HANDS-ON: GarageBand app for the new iPad 3 gets fancy orchestral strings

There’s something magical about a new iPad launch, it makes us feel all excited, warm and fuzzy inside and despite the fact this latest version doesn’t even have a standard numeric naming convention (it’s just the ‘new iPad’, OK?) this most recent reincarnation hasn’t failed to disappoint.

Our sister site Tech Digest went along to Apple’s exclusive preview event yesterday to get some hands-on time with the shiny new tablet. Read on for editor Gerald Lynch’s thoughts about the new GarageBand app and its fancy new orchestral and Jam Session features…


The mini-Mozart in me just dusted off his conductor’s baton, as after playing about at the new iPad launch event with the latest version of GarageBand, I think I’ve got a whole symphony in me.

That’s because Apple have just updated their popular GarageBand multi-track recording app to include a new orchestral string section. Everything from violins, violas through to cellos and basses can now be added to your songs.

And thanks to the implementation of Smart Strings as a new Touch Instrument, you don’t have to be John Williams to add an epic, classical swell to your songs. Simply select a key, how much you want the app to improvise from a single held note to a full run of notes and you’re away. Individual elements of the 5-piece orchestra can be switched on and off for as bare or dramatic an effect as you require. You can even select from pre-set “moods”, with the cinematic option proving particularly bombastic.

Manually controlling individual notes was a breeze. Slowly dragging down beneath the listed note of your choice would produce a sustained sound, while tapping would re-create the sound of a plucked string. As with all of GarageBand, it’s beautifully simple and intuitive; having previously played in bands I know how much of a pain it can be trying to add a few simple strings to a song, but this makes it all incredibly easy.

Strings aren’t the only new feature of the updated GarageBand app. There’s now also a new Note Editor included, that lets you go back through a piece and remove the odd dodgy note where required, rather than having to back and chop up whole bars before re-recording.


Lastly, and perhaps most impressively, there’s the new Jam Session feature. With it up to four people with iPads running GarageBand can hook up over Wi-Fi and contribute to the same single song in real-time, live. Each track is then pulled together onto the iOS device for further editing or mixing. It’s the closest you’re likely going to come to a true live studio recording experience when using GarageBand, and will likely prove very useful to Apple-friendly gangs of musicians and bands. Right now we’re unable to confirm whether Jam Session supports tracks being recorded over the iPad’s mic (or the numerous guitar and midi cable accessories for that matter), but it would be truly excellent if it can.

As yet it’s unknown as to whether or not the new GarageBand features will hit older versions of Apple’s tablet, but for the sake of all the budding bedroom musicians who live by it, we sincerely hope so.

[Via Tech Digest]
Becca Caddy