My Thoughts on Apple's Latest Keynote from a Musician's Perspective

by Nikolozi Meladze

Apple announced a whole lot of great products and services today. Jim Dalrymple sums it up well:

If there was any event in recent memory that demonstrated the depth and scope of Apple’s products, it had to be this one. Every new product tied into the last and the next announcement in one way or another. Whether iOS or Mac, software or hardware, the connection was there.

I'm going to concentrate what the event means to me and other musicians. I'm glad Apple emphasised their commitment to creative professionals during the keynote. They even demoed the Drummer feature from the new version of GarageBand.

GarageBand for OS X

GarageBand for OS X looks exactly like Logic Pro X. You have to inspect the UI closely before you can figure out which of the two apps you are looking at. It's good to see Logic Pro’s awesome features, like Drummer, Bass Amps and Smart Controls, have been ported to GarageBand. In addition to this, Apple added a beautiful parametric EQ with a built-in analyser on every channel. And, it is finally retina ready. GarageBand has to be the last OS X app from Apple to get retina display support.

GarageBand for iOS

After Apple unveiled iOS 7 at this year's WWDC, I was quite curious as to how Apple developers were going to modify the user interface of the GarageBand. The app used to be quite skeumorphic and employed a lot of metaphors from the real world. In version 2.0, Apple kept some skeumorphic elements while making the other parts of the UI flatter. The arrange view, MIDI clip editor and all standard UI elements were made flatter to adopt iOS 7 look and feel. However, the skeumorphic feel for the virtual instruments and guitar amps were maintained.

The most notable new feature is Inter-App Audio support. I played with it briefly and it works quite well. Hopefully, many more instrument and FX apps start supporting it. Audiobus is great, but having an OS level audio routing capabilities is much better. The other welcome additions include 64-bit CPU support and ability to create songs with up to 32 tracks.

iCloud & GarageBand

We've had iCloud support in GarageBand for iOS a while now. The OS X version of the app just gained the feature. Sadly, while the new versions of iWork apps now have unified file formats across iOS and OS X, GarageBand apps aren't so lucky. However, you can still start working on your songs on iPhone or iPad and then complete them on your mac by importing the project files into GarageBand or Logic Pro X. I'm sure at some point in the future Apple will create a unified project format for these apps.

Aspiring Musicians

Apple made both versions of GarageBand completely free. Now anyone wanting to learn more about music production can easily start using these apps and they don't have to spend a single cent. They are very powerful tools and can be used to make professional sounding records. Throw Logic Remote iPad app into the mix, which can also control GarageBand (also free!), and you've got a fully functioning studio setup. You just may need a decent pair of speakers and a mic. Other than that, you've got everything you need to make great music.

iPads

I've been using iPad mini for the past year and I preferred it over the full size iPad, due to how much lighter it was. Now that a new lighter and thinner full size iPad is announced I'm going give it a go. Reason I'm choosing iPad Air over mini is mainly because I use Logic Remote and GarageBand apps a lot and prefer to have a bigger screen to easily hit virtual music keyboard when I'm composing.

Macs

Earlier this year I gave up my retina MacBook Pro to try much thinner and lighter MacBook Air. I thought trying to make music at random places, like coffee shops and parks, would be inspiring and might make me somewhat more productive. I've learned two things. Firstly, I'm not productive at all at those places. It's very easy to be distracted and completely lose focus. Even if it's simply someone bringing coffee over to your table. At least this is true for me. Second, I really miss the beautiful retina display. And now that Logic Pro supports retina, I really want to go back and enjoy these beautiful screens again. I was hoping Apple would release either a retina iMac or Mac Pro with a retina Cinema Display this year. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. So I'm going back to 15" retina MacBook Pro. Which I'll mostly use as a desktop computer and won't carry it around.

A couple quick thoughts on Mac Pro. I think the new model is absolutely beautiful and it's a beast. It's funny to see a lot of negative responses across the internet, described as not suitable for professional musicians because it doesn't have PCIe slots or is not expandable or some other random weak argument. Thunderbolt people, Thunderbolt! This is what Apple said:

In creating a pro computer for the future, we wanted to provide an enormous amount of expansion — without being limited to the space inside the enclosure. Designed with built-in Thunderbolt 2, USB 3, Gigabit Ethernet, and HDMI 1.4 ports, Mac Pro sets a new standard in flexible, high-performance expansion. It’s our most expandable Mac yet. And it has everything you need to build a workstation completely customized to what you need and how you work.

Overall, I am very happy with today's product announcements and updates. And, I can't wait to play with the new MacBook Pro and iPad Air.