Tag Archives: Garageband

Cubasis vs Garageband Revisited

Back in May I wrote about my initial experiences with Cubasis, and how it compares with Garageband. That post has become one of the most viewed on this site, so I felt an update was in order as it doesn’t really reflect my current thoughts.

In May, my conclusion was:

I would say that Cubasis is a better DAW, but Garageband is a more complete package. I will probably use both – Cubasis for proper recordings, and probably most of the time for acoustic tracks; Garageband for quick sketches, and electric guitar & virtual instrument tracks in particular.

I’ve used either Cubasis or Garageband almost every day since then as part of my tune a day project, and on the whole that prediction has proved to be very accurate. For mostly acoustic tracks like this one, I would always use Cubasis to give me more control over the sound of the instruments – Garageband’s lack of track EQ continues to be a huge problem to me.

But for electric guitars and tracks like this one, I would pick Garageband every time. I’ve used Ampkit via Audiobus to record electric instruments in Cubasis, but it’s a lot more hassle than using Garageband.

Another killer reason for using Garageband on a track like this is the ability to then open the track in Garageband or Logic on the Mac. The new drummer feature in both of these is so much better than anything I have on the iPad that this alone can be a reason to start a project with Garageband.

However, in recent weeks there have been more and more reasons to avoid Cubasis. I’m not sure whether it started with the iOS 7 upgrade or the Cubasis 1.7 update, but I’m finding the app less and less reliable, with frequent audio glitches. The Cubasis forums seem to suggest that I am not alone, but there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment.

I’ve found that the problems can usually be avoided by doing a total restart of the iPad before starting recording. But that’s a lot of hassle, and I often forget. It’s really disappointing, because I liked Cubasis a lot.

So… I’ve decided the time has come to try Auria. It’s downloading now… watch this space for a first report.


Big Red Combine Harvester

It was harvest festival at my children’s school last week, and the following day we recorded a very noisy version of their favourite harvest song. And that just happened to be the first thing that came to hand when I was trying to work out how to use goanimate.com. Silly, but quite fun.

Here’s the full version of the song (I didn’t have the patience to animate the whole thing). The drums and bass were recorded via two iPads using a Garageband jam session.

“Scottish Week” on A Tune A Day

Gylen Castle, Isle of Kerrera
Gylen Castle, Isle of Kerrera

I was in Scotland last week on holiday, staying near Oban on the west coast. The highlands & islands are just about my favourite place in the world, even if the weather is a little (ha!) unpredictable. It also presented a bit of a challenge for the tune-a-day project as it was a week without real instruments. I just took my iPad, my little external keyboard and a collection of somewhat clichéd Scottish tunes. Hey, but they’re clichéd because you hear them so often, and you hear them so often because they’re great tunes.

So here’s a compilation of “Scottish Week” and some notes on the iPad apps used. All tunes were recorded in Garageband – I find that Cubasis is better for real instruments, but Garageband is easier for iPad-only tunes as its built-in instruments are much better.


26th August – Loch Lomond. Drum machine, bass and electric guitar from Garageband. Mellotron flute and strings from Super Manetron.

27th August – Ye Banks and Braes o’ Bonnie Doon. Guitar, organ and violin all from Garageband.

28th August – Skye Boat Song. Organ, synth and drum machine from Garageband. Little bit of Polychord on the verses.

29th August – Scotland the Brave. Drums, bass and electric guitar from Garageband. The melody is played on ThumbJam using the “JR Zendrix” sound (which sounds like a cross between an electric guitar, a synth and a bagpipe).

30th August – Heilan’ Coo. A very silly song that my children made up on holiday last year but had never been recorded before. Same instrumentation as Scotland the Brave. Ellie’s vocals are processed through Improvox to auto-tune and add harmonies. Tom insisted on doing his vocals direct after deciding that Improvox “makes me sound like a girl”. The silly bit at the end then puts Tom’s vocals through Garageband’s “monster” effect, and Ellie’s through “chipmunk”.

(31st August isn’t included, because it was “Happy Birthday”)

1st SeptemberAe Fond Kiss. Drums and bass from Garageband. The guitar uses Pearl Guitar which definitely sounds a bit better than Garageband’s own guitar. The melody is played on ThumbJam’s Scottish smallpipes, and there’s a bit of Polychord towards the end.


