Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Journey through Garageband as a Non-Musician

If you are like me the look of screen on the left is a bit intimidating.  At the same time, as a non-musician music lover, I am intrigued by capabilities that Garageband provides for non-musicians.

So this week I was determined to connect my daughter's older Yamaha keyboard and my guitar to Garageband.  I wanted to explore the MIDI capabilities and guitar amp capabilities of the program.  Yes, I do "play" guitar but believe me when I say that I consider myself a non-musician.

The first thing I learned was that I needed a MIDI converter USB cable to go from the Yamaha to the iMac.  There are cables like MIDIsport available but discussion groups led me to believe that there were too many issues with this 3rd party cable.  Instead, I purchased a UX-16 cable directly from Yamaha.  I then watched 2-3 YouTube videos on how to use a keyboard with the MIDI features on Garageband.  It was pretty simple but I did have an issue with a clicking sound once I released a key.  I did a complete shut down/restart of the computer and this solved the problem.

After watching a few very short basic instructional videos, I was creating all sorts of MIDI tracks.  It is amazingly simple to create layers of sound that are listenable.  I'm not going to publish any songs any time soon but it was a lot of fun messing around with the 1000's of combinations of software instruments available in the program.

Connecting my guitar was even easier as I already had an iRig cable to use my guitar with my iPad.  I then added a guitar track and started experimenting with all sorts of amp and effect capabilities.  As a practice tool I found some .mp3 jam tracks to download and add as a track in Garageband.  I then started a commitment to learn some blues scales.  I can confidently say today that I have the Am pentatonic scale memorized up and down the fretboard.  I've been inspired by Gary Marcus's book titled Guitar Zero.  My interest in neuroscience and music intersect once again.

Next steps?  I am going to continue trying to find the time to practice guitar everyday.  Playing along with backing tracks is not only fun but a great way to learn.  If you add a drum track to Garageband you can even sync the guitar track in perfect time even if your timing is a bit off.  Secondly, I plan on teaching my son and daughter the in's and out's of creating music.  Since they are both better musicians than I will ever be, I hope they start to enjoy the creative process as well.

So don't be intimidated.  Read, explore, watch videos and have some fun!

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