Anyone that knows me well will tell you that so much of my technology focus revolves around Apple products. This isn’t a fan boy thing, it’s just that during my previous technology based career I ran a business testing tech products for the big UK internet providers.
With all that exposure to a myriad of vendor tech, Apple products were typically made with superior materials and components and the design of their interfaces were always considered and designed with the user in mind
Of course, like every large tech business out there, they’re not perfect. Regardless, I see no other vendor on the market coming close to Apple when considering introducing a child to the concept of music composition. With this in mind, I’m going to exclusively focus on Apple’s GarageBand.
How Much?The best news is GarageBand is free on every Mac, iPad or iPhone. If it’s not already installed on your Apple product, just nip into the App store and search for GarageBand. Hit download and away you go. The installation is pretty big so make sure there’s enough available space on your device.
What GarageBand does really well is merge pre-recorded loops and the platform to record your chosen instruments into one intuitive workstation. We’re focussing on engaging kids in making music here so don’t get hung up on the use of loops, it’s just about getting them involved.
Loops have a place in every studio. If you’re a pianist, just drag that drum groove in to the mix and build your composition like a LEGO set
The child can set levels and add effects and hone their listening skills. Let them loose for a couple of hours and I’ll guarantee you’ll be surprised what they come up with. I certainly was! Loaded in GarageBand is every instrument you can imagine. The sound quality is pretty good too. I sometimes use GarageBand as a fresh alternative to Logic and I’ve had several tunes composed exclusively in GarageBand used on broadcast TV around the world.
What Else Do I Need?
If you want to physically play the software instruments included with GarageBand (pianos, strings, bass etc) you’ll need a small MIDI controller connected to the computer or iOS device. Check out mini MIDI controller keyboards from Korg, AKAI and many others.
You will also need a Audio Interface if you want to record a real-life analogue instrument like a guitar or even your voice. This will come in the form of a little box that connects a mic or a instrument cable to your computer. What it does is converts the analogue sound you are generating into a digital data that then is stored and recalled on the computer or iOS device. Don’t look any further than a Focusrite Scarlett for a quality entry point at a great price.
My family debate about the perceived evils of screen time. Personally, I’m not against it as long as it has a positive connotation. Here for example, we’re talking about compositions, exercising parts of the brain that stimulate pleasure and reward you with great mental health. Here, you’re troubleshooting and learning new skills. And, as someone who’s been doing this for 3 decades, you NEVER stop learning.
What we’re not doing is killing dozens of mutant Nazi soldiers with chainsaws. Get over it.
If you’ve already got a Apple Laptop, iMac or iOS device you are already ready to tempt your child into an exciting world of making music. If they take to it, add a little MIDI controller keyboard and a Audio Interface to expand their horizons further.
If your child shines and starts to see the limitations of GarageBand, then Apple are ready to tempt you with Logic Pro X, GarageBand’s professional sibling. Challenge your child to make a song over the course of a weekend or a school holiday and get involved yourself. Most importantly, enjoy it.
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