Cubasis vs Garageband

See also: Cubasis vs Garageband Revisited

One of the objectives of my tune-a-day project is to try out different iPad music apps. My first attempt at using an alterative DAW was a bit of a disaster, so I was a little more careful in researching which one to try next. Cubasis and Auria are usually mentioned as the top two, but I was put off Auria by all the in-app purchases that seem to be required, and lots of reports of poor reliability. So I took the £35/$50 plunge and went for Cubasis. And I have to say that so far I’ve been very pleased with it.

Having used Garageband for so long, I inevitably compare alternative DAWs directly with Garageband’s capabilities. While Cubasis is undoubtedly a better DAW, there are definitely areas where Garageband is better. So here’s a list of 7 things I prefer about Cubasis and 4 things I prefer about Garageband.

7 things I prefer about Cubasis:

  1. Wide range of effects (delay, reverb, eq, etc) that can be applied to each track individually. I was increasingly unhappy with the sound of my digital piano recorded in Garageband, and the lack of eq control prevented me doing anything about it. Strangely, in Cubasis it sounds much better even without any eq changes. This is a little odd and probably worthy of another post in its own right.
  2. More time signatures – you can play in 5/4 and 7/4 in Cubasis (although curiously not 6/8 or 7/8… that doesn’t really matter in practice because you can just choose 6/4 or 7/4 instead, but it’s a bit weird).
  3. Export to Dropbox. I use Dropbox as my main way of getting mixes onto my (Android) phone to listen to while I’m out. From Garageband, this is really tedious.
  4. Import MIDI loops. I got a great range of 7/8 drum loops from OddGrooves, but getting them into Garageband on the iPad is really awkward (it involves going via Logic on the Mac). In Cubasis, this is very easy.
  5. Import/export files via web server. Cubasis has a built in web server to upload/download files.
  6. Ability to name tracks. As I use a lot of acoustic instruments, I end up with loads of “Audio Recorder” tracks in Garageband that are hard to tell apart. In Cubasis you can name each track.
  7. It is being regularly updated with new features – in fact there was a new release today adding punch-in/out recording, another thing Garageband lacks.

4 things I prefer about Garageband:

  1. The virtual instruments sound better. I found this quite surprising, but most of the Cubasis ones are rather horrible – they sound like the sort of thing you’d find on a cheap keyboard. I quite like some of the synth pads though, while I don’t much like the Garageband ones.
  2. The electric guitar presets. It’s only when they’re taken away from you that you realise how good they are. I use several of Garageband’s presets frequently. Cubasis has nothing like this. Yes, it has all the effects that you could combine to get a similar sound, but there are no presets and (more surprisingly) seemingly no way to save a combination of effects. As a result, I’ve also had to buy Ampkit – more on that another time.
  3. The loops are better. The difference here is not as big as the previous two points, and some of the Cubasis drum loops are usable. But I think the Garageband ones are better.
  4. It’s much easier to loop sections of a track in Garageband – you just drag the end of the section to repeat as many times as required. In Cubasis you have to copy and paste, which is OK, but a bit tedious.

Two things that are about the same:

  1. User interface. When I tried Multitrack DAW I was somewhat horrified by the user interface. Cubasis is much nicer; I learned how to use it very quickly. It doesn’t feel like a step down from Garageband.
  2. Audiobus. Both support Audiobus, and while I’ve read that the Cubasis integration is meant to be better, I can’t say I really noticed the difference. One thing is certain – the Audiobus integration is more important to Cubasis than to Garageband, because you are more likely to need external instruments and effects than you are in Garageband.

To sum it up, I would say that Cubasis is a better DAW, but Garageband is a more complete package. I will probably use both – Cubasis for proper recordings, and probably most of the time for acoustic tracks; Garageband for quick sketches, and electric guitar & virtual instrument tracks in particular.

Finally, here’s today’s tune-a-day, recorded in Cubasis. It’s a piano piece that my son, Tom, is learning. I added some banjo and accordion.

Garageband Jam Session

Day 4 of the tune-a-day project, and the first guest appearance from my 8 year old son, Tom, on drums and Hammond organ.

Tom is a surprisingly good drummer for his age, but struggles a little with keeping in time and hasn’t really got the hang of playing to a metronome yet. So I wanted to record both drums and bass at the same time. Garageband can only record one track at a time, so I looked at trying a different app. Several other iPad DAWs do allow multiple inputs, but it seems only from a single device. I don’t think I could plug a USB hub in and record from different USB devices connected to the hub.

