Apple’s Musical Developments

Take a bitePeople listen to Steve Jobs. And geeks get really excited about his annual keynote address at the Macworld convention. Glorious Noise’s resident Mac-evangelist, Joshua Rogers, weighs in on the new stuff coming out of Cupertino.

Okay, it was Keynote day and I figured some of you may be interested to see what happened, musically speaking…

1) iTunes

With 500,000 tracks the focus now seems to be on browsing… Their “Essentials” lists have been up for a while, but today they added Billboard Top 100 charts dating back to 1946 (although it’s only Top 30 or 50 up until 1959). This is pretty cool, as it highlights the depth of iTunes catalog, and it’s really fun to go back and see what was hot when you graduated or had your bar mitzvah or whatever.

2) GarageBand

This is pretty effing sweet… For $50 (the cost of the complete iLife suite) you get this 64-track recording studio that not only uses (a subset of) the same royalty-free audio loops found in Soundtrack and allows for MIDI control and sequencing of instruments, but also allows you to record directly to hard disk as demonstrated by none other than John Mayer. It includes a variety of processing synths to emulate vintage amplifier sounds. It was hard to tell in a QuickTime stream, but they sounded pretty dope. The ultimate demo-producing system is here!

3) iPod mini

I’m not quite sure what the point is here… Captain Steve suggests that at a price point of $250, they’re aiming to capture the market of high-end flash media players, but at only 4GB (compared, ostensibly, to 256MB for other players in the ~$199 area) I don’t see why you wouldn’t pony up the fifty bucks for a 15GB “regular” iPod (that’s what the low-end model was just bumped to, from 10GB). The mini certainly looks sweet – like a colorful aluminum half-inch-think business card, but the price tag will need to come down, I think, to capture much of that 37% “high-end flash players” market.

That’s the bulk of it… I’ve already ordered a pair of Apple’s new in-ear headphones – at $40, they’re about half the price of most other in-ear models, and even if they sound exactly the same as the regular ones, the better sound isolation is very welcome.

Another cool iPod toy I noticed today is Griffin’s iTalk – 16-bit recording right on the iPod, with built-in mic or auto-switching mic input. Nice.

Just thought I’d share.

15 thoughts on “Apple’s Musical Developments”

  1. “Garage band” isn’t really anything new though, its just cheap. And throwing together loops and shit isn’t really my idea of making music, its more like making shitty electronica. Plus there are plenty of music nerds who can work Cubase or ProTools and give you the real deal, the good part is that I hate those nerds, so Im glad it will devalue their skills, now that an 8 year old can drag and drop loops onto a timeline.

    You have to wonder why Steve Jobs wouldn’t address all the issues with some their products (non replaceable iPod battery, the new iBook is a total peace of shit). I love Apple, but Steve Jobs is an arrogant fuckwad who really got where he is by busting everyone elses balls, then riding on their backs.

  2. GarageBand is a lot more than loops-I was checking it out on Apple’s website. It’s really designed with home studio recording in mind. And it has Apple’s typical ease-of-use built into it. I’ll be picking it up. $50 for GarageBand, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie is a good price.

    As far as it being nothing new, you’re right, Anon. But it looks like Apple did it better.

    And I’m with Josh on the iPod Mini: $50 more for a 15GB iPod? What the hell would I get the Mini for?

  3. Am I the only one who doesn’t really see a need for a $300-$500 mp3 player?

    Im at work, I listen to music on my computer

    Im in my car, I listen to my stereo

    Im in my apartment, I am listening to my stereo.

    I honestly see no place to use the fucker, maybe if I was really into jogging, or some kind of outdoorsman, or took the train more often… but I am not that cool, just an average wad.

    Sorry man, but as an avid apple fan and user, I see it as nothing more than a hipster fashion statement. that being said, I still think an iPod is cool, and still entered to win one on Glono last month, or whenever that was.

    Why would you buy iLife, when that shit comes stock with their OS? I never bought iMovie, or iPhoto, or iTunes, yet I got like 10 copies of the shit laying around.


