GarageBand for iOS review: The music creation app that continues to amaze

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The Good Apple's GarageBand makes it easy to create music using smart instruments that even someone with no musical experience can use, while advanced musicians will find plenty to work with as well.

The Bad The only thing bad about GarageBand at this price is that it's a bit tricky at first, but with some practice, just about anyone can get the hang of it.

The Bottom Line GarageBand is the best app for music creation on a touch screen. With real-world instruments, true-to-life sounds, and tons of easy-to-use tools, there is simply no other app in its class for iOS.


9.5 Overall
  • Setup 10
  • Features 10
  • Interface 10
  • Performance 10

GarageBand already had a long history on the Mac, letting people use intuitive controls and a huge library of instruments and prerecorded loops to create songs. But with the iOS version, Apple needed to come up with creative ways to record music using only a touch-screen interface, and we think the company did an amazing job. In the latest version, GarageBand now supports Audiobus, letting you use sounds and effects from other music apps and then recording them to GarageBand tracks.

As a general overview, the GarageBand app offers several Touch Instruments, guitar amps and effects, eight-track recording and mixing, and more than 250 loops to play with. You can export AAC files of your projects through e-mail or add them to iTunes.

Immediately upon launch, GarageBand makes it easy to get started creating a song. Simply choose an instrument and start playing around with GarageBand's many options. GarageBand offers instruments you can play in real time like their real-world counterparts, but you also have the option to play Smart Instruments that do most of the heavy lifting for you. Every instrument has its own specific theme, giving all of them their own feel as you play. Some instruments even have added controls such as effects boxes you can turn on and off to fine-tune your sound.

Can't play piano? No problem. Use the smart version of instruments to get a clever layout of chords and bass notes. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Using the smart keyboard, for example, lays out all your chords in the chosen key. This means that just about whatever you press will probably go together in a song. You can change the key by touching the wrench in the upper-right corner of the screen. Using a combination of bass notes on the bottom and chords at the top, it's easy to create a nice-sounding song, even if you have very little experience playing the piano.

Similarly, the smart guitar offers a different layout that lets you play chords with a swipe of your finger. You also have the ability to switch to individual notes and actually bend guitar strings for your big rock solos. All of the Smart Instruments come with a few prerecorded segments so you can just tap a key and let the app play for you. Drums can be played manually on touch-screen drum kits or drum-machine-like layouts. But as with the other instruments, you can choose smart drums to make things easier. Simply drag and place drum set pieces onto a grid to experiment, or hit the dice icon in the lower left for a random layout. It's clear that Apple spent a lot of time on how to make music creation easy even for people with no musical experience.

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