Then I realised the way to do it is with a Garageband “jam session”. This allows two iOS devices running Garageband to contribute to the same recording. So I started my iPad 3 is the session leader, and attached the USB mic to it to record the drums, then connected my Apogee Jam to the old iPad to record the bass.

When configured properly, it worked really well. After the recording, the session leader collects the recording from the other device, and you can then add other tracks.

But I did notice a few oddities. Last night, while I was working out how to use it, I tried recording the bass through both the mic and the Apogee Jam at the same time to check if there were any audio sync issues. The two tracks did seem to be slightly out of sync. So I shut down all the other apps running on both iPads, and switched from a Bluetooth to Wifi connection. Until I found an article on Apple’s site, I didn’t even realise you could use Wifi connections – I think that the dialog shown below is very misleading, because it suggests you must have Bluetooth enabled. If you just press “cancel”, it will use the Wifi connection instead.

Anyway, with no other apps running, and a Wifi connection, the audio sync was perfect.

Second problem I encountered is that I accidentally had one iPad configured to use a count-in before recording, and the other had it turned off. The result was that the two audio tracks ended up way out of sync. But once the 2nd iPad was in the jam session, I couldn’t turn the count-in off on that iPad. So I had to leave the session, turn off the count-in, and rejoin the session.

So, overall, “jam session” is a pretty good feature, but it does take a bit of messing around with to get it exactly right.

Recording in Garageband via Audiobus

I’ve always been interested in the concept of Audiobus – allowing one iPad application’s output to be used as input to another. But it’s only recently that apps I know and like have become Audiobus compatible. First, Garageband added support, and this week I noticed that Polychord had done the same. So I had a go at recording a short tune with both.

I would describe the process as “easy when you know how”, but rather less obvious if you’ve never done it before. So here’s a short tutorial on how to do it; whether I did it the best way, I don’t know yet, but it worked.

The objective here is to set up a smart drum rhythm track in Garageband, add some chords from Polychord, then go back and add an acoustic guitar in Garageband.

So, first of all I created the smart drum track and recorded the rhythm.

Then I added a new audio track to record Polychord onto.

This starts off expecting to get its input via the iPad microphone – we’ll see this change later.

At this point I started Audiobus. In Audiobus, you choose the input and output applications, so I chose Polychord as the input…

…and Garageband as the output.

Now we can see the flow of audio.

If you touch the Garageband icon, you can now see that the message in the audio recorder has changed, and there is an Audiobus sidebar in the application. To start recording, you need to switch back to Polychord by touching the icon indicated by the red arrow below.

Back in Polychord, now touch the Garageband icon…

…which displays the Garageband recording controls. To start recording, touch the Rec icon, and you’ll hear the usual Garageband count-in.

Once you’ve finished recording, you can switch back to Garageband and see that the audio track has now got a Polychord icon.

You can then apply the usual Garageband effects to the Polychord track, and add new tracks. I added an acoustic guitar, recorded through an external microphone.

And here’s the finished result, uploaded to SoundCloud via Garageband.

Not To Scale

I have always written music in small chunks that I often then struggle to turn into full songs or tunes. “Not To Scale” is an attempt to blend many of the bits and pieces I have had floating around for years with some new tunes and a few traditional tunes I enjoy playing. Although it is nominally a collection of 8 tracks, it’s meant to be listening to together – some of the tracks are fairly inconsequential on their own, but hopefully make a bit more sense as part of a longer piece.

It was recorded entirely in Garageband on my iPad, although “fixed and mixed” in Logic Pro. More details on how all the instruments were recorded in a separate post later.

a wedding in fort william is a combination of the Scottish traditional tune “Mairi’s Wedding” and my own tune “Fort William”. Before my children we born, Anne and I used to spend the summers touring the Scottish highlands & islands. In 2004, I tried to record a soundtrack for the video we shot during one of these trips. I underestimated just how difficult that was to do well, and was never very happy with the result. But I did like one or two of the tunes in it, and “Fort William” got its name because that was the music playing over the video recorded in Fort William.  You can see the (rather silly) stop motion video for this track here.

melody for an unwritten pop song is a new tune written very quickly as light relief from trying to get the arrangements for some of the other tracks right. It felt like it could be made into quite a catchy pop song, but I don’t suppose it ever will.

stuck in a cave … and never get out are really two versions of the same tune with different time signatures that gradually grew further apart. stuck in a cave came first, as an attempt at writing a proper folk tune. The name was my daughter’s suggestion – “you’ll be stuck in a cave and never get out” is (for reasons I have never understood) her standard phrase used when adopting a Scottish accent.