  4. Anon1: You’re right – it’s nothing new, but as usual, Apple has taken existing ideas and put them to better use. GarageBand, and its pricier sibling – Soundtrack – do “loops” like they’ve *never* been done before, with automatic tempo and key adjustments for a world of individual instruments. Tack on a MIDI sequencer and hard disk recorder – still, nothing new – and you’ve got a completely new beast for musical composition.

    I also agree that it would be nice to see Steve on stage saying “Boy, did we fuck up those iPod batteries – here’s what we’re doing to make it better” but this is Macworld, and if it ain’t new and shiny (or “Aqua-y”), it ain’t getting headlines.

    Anon 3 (there are those that call you “Chris”): I was wary of the real value of the iPod for a long time as well (200-cd changer at home, MD in car, computers at work) but, as all those who have one would attest, you can’t forsee the million little ways having a few days’ worth of your favorite music on hand all the time will change your life. Is it worth $300? Only you can say. The fact that 720,000 people decided it is in the last quarter makes a strong case, though.

    And finally, as for iLife – *technically* iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie are the only “free” pieces out there; iDVD has heretofore come installed only on DVDR-equipped Macs and has not been made downloadable from Apple, and neither it nor GarageBand are part of the OS X Panther install. Assuming anyone who can use iDVD has it, though, when iLife ’04 is released, you’ll pretty much be paying for GarageBand. Probably Apple’s answer to the realisation by people like you that right now, it’s hardly worth it.

    So, yeah – I wrote this as a board post and it got promoted (tired GloNo staff still sleeping it off, I guess) so it’s pretty off-the-cuff. I know I’m a cheerleader sometimes, so if that kind of thing bugs you – deal with it.

    Cheers – JR

  5. It’s worth commenting also on how cool it was having a real musician onstage during the presentation (currently streaming at However you may feel about John Mayer, he felt free – to the point of interrupting Steve – to talk from the perspective of the songwriter/acoustician. For a few minutes, Mayer was noodling (“all in the key of C, by the way”) on a MIDI keyboard while Steve changed the sound samples. (Steve mentioned the Rhodes, btw – the sample didn’t sound very much like one.) On the “classical guitar” sample, John pointed out how the tone of the sample changed with velocity, with a distinct pick-on-string sound when really hit hard.

    Later they did the same sort of thing, with Mayer’s Telecaster (“in a variety of keys, by the way”) being processed with a variety of amplifier tones, and ultimately added a live guitar track to a GrageBand project John had already made. A quick export command resulted in the final file playing in iTunes. Very slick.

    Side topic: are Steve Jobs’ presentation skills waning? His speech felt off today – made a couple technical mistakes and said a few just dumb things. Not usually his style.

  6. didnt john mayer go to some badass music school or something? i think coutney hard at ascap discovered him.

  7. Well, Joshua, it looks like you are saving this sorry ass music mag, while these lazy shits sit around *not* writing music articles, at least you got a discussion going.

    Like I said, I just don’t see a purpose for the iPod, my buddy needed to borrow my camera for a photo shoot, so I told him I wanted his iPod as a deposit. I figured I would love it and just buy my own, but it just sat on the coffee table. I also don’t think the interface is all that great. The jog dial isn’t as nimble as I would like it. For the money, I want a bigger screen, or a color screen, some cooler features.

    Answer me a question Joshua, I have Soundtrack, because it came with my Final Cut Pro 4. And I have used it, and it is pretty fun to fuck around with, but does it have a midi sequencer in it?

  8. If you tried it and it didn’t catch, I guess it’s not your bag.

    Your question brings up what I thought was the most bizarre thing about GarageBand – it’s basically a 64-track version of Soundtrack (as opposed to 126) PLUS sequencer and HD recorder all for a fraction of the price. So no – Soundtrack does not have the sequencing ability, but expect it to soon. I think the “full, final” version of Soundtrack will be a wonder to behold.

  9. Thought I’d just mention that those iPods are quite the shit, as I’m sure everyone would agree. Thanks to Joshua, who let me try his out a while back. Since then I haven’t been able to fool around with them, because nobody here in Ann Arbor has got one.

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