I'm a little late to the GarageBand party because I didn't think to buy a copy until several of my TUAW colleagues pointed out its utter simplicity for creating rimshots. "It's like having a portable backup band," one blogger swore. Just hop into the app, select Drums and use the Classic Studio Kit. A couple of taps on the lower-left snare followed by a top-left cymbal? Brilliant.
But there is so much more you can do with GarageBand than to create an imaginary "Tonight Show" experience. The best way to use it is to noodle around; and the best way to noodle around is to put the application into automatic section length mode, select the smart guitar and have at it.
Start by creating a new song. Choose "Smart Guitar" as your instrument. Then tap the jigsaw puzzle piece at the top left of the screen, tap on Section A and enable Automatic. This allows you to mess with a random creation without having to be limited to eight bars at a time.
Next, select a key. I played with C minor (Song Settings/Wrench > Key > C, minor) because, well, it's just fun. Choose a major key if you want to be able to perform all the best songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary with just three chords. (or add in a fourth chord for the true Axis of Awesome experience.)
You're now ready to create your own masterpiece. Tap record and have at it. When using Smart Guitar, the iPad basically acts like a smart Autoharp. A single tap brings you an entire chord. Tap the top pentagons to play each chord or stroke individual strings to add notes.
What follows is me recording a "song" by tapping the screen pretty much at random. This is how good the app is. My random taps -- and this. Use the record button at the top center of the screen to capture your session as you mess around. As you can tell from this example, it's almost impossible to use GarageBand badly. And yes, I really was touching things without any plan whatsoever.
To share your creation, tap My Songs to return to the library/organizer screen. Tap the share button (bottom-left, looks like a rectangle with an arrow leaving it to the right), choose Email Song and let Garage Band do the rest. If you'd rather add your song to your onboard iTunes library, there's an option for that as well.
I am in love with GarageBand. For $5, it offers a toy that a 2-year-old can probably use to make things that sound, well, ... that sound like they weren't made by a 2-year-old.
Start playing with it around friends, and you'll discover that your iPad will leave your hands in moments -- and that your friends will be leaving your company with a resolve that this is one device that they need to buy for themselves and for their kids.
GarageBand is awesome. Highly recommended.