t really feel like downloading 6 megabytes of, well, crap, here’s the 1MB version.

If you have GarageBand and Jam Pack, the really short version is “drag these loops into the timeline and tweak their volume and balance knobs”:

  • Conga Groove 01
  • Conga Groove 11
  • Djembe 01
  • Indian Tabla 01
  • Motown Drummer 24
  • Tambourine 01
  • Shaker 11
  • World Bongo 04
  • World Maraca 03
  • World Triangle 01