I’m beginning to really like Garageband. I’m in the process of learning a bunch of new songs, and I need to create backing tracks to practice with. There are a lot of midi files out there that one can use as backing tracks (No, I’m not going to link to them. They are not THAT hard to find). The good thing about midi files is that each file is already separated into tracks with instrument definitions, one can turn on or off each track, and the song can be speeded up or slowed down very simply without having to alter the wave file. The downside to midi files is that the sounds are all created with your computer, so having a good tone generator is imperative. So, I went out and found a couple of the songs that I needed for learning / practice and downloaded them.
Here’s where Garageband gets interesting… To setup a song to practice with, I created a new Garageband project that was totally empty. Importing the Midi file is so easy, it should be criminal… all I had to do was drag the Midi file into the Garageband track view. Garageband automatically added the tracks, picked the software instruments, and loaded everything up ready to play. Cool! So, I played the song, and noticed that the bass guitar track was playing an octave too low. I had to dig a bit to figure out how to change the pitch. It turns out, it was dead simple. When you select a section of music, a little left-to-right slider appears in the track pane with just a number. I WISH it said something like ‘transpose’, but it doesn’t (at least, I don’t remember it being labeled that well). So, I slid the slider up 12, the octave, and voila! the bass track was in the correct octave. Also, it was easy to change the instruments to different ones to get different tones.
One of the really nice things about Garageband is that the software instruments recognize the General Midi instrument specs. As long as the song has the instrument definitions included in the file, Garageband will assign the correct instrument. No more fiddling with Channel 10 for the drums and all sorts of other rigmarole and gyrations that go into getting a midi file to sound right.
All in all, I was able to get my song created and sounding good very quickly. That left a LOT more time to practice. Which, is the point right now. Gotta learn 10 songs in a week and a half! It’s fun to fiddle, but NOT fun to have to know incredible amounts just to get anything done.