garageband

Music: Just a Little Rain Song

I haven't had a chance to mess around in GarageBand recently so I thought I'd release one from the vaults. Listening through the basement tapes from last September I found this version of The Rain Song. It's me struggling through the alternate tuning on acoustic, the electric guitar on lead vocals, and my favorite mellotron sound on strings. Apologies to Zeppelin.

Music: Shape Note Orchestral

Shape note music is hard to describe. It's protestant a capella hymns from the 1800s that were written in an unusual music notation that was meant to be easier for people to read. Singing in a shape note group is a great experience and I recommend it even if hymns aren't your regular cup of tea. I found a video on YouTube that explains shape note singing in a way that's very similar to my experience: Art Zone: Kevin Barrans explains Sacred Harp singing.

I've been missing the music so I arranged a few of the songs in GarageBand and thought I'd share:

Africa by William Billings
Poland by Timothy Swan
Antioch by F.C. Wood
If you're curious about what shape note music is supposed to sound like, there are many examples on YouTube. Here are versions of these songs: Africa, Poland, and Antioch.

Really looking forward to a time when it's safe for people to get together and sing.

Music: Wellerman (Orchestral)

I was completely charmed by sea shanty TikTok and if you haven't already seen it, here's a good summary: TikTok is making sea shanties big again. I also found a good sea shanty playlist on Spotify if you want to hear more than just Wellerman.

I started wondering what an orchestral version of these a capella songs would sound like. As you do. I found some music for Wellerman and had fun arranging it in GarageBand:


It's a sad but hopeful song that somehow rhymes with the times.

Music: Clay

an abandonded structure in a forest with hue-shifted colors

Music: Sunbreak

a row of trees with the sun overhead; hue-shifted colors

More guitar noodling in GarageBand. Having fun recording the piano chords and bass and then wondering if I can make a guitar line work. I tried something different with the drums this time but it still feels pretty far away from what I'd like to hear.

Music: Annabel (Goldfrapp Cover)

I love this haunting Goldfrapp song from Tales Of Us.


Music: Amble

a path through trees with hue-shifted colors

A friend loaned me their acoustic pickup so I had fun making a lofi track with a higherfi acoustic sound.

Music: Light Saturday

an old oak tree with unusual colors

Some mellow guitaring for your Saturday.

Music: Knock Knock

a campfire with colors from purple to red

Who's there? Every 80's synth sound.

Music: Factory Chime

clouds in a glass ball with psychedelic colors

Goofing around with an MPD218 + GarageBand.

Rain Wave

raindrops reflected on a surface with psychedelic colors


New lofi twin peaks-ish track. I guess my blog is my SoundCloud now?

(The sound effects in this track are thanks to cc attribution-licensed sounds I found: Rain Background and Distant Thunder which both appear to be by Mike Koenig but I couldn't find a definitive link. Thanks for making your sounds available!)

Coping with GarageBand

One of the activities I miss most from pre-pandemic times is getting together with friends in a garage and making music. I still get together and play online with friends via JamKazam. We affectionately call it Lag Jam which gives you some indication of the problems with playing live together online.

Part of the process of getting up and running with JamKazam was getting my instruments wired more directly into my computer. A microphone pointed at an amplifier works ok, but once you're running your guitar directly in, the sound improves dramatically. I picked up a Yamaha AG03 USB mixer which lets me plug in a guitar and mic and that's all I need.

Getting the mixer opened up more possibilites than just live jamming. I also got a new Mac Mini not too long after lockdown and started playing around with GarageBand so I could add parts to my own playing. Cringe along with me at an early stab at recording The Girl from Ipanema:


(I was inspired to record it after watching this amazing video: The Girl From Ipanema is a far weirder song than you thought.)

I was lulled into thinking I could record with GarageBand because the interface is simple at first glance:

GarageBand interface showing six instrument tracks

The basic function of selecting a track and pressing record is easy to figure out. However, each button here is hiding a world of knobs, settings, and sounds you can tweak:

GarageBand interface showing the pedal board, loops panel, automation tools, and more

If you search around for GarageBand help online the first thing you'll see at every forum is someone responding to a GarageBand question with "Get a real DAW, newb!" (Digital Audio Workspace). Yes, and: GarageBand is surprisingly configurable once you dig beneath the surface a bit.

Early on I commandeered the family electric piano (my kids have moved on to cellos) and that opened up the world of MIDI instruments in GarageBand. Not only do I have dozens of keyboard sounds to choose from, but it lets me add percussion to recordings like the latin shakers in that early track.

Here's a heavy synth track I put together while I was watching election returns come in:


Some parts of learning to record felt awkward—like playing to a click track to keep things synced. But the part that I really enjoy that is different from playing live is finding sounds that work well together. Anyway, here's Wonderwall (not really, it's a Boards of Canada style track I made after I discovered loops and sound effects exist in GarageBand):


I'm trying to incorporate more guitars with my synths and having fun with lofi-style tracks:


There are good tutorials for GarageBand out there. This one helped me select some good sounds to go together to get a head start: How To Make LoFi Beats In GarageBand. One more, why not?


In conclusion, to sum up, all in all goofing around in GarageBand has been a fun pandemic activity that has given me some new ways to enjoy music. And if that isn't a real DAW, whatever. (Thanks for listening, I don't have a SoundCloud.)