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Mixing it up – Making music on iPad Garageband

A quickfire tutorial and review

Like most people, I have an semi-conscious list of goals I’d like to say I completed. Climb Kilimanjaro. Fight in the UFC.  Drop off the grid and become anonymous. Write and record a song.

The first three reasonably attainable you would say.  Recording a song, not so much.

So I was keen to see what Garageband on the iPad had to offer in the hopes of reducing my check list by at least one.  And with no experience  in mixing music or playing more than guitar, I dove in. Here’s how I got there.  Briefly.

You’re first presented with a screen displaying your existing songs / supplied demo.  You can play with the demo or create your own new piece.

Once you select your song, you’re presented with the following track timeline , and can easily add new instrument and audio tracks.  The spanner in the toolbar allows you to choose your base options including time signature, key, and tempo.  If you tap the track, it highlights.  Then clicking the instrument icon in the toolbar allows you to ‘play’ the instrument.


I created a drums track and dropped in to lay down my beat first, always a good start.  You can select a ‘smart’ drum beat that provides an automated sequence but I chose to play out my own finger tap for a more natural feel.  Hit the record button, wait for the time in and you’re away.


Now this allows you to record one ‘section’ of your song, or a general beat loop.  You’ll want to add a few more sections.  You do this by clicking the + at the top right of the timeline.  This allows you to add, duplicate, and shuffle sections.


Once I’d worked out the drum sequence for the different sections of my song, I moved on to the Strings instrument.  Having set your key in the ‘spanner’ options, you are presented with a set of chords that play nicely together.  And simply by tapping or stroking the keys you have a beautiful sounding orchestra at your fingertips.


Romantic strings section done, I moved on and fleshed out the song with other tracks – acoustic guitar, electic guitar for solos, a grand piano for punch, a bass guitar.   There are further options within each instrument to give you more freedom or more automation, depending on your preference.  You can choose to play full chords with one tap, or play a complete virtual piano.


Once you have all your tracks laid out you can adjust the general settings for each track under the mixer icon – volume, reverb, balance etc.  I pulled some instruments back, and shifted their balance left or right for a little dimension.


At this stage, the song may have points you just want to tweak.  Bad timing, or notes that don’t fit.  You can really get into the detail now by double tapping a section in the timeline.  This brings up options for that clip, the one that matters – edit.


This gives you a break down of every beat /note played and you can easily move them for timing, alter the notes volume, copy or delete it.  This gives Garageband the versatility I was worried I was going to miss, and being able to tweak a beat or remove a violin string made all the difference.


And from having no experience in creating and mixing music, I was able to pretty easily find my way around the app.  Definitely intuitive and works so well on the iPad.  To be able to lie on the couch and create a fully fleshed out piece was great.

On plugging the iPad into my PC, I was then able to export the piece out as an mp3 to itunes, import it into a sound editing program for a little extra control and add vocals.  You can record vocals directly into the iPad AND plug in real instruments.  There are a number of add on devices that plug in to the iPad for the more serious musician which makes the app a powerful portable creative tool.

But after a little work, I’m impressed with the result Garageband for iPad can produce.  Clearly it’s not the real thing, or a fully ‘pro’ app, but this makes an excellent tool for getting down a tune.  My only dissapointment was the lack of air instruments.  I would have liked to throw in a little sax.  But you get a lot of bang for your buck with this app.  Very nice.

Cross ‘record song’ off my list.  What next.

4 1/2  out of 5 stars


It’s late. I’m sitting on the floor watching the end of a movie. I hear rustling and my little 4 year old Flynn appears. His eyes are puffy, ‘Dad can I have a drink.’ I give him a little plastic glass, he drinks the lot. I give him a hug and send him to bed, watch him shuffling away half asleep. Little boy.

A minute later he re-appears, his bottom lip quivering. ‘Luca hit me’. He’s dazed and confused.. I pick him up, carry him back to bed where his brother Luca is fast asleep. I tell him Luca didn’t hit him and tuck him in, but he insists, starts to cry. Over tired. I tell him I’ll cuddle with him a bit.

So I hop in beside him, his little chest breathing hard with tears. Tucks his face into me.

I whisper ‘I love you little boy. I love you more than all the toys in the world’.  His tears stop. ‘I love you more than all the lollies ever, more than everything in the whole wide world.  I want you to be happy and do all the amazing things you ever want to do.’

He’s quiet in the dark for a moment.  Then he says ‘I love you Dad’ and  gives me a tight long hug, takes a deep  breath, and is asleep.

Anne Boleyn – An historic icon reimagined

Anne Boleyn – An historic icon reimagined

This portrait is inspired by the iconic queen, Anne Boleyn.  After a lot of research, reading about the woman and studying the existing historic portraits, I began a piece which averaged the facial characteristics of these pieces and incorporated details in historic descriptions of Anne.  Unfortunately, all of the existing pieces apart from a distorted coin were painted posthumously so cannot be considered acurate, but there are similarities in the artworks.

Boleyn was second wife to King Henry VIII, and was executed for adultery – a month after Henry began seeing another woman, and on little evidence.  Descriptions of Anne paint her as not traditionally beautiful, but in her own way charismatic and graceful, with a long neck, long dark hair and beautiful dark eyes and lips.  Less flattering remarks suggest she had moles, a cyst on her neck, a protruding top tooth and the bump of an extra finger that she kept well hidden.  But it’s inferred she was the centre of attention, charismatic, and it’s hard not to imagine she was a woman unafraid to speak her mind – which may have lead to her demise.

I wanted to create a new portrait and modernise / humanise Anne.  The final is heavily stylised and graphic, yet I’ve worked to stay faithful to the dimensions and facial characteristics of the woman.

This piece is part of a larger project, the base being art for a premium quality card set titled Origins.


This print is now available at

Blue Eyes – Elton John


Blue eyes
Baby’s got blue eyes
Like a deep blue sea
On a blue blue day

Blue eyes
Baby’s got blue eyes
When the morning comes
I’ll be far away
And I say

Blue eyes holding back the tears
Holding back the pain
Baby’s got blue eyes
And she’s alone again

Blue eyes
Baby’s got blue eyes
Like a clear blue sky
Watching over me

Blue eyes
Ooh I love blue eyes
When I’m by her side
Where I long to be
I will see

Blue eyes laughing in the sun
Laughing in the rain
Baby’s got blue eyes
And I am home again

Blue eyes laughing in the sun
Laughing in the rain
Baby’s got blue eyes
And I am home again