“Kids” (MGMT cover) – GarageBand on iPad – by Nguyen-Anh Le

KidsFor my next Internet music video – here’s a cover of the fun and catchy song “Kids” by MGMT!  I recorded and arranged it all on the iPad, using the GarageBand app.  I had just downloaded the app for $4.99 a few days ago.  Rather than just toying with it, I figured I should just do a full production with it.  Et voila, here it is!

Link to the recording on YouTube

GarageBand for iPad – The Good

My first impression of the iPad was that it was just a shiny new toy. Yeah, you can do fun stuff with it, but would the novelty go away? Then I saw a few music apps come out and realized there could be some promise. But even those apps are semi-toys too; it’s hard to play something really well since they are limited instruments and the keys are so small. But GarageBand for iPad really put it over the top. You can do some serious music with this app!

GarageBand is perfect for the iPad. Why? Because you can record tracks directly on the iPad. If you’ve ever used GaragePad for Mac or any other desktop music studio software, you have two choices for recording: playing real instruments and feeding the sound to the computer, or tediously clicking your mouse to record each note. On the iPad, the iPad is both the studio and the instrument. I recorded half this song just sitting on the couch, with the TV on.

GarageBand’s synth sounds are great. I own two “real” synths. I don’t use my 88-key Korg workstation anymore because it’s so big and clunky. I do use my 61-key Alesis, but it’s still a pain to drag it out. The synth sounds on GarageBand have good enough quality and variety to play for real. This is quite an improvement even against the other synth apps available for the iPad. GarageBand also provides guitar, bass, and drum apps. They sound decent enough. Not close to the real thing, of course. But they’ll work fine if you want to quickly lay down tracks for a song.

GarageBand for iPad – The Bad

There are some limitations to GarageBand for iPad. Since the iPad is an “all-in-one” device, there’s currently no easy way to hook external inputs up to the iPad. This means you are stuck with the tiny built-in microphone on the iPad. My voice is bad enough as it is – and using this mic just makes it sound worse! Most vocalists and live recording artists use fancy condenser microphones – so iPad isn’t ready for them just yet. There’s hope though – companies like Apogee Electronics are making input products for the iPad.

Another shortcoming of Garageband for iPad is limited effects and processing capabilities. There are several knobs you can turn for each instrument. On analog synths, you can edit basic things like attack/decay, cutoff, resonance. The sound recorder lets you select from a few typical presets (large room, small room, chipmunk, etc). You can do some processing of most tracks like editing reverb, echo, compressor. But that’s about it. You can’t add typical effects like graphic equalizers, chorus, distortion, or even auto-tune (haha). And you can’t fine tune your song with various envelopes.

These limitations are far from being showstoppers. If you want to do more with your song, you can export it into GarageBand for Mac. I did this with “Kids” so I can add a few more effects and do some fine tuning. This was only the second time I’ve used GarageBand at all (iPad or Mac), but you can see that the Mac version is a more powerful editing platform. But for most home users, you can won’t need to do all this fancy stuff. Considering it just costs you $4.99, and you don’t need any other instruments or gear, GarageBand for iPad is super easy for you to make some music.

Other Musings and Conclusion

Oh yeah, this was also my first time making a music video with fancy editing.  I tried out Sony Vegas – neat tool!  Doing this was lots of fun too. I am still quite the video newbie though. The biggest challenge was getting all the video clips to sync. A few clips got out of sync towards the end of the song – don’t know how to fix them.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the song. Recording it was lots of fun, as well as a great learning experience!  I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with music on the iPad.

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