As a musician, I’m more of a performer than a recorder. Although I have been in studios many times, I simply don’t have the patience and attention to detail that you need for making a good recording. A lot of the problem has been with the interface – too techie, too user-unfriendly, too time-consuming. But yesterday, as a reward to myself for having worked hard on The Beowulf Effect: Fossils, Evolution and the Human Condition (my forthcoming Enormotome for the University of Chicago Press) I found a USB cable and connected a keyboard to my iMac so I could play with GarageBand, Apple’s proprietary sound recording, composition and arranging device.
This was a revelation. Within a couple of hours I’d recorded this jazz-funk noodle, now entitled Theme from Cromer 5-0: Just click on the word ‘funkster’ and a track should come up on Soundcloud (with thanks to Mr J. McQ. of Hackney for the tech advice.):
If the embedding doesn’t work you can listen to it here. Don’t be cruel, it’s a ‘work in progress’.
What follows is the technical part, for
geeks ricardipus Benoit those interested in that sort of thing. I triggered all the sounds over USB from my Korg TR61, but all the sounds came from the computer.
I used six tracks – bass drum, snare drum, electric bass, clavinet, jazz organ and lead synth. I modified the organ and the synth sounds to give the sounds a bit more welly, but I really didn’t need to – the quality of Apple’s in-house samples is astonishing (I know not the technicalities of these things, but I suspect that the sounds are modelled rather than sampled.)
The jazz kit and finger-style electric bass ‘breathed’ in a most lifelike way. The Hammond sounds as good as my Hammond XK-1 keyboard that I take to gigs. My only beef was that I couldn’t find a Leslie cabinet simulator anywhere. The clavinet sounds almost as good as the real thing. I have yet to hear a clav sound that authentically recreates the sproingy creaking sound of the mechanism, but the trade-off is fair – many years ago I ruptured a disc lifting a Clavinet/Pianet Duo into the back of a car, and the injury has since come back to haunt me. The synth sound – well, it sounds almost as good as Jan Hammer’s MiniMoog on one of my favourite albums, Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live.
I played all the tracks ‘live’ (rather than putting in note values stepwise) and managed to correct for timing really easily – like everything else with Apple, the GarageBand user interface really has a very shallow learning curve. You can look at each track either as a music score or a ‘piano roll’ and can edit, delete or move around each note with the mouse. Easy as peasy. Easier, in fact.
And it took no more than two clicks of a gnat’s semiquaver to load the thing onto iTunes at super-high quality, and hardly more fiddling than that to share my efforts with you. Isn’t technology wonderful?