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Apple software to help garage bands jam

"Jam Packs" expand features and portability for musicians mixing music on their Macs.

Digital musicians will have a few new riffs for their virtual production boards, at least those using the latest Apple software.

Apple Computer on Wednesday announced new versions of its pro and midrange digital music creation software, as well as two new "Jam Packs" for its GarageBand consumer music product. GarageBand lets a musician digitally record and mix music on a Mac.

The Mac maker said it has updated its Logic Pro and Logic Express suites to version 7 and in the process made it easier for musicians to easily move their projects from GarageBand to Logic Express or from Logic Express to Logic Pro. In its high-end suite, Apple has added Guitar Amp Pro, a feature that emulates the sound of nearly a dozen well-known guitar amplifiers.

Apple's music mix
Apple said Logic Pro 7 is available for $999, with registered users of certain previous versions able to upgrade for $299. Logic Express 7 will be available next month, with a sticker price of $299. The Jam Packs sell for $99 each.

Also on Wednesday, Apple announced two new "Jam Packs" which offer GarageBand and Logic users additional instruments in a particular genre. Jam Pack 2: Remix Tools is designed for dance, hip-hop and electronica tracks, while Jam Pack 3: Rhythm Section creates a virtual backing band for those creating rock, alternative and country music.

"This makes GarageBand just that much cooler," said Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of applications marketing.

Music has become a central part of Apple's business, both with the iPod and iTunes Music Store, as well as a key area of interest for many who choose a Mac.

Since the introduction of the first Macintosh in 1984, Apple has tried to market the machines as a way for consumers to do things that had been reserved for professionals. In its early years, the Mac helped lead the way in desktop publishing; more recently, Apple has focused on movie-making and digital photography.

Music creation software is relatively new for Apple. Apple acquired the technology behind Logic two years ago with the purchase of Germany's Emagic.

In January, Apple introduced GarageBand, a consumer program based on Emagic's engine. The same month, Apple combined a number of the former Emagic's audio tools into the Logic Pro 6 suite and also added Logic Express, a midrange music product.

The strategy is similar to Apple's approach in the music market, where it has iMovie for consumers and Final Cut Pro for professionals, as well as a midlevel product, Final Cut Express.

Because GarageBand is sold as part of Apple's iLife suite, which is sold for $49 and included on every new Mac. Thus, there is no way of telling how many people are using it, but Schoeben said the trend of musicians going digital is undeniable. Last year, he says, there was a 28 percent growth in computer music products, while analog tools such as multitrack recorders and drum machines posted double-digit declines.

"The move from analog to digital is happening, just like it's happening with digital photography and movie making," Schoeben said.