GarageBand at Apple’s RTC Newport

I was recently invited to visit Apple’s Regional Training Centre (RTC) at the University of South Wales in Newport to deliver a demonstration to educators and students on the use of GarageBand in the classroom. I use GarageBand in my music lessons and also its big brother Apple Logic Pro X.  I was invited by Mat Pullen who is the Manager of the RTC and also an Apple Distinguished Educator.

Even though the main focus of the demonstration was on how I use GarageBand in music lessons I also wanted to demonstrate the possible uses across all subject areas. A lot of teachers do not realise that GarageBand can be used in practically every subject. It can be used as a voice recorder and to create background music to be imported into a KeyNote, iBook or iMovie.

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Apple’s Regional Training Centre in Newport

When I was a pupil, recording studios were big buildings that cost hundreds of pounds a day to rent so the thought of having a recording studio within a one-to-one device, creating high quality music at the touch of button would have seemed impossible. As a music teacher in a classroom where every pupil has an iPad, the use of GarageBand in my lessons has enabled me to create high quality sounding music for both performing and composing.

Performing with GarageBand

Before we used iPads in my lessons the main classroom instrument to perform as an ensemble was the electric keyboard. My classroom still has sixteen electric keyboards which are used regularly and are a valuable resource. However, even if you change the sound on the keyboard to an electric guitar it may sound reasonably authentic but you are still technically playing a keyboard. GarageBand has a range of instruments which offer a virtual on-screen version allowing you to perform that instrument in the same manner as the real thing.

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Classroom performance using live instruments in GarageBand.

The main virtual instruments are guitar (acoustic and electric), electric bass (guitar and synth), piano (acoustic and electric), strings, drum kit, drum machine, world instruments plus many more. There are also many built in performance features such as a chord option, autoplay option, arpeggiator and the ability to be able to bend strings when using the virtual guitars. The iPad can also connect to an audio interface to plug in a real guitar or microphone. The guitar option has a number of different amplifiers to choose from and the vocals have many effects to enhance the audio.

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Demonstrating the live bass guitar in GarageBand at Apple’s RTC

Composing with GarageBand

Due to the technical capability of the newer iPads and IOS 11, the latest version of GarageBand is quickly catching up to Logic Pro X. Composing using Apple Loops is a very quick and easy way to create high quality sounding music using the pre-recorded samples. I was recently very impressed with the quality of work produced by my Year 7 class after only a few minutes of ever using Apple Loops. You can read more about this in my previous blog Going Loopy with Apple Logic Pro X

‘Live Loops’ allows you to compose and create ‘on the fly’ performances of your compositions. This can be done by simply playing the arrangement from start to finish, clicking and playing the individual loops or playing the whole pre-composed column by selecting the arrows at the bottom of the screen. You are also able to record your own loops and trigger them perfectly in time.

By adding the audio interface to the iPad will allow you to plug in a microphone or guitar to record alongside the chosen ‘Apple Loops’ in the multi-track arranger window.

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The ‘Live Loops’ window in GarageBand

GarageBand for all subjects

The majority of Apple Teachers that I have spoken to didn’t complete the GarageBand badge until last as they felt it wasn’t necessary for their subject and was mainly used for music. The ability to record audio whether through the inbuilt microphone or through the additional audio interface enables GarageBand to become a high quality voice recorder. The audio can then be easily edited in the timeline and then exported as MP3 to be shared easily with teachers, peers or to the wider community through social media.

The ‘Fun’ feature is a highly engaging way for pupils to change the sound of their voices, which could work well for project work. For example, pupils could write a story about a journey into space and then bring the characters to life by using the alien, monster or robot voice sound.

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The Fun effects feature in GarageBand to change the sound of your voice

The ability to record high quality audio allows practically all subjects to benefit from  recording and editing within GarageBand. It can be used as assessment evidence and is especially beneficial for language subjects. Pupils with writing difficulties would be able to use the voice recorder feature for classwork and coursework. The audio can also be imported into iMovie or KeyNote to create a high quality sounding video or presentation.

Since using GarageBand, composition levels in KS3 have improved and it offers the perfect transition to using Logic Pro X for GCSE and A level compositions, preparing the pupils for university and industry.

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