iPad 2's Great Music Leap Forward: GarageBand
iPad 2's Great Music Leap Forward: GarageBand

The GarageBand app for the new iPad 2 offers nine different amp options.

The musical possibilities of what can be accomplished with the iPad just took a huge leap forward. On Wednesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2. During his presentation, Jobs discussed something that captured the imagination of many music lovers: a new app.

"I'm blown away with this stuff," Jobs said referring to the new GarageBand app for the iPad2. "I can't even tell you how many hours teenagers are going to spend making music and learning about music."

GarageBand is Apple's consumer-level music recording studio application that up until now had been limited to Mac computers. The program has elicited enthusiastic responses from musicians of all ages who have gained entry into the once relatively expensive and exclusive world of writing and recording music.

Apple now looks to be targeting novices with the $5 app, which will launch with the iPad 2 on March 11. The tag line on the GarageBand Web site sums it up best:

"Wanted: Rock'n'Roll heroes. No experience required."

Which doesn't mean the app is exclusively for beginners. I've talked to many artists over the years who used GarageBand on their Macs to demo new songs while on tour or during downtime.

I recently spoke with Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen about his iPad who, before Wednesday's launch, recorded with the Apple tablet and a Ampkit guitar app add-on. "It's great," Collen said of using the iPad. "There are great sounds coming out of it that make it so much more than just a practice tool."

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GarageBand's (colorful) 8 tracks

The GarageBand for iPad interface looks remarkably like its Mac counterpart and you can seamlessly transfer between GarageBand for iPad and your computer. But its Easy-to-use features, doesn't mean this iteration of GarageBand isn't powerful. The app comes with a built-in 8-track recorder allowing users to record themselves and build songs. Apple helped put that into perspective:

"When the Beatles recorded "Sgt. Pepper's," the most advanced technology of the day was a 4-track and it weighed 300 pounds and it was the size of a washing machine," said Xander Soren, Director of music applications marketing at Apple, during his presentation at the event. "Now you can imagine all of the fun things you can do today with 8 tracks on your iPad."

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Just like Neil Peart: The kit view

What Apple is aiming for with GarageBand for iPad is to give aspiring rock'n'roll heroes the ability to easily create a song with multiple instruments, record it, and share with others. A noble idea if they can pull it off; but one entirely possible with the app's impressive functionality.

The new version of GarageBand comes loaded with more than 250 music loops as well as a full range of guitars and effects, including nine amps and 10 stompboxes. You can also choose between three drum kits, which gives users a drummer's view from behind the kit.

There are some rather sophisticated technologies behind GarageBand. For example, the app can gauge dynamics and velocity, so it knows how hard or soft you are hitting a drum or keyboard (there's an accelerometer inside the iPad). The app can also determine if you are hitting a rimshot, bell or ride cymbal.

To make it easier to play, the product is introducing Smart Instrument technology. Using the Smart Guitar, for example, you can choose notes, chords, strumming or fingerpicking. There are also Smart Keyboards, Bass and Drums to tap out individual parts yourself or which GarageBand can help make easier.

New music products are already being released for the iPad 2. One of the leaders, Apogee Electronics, on Wednesday introduced the JAM, a new device to connect your guitar to the iPad 2. Instead of using the analog headphone jack, JAM uses the 30-pin dock connector to produce a much cleaner sound.

It will be interesting in the months ahead to see exactly how musicians use GarageBand for iPad; but it will be even more interesting to hear the results.

.Biz guest columnist Jim Dalrymple has been writing about Apple and music for more than 15 years. Currently he writes for his own website at The Loop. You can follow him on Twitter @jdalrymple. He is also known to shred on guitar.