music for a found hammond is, of course, a reference to the classic Penguin Cafe Orchestra tune (more on that later). When my mum died in 2012, I decided to spend some of the money I inherited on a new instrument that I would play regularly. I actually ended up with a very old instrument… a Hammond M3 organ, built in 1960. This tune came out of my attempted to learn how to do all those sliding-up-the-keyboard whooshing noises.

robot is a much older tune which I used to play on the piano, and have moved it between all sorts of different keyboard instruments. It ended up on the accordion.

isle of rhum was another from the 2004 soundtrack project. The traditional “Wild Mountain Thyme” (actually, I am not so sure any more that it is a traditional tune, read the Wikipedia page for details) always felt like an obvious segue for it, although it was only in the final recording session for “Not To Scale” that I worked out how to do it properly when I realised that Wild Mountain Thyme can be played in both 4/4 and 3/4.

rope for a found harmonium is a combination of “Rope” (a very old tune of mine – there’s a longer recording of it here), and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s “Music For A Found Harmonium”, written by the late, great Simon Jeffes. When I bought the Hammond organ, I had also been thinking about buying a harmonium, and ended up buying both. It is quite depressing just how cheaply you can buy a fully working old harmonium or reed organ for on eBay. It cost me just £20 – about half the cost of the petrol to go and collect it from Bournemouth. It’s a beautiful instrument, and there really was only one candidate for “first tune to learn how to play”.

rolling II is part of a longer tune called (unsurprisingly) “Rolling”, moved into a different key. “Rolling”  was going to be part of this collection of tunes, but didn’t quite fit. I will go back and do it properly one day.

autumn head is another very old tune, from the same era as “Rope”. Like “Rope” it used to have words to it as well, but they haven’t be used for a long time. It just felt like the right sort of ending to the collection.


  • Acoustic bouzouki: all tracks
  • Acoustic bass guitar: all tracks
  • Electric bouzouki: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Hammond organ M3: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
  • Piano: 1, 6
  • Accordion: 4
  • Harmonium: 7

A Wedding in Fort William

The first track from my latest recording project is finally done, complete with rather silly video. It’s called “A Wedding in Fort William”, and is the combination of the Scottish traditional tune “Mairi’s Wedding“, and my own composition “Fort William”.

Before my children were born, we used to spend the summers touring the Scottish highlands & islands. In 2004, I tried to record a soundtrack for the video we shot during one of these trips – I was never very happy with the result, but I did like one or two of the tunes used in it. “Fort William” got its name simply because that was the piece of music playing over the video recorded in Fort William.

The music was all recorded in Garageband on my iPad then mixed in Logic Pro. There are acoustic and electric bouzoukis in there, an acoustic bass, a Clavinova digital piano and a Hammond M3 organ (I’ll write another post describing how each instrument was recorded later).

The video was created using iStopMotion with the iPad as a remote camera.

Using a Garageband track as an iMovie soundtrack

Earlier this year I replaced my original iPad 1 with a new iPad 3, so for the first time was able to use iMovie. So on a recent family holiday to France, I wanted to try editing video in iMovie on the iPad, and adding a soundtrack to it.

Once you have your Garageband composition ready, go to the list of songs and press Edit:

Select the song you want to send to iMovie:

Then click the send-to button and choose iMovie:
This will start up iMovie, and you can choose whether to create a new project or add to an existing project. If you add it to an existing project, it will loop the song to fill the video available. So although it’s perhaps not the natural thing to do, I think you probably get better results by putting the soundtrack on first, then adding the video clips.

 So this is what it looks like after creating a new project.

And here’s the result. In days gone by, a silly song the children invented in the car would have stayed as that. But for an iPad-equipped family, it becomes the soundtrack to a multimedia extravaganza! With the exception of the shooting of the video itself, all the editing and the soundtrack was done on the iPad, from where it was uploaded directly to Vimeo. The music is all played on Garageband virtual instruments, along with 4 tracks (with effects of varying silliness) of the children singing.

And here’s the Garageband track on its own:

My first iPad Garageband tune (revisited)

When I posted my first iPad Garageband tune back in March 2011, I used it as an example of some of limitations of the application. In particular, the inability to edit the notes in the recording, and fade the track out at the end.

Since then, both of these have been fixed in a Garageband update, as has my other main complaint – the inability to change time signature (although you still can’t use 7/8).

So here is a slightly revised version of the tune – a very silly piece called Squeak Squeak Kaboom. See the original post for details.