Making Music with GarageBand 2

First-timers will enjoy Apple's easy-to-use app, but more-seasoned musicians will likely feel stifled.

Some new features should make Apple's GarageBand 2 more attractive to actual garage bands than its predecessor. Chief among them: The ability to record eight live tracks simultaneously, versus the original's single-track limitation. Add to that capability a simple-to-understand menu and self-explanatory icons, and the application--part of Apple's $79 ILife package--represents an easy introduction to multitrack recording.

GarageBand is largely successful in its attempts to be an all-encompassing music-making machine. The Macintosh-only app offers numerous software instruments and loops--short audio snippets--for creating songs. Also, you can apply a variety of effects--such as compression, echo, and reverb--to each track.

You can also use the software to record real musical instruments (assuming you have the necessary hardware). Once you've made the recordings, the program offers an assortment of presets that should help beginners get a palatable sound without having to do a lot of tinkering.

Apple calls these Real Instrument tracks, versus the Software Instrument tracks it creates for the virtual variety. For electric guitars and bass guitars, there are about a dozen amplifier simulators to help you sound like you're really plugged in and cranked up, instead of simply connected to your computer.

However, it's a good thing that most of GarageBand 2's functions are easy to figure out because documentation is scant: There's neither a paper manual nor a digital one.

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