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ATPM 10.03
March 2004




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The Desktop Muse

by David Ozab,

The World’s Biggest Jam Session

When the folks at Apple created GarageBand, they must have known that they’d have a winner on their hands. I’m sure they even anticipated the effect that the application would have on iLife upgrades. After all, companies bundle software for a reason, and that reason is almost always to sell more software. What they may not have foreseen, however, was how quickly communities of GarageBand musicians would spring up online. But then again, who wouldn’t want to share their new GarageBand tunes with others?

First off, several Web sites have sprung up to showcase compositions. A quick search of the Web reveals several: MacJukebox, iCompositions, MacJams, and MacIdol. These sites all have two things in common. One, a name that’s a pun of either the Mac or iTunes brand name (and one even parodies, God help us, a reality show—please Lord let there never be a Mac-themed reality show) and two, a desire to share music between GarageBand users.

The music on these sites varies greatly, of course. Some is decidedly amateur, even downright unmusical, though you have to appreciate the fun someone had in creating a song even if you can’t share in that fun in the brief few seconds you can bear listening to it. Some is quite good and shows that talent and musicality can thrive even on the limited palate of Apple’s preset loops. Most of it is average, and this, of course, is the very definition of average—the majority that’s not so great that you have to hear it over and over again, but not so horrible that you can’t get through it once.

At this point you’re probably asking, “Do we get to hear some examples?” For the most part, I’m leaving you to find them for yourself. But I have to make an exception, and only because these tracks are too demented not to share:

  1. Cletus
  2. Misunderestimated
  3. What Was I Thinking

And thus, an important lesson is learned—a banjo in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing.

One site in particular lives up to the GarageBand moniker: MacBand (O joy, another witty pun!), which encourages users not only to share tunes, but also to share loops. By requiring that all works posted fall under a Creative Commons license, MacBand attempts to create a sort of ongoing virtual jam session—the band moves out of the garage. And unlike Magnatune (another Creative Commons site built for a similar purpose), MacBand allows each individual to pick his license terms.

Macband isn’t the only place a budding GarageBand musician can find new loops. So far, free loops are available from Bitshift Audio (drum loops) and Access Music (synths). The only cost is an e-mail address. I’ve downloaded both, and both sets are excellent.

In addition, loop collections can be purchased from Apple (Jam Pack: $99) and Drums on Demand (Volume 2: $49).

Next month: Sitting in on the Jam.

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Reader Comments (2)

jksled · April 12, 2004 - 15:46 EST #1
Where some of the GarageBand sites fall short is where it matters most: song hosting. MacBand and MacJams do not allow users to upload songs, a hugely important aspect of sharing GarageBand Creations. iCompositions, MacJukebox, and MacIdol do and that's what you need to be concentrating on.
David Ozab (ATPM Staff) · April 12, 2004 - 16:44 EST #2
MacBand and MacJams may not give you server space, but you can still link to a file on another server, and it's not like domain hosting is hard to come by these days.

iCompositions is my personal pick of the group (as I say in the April issue) because of the feedback I've received . Mac Jukebox still has a discussion forum, but the "jukebox" itself is shut down. And as for MacIdol, again, it's just a bias on my part but I don't want to be associated with any reference to reality TV.

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