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Using guitar amps and stompboxes

From: iPad Music Production: GarageBand

Video: Using guitar amps and stompboxes

Up to this point, we've been working with GarageBand's built-in instruments. These are the instruments you play either by tapping the screen or through a MIDI keyboard that you connect directly to the iPad. But GarageBand is also capable of recording real instruments such as guitars which you can plug into the iPad, or even sounds out of the air that you can capture with a microphone also plugged into the iPad. In this movie, we're going to talk about connecting a guitar to the iPad. All electric guitars and many acoustic guitars use a standard quarter-inch guitar cable. Now there's a world of accessories out there for connecting a guitar cable to your iPad, and for more information on these different types of accessories, be sure to check out the course in this series called Inputs, Mics, and MIDI.

Using guitar amps and stompboxes

Up to this point, we've been working with GarageBand's built-in instruments. These are the instruments you play either by tapping the screen or through a MIDI keyboard that you connect directly to the iPad. But GarageBand is also capable of recording real instruments such as guitars which you can plug into the iPad, or even sounds out of the air that you can capture with a microphone also plugged into the iPad. In this movie, we're going to talk about connecting a guitar to the iPad. All electric guitars and many acoustic guitars use a standard quarter-inch guitar cable. Now there's a world of accessories out there for connecting a guitar cable to your iPad, and for more information on these different types of accessories, be sure to check out the course in this series called Inputs, Mics, and MIDI.

But very briefly, there are two ways to get sounds into your iPad, either with an accessory that connects through the headphone jack or an accessory that connects to the dock connector. I have an example of two of these accessories here. This is the iRig from IK Multimedia. Your guitar plugs into one end and the other end goes right into the headphone jack of your iPad. And this is the Jam from Apogee. The guitar plugs into one end of the Apogee and the other end plugs into the dock connector of your iPad. For this movie, I'm going to use the Apogee Jam. I tend to prefer the accessories I plug into the dock connector of the iPad because that converts your audio to digital right away, and you tend to get a much better sound with digital connections than you will through the headphone jack of your iPad.

So we just take the included cable for the Jam, plug one end into the Jam, and the other end goes into the dock connector of the iPad. You can see we've a guitar jack end right there, so we'll just take one end of the guitar cable, plug that in. Now to help me out with this movie, I am going to have our producer Todd come up to play some guitar, so I can continue working the iPad. Here is your guitar cable. Okay, so now we have a connection from the guitar into the Apogee Jam that goes right into our iPad's dock connector.

So once it's all connected, we fire up GarageBand and I'm going to open up the Guitar Amp instrument. The Guitar Amp instrument contains nine different classic guitar model sounds that mimic some of the most iconic sounds throughout rock music history. You simply swipe through to select different types of guitar amps. Now before we can try out any of these amps, we have to make sure we can hear our guitar. So I'm going to go to the Input Settings button here in the upper left-hand corner and I'm going to make sure that Monitor is turned on. With the Monitor on, you are going to hear guitar either through the iPad's built-in speaker, or if you have headphones plugged in, you will hear it through the headphones.

In this case, we just have a line out running through here, so you can hear what's going on in this movie. Also, if you're playing your guitar through an accessory that's connected through the headphone jack, you'll see an additional setting here under Input Settings for adjusting the Input Level, and you will want to move that slider back and forth as you are playing your guitar in order to adjust the levels. But because I'm using an accessory that's plugged into the dock connector, it has its own Gain control. You can see the Gain dial right here. So I'm going to have Todd play his guitar a little bit and the important thing here is to play your guitar in the style you intend on recording, so you can set the levels properly. You'll see the light on the Jam start flickering towards the red.

I want to make sure it's not too red or else I'm going to be clipping or distorting my signal. So as he plays, I'm going to adjust the Gain. (music playing) So right about there is probably good. Now the other setting you'll find here is the Noise Gate. This is especially useful if you're using an accessory that plugs into the headphone jack which can tend to produce a little bit more background hiss or static.

If you're hearing those sorts of noises, drag the Noise Gate to the right until you don't hear those noises anymore, but you should still be able to hear your guitar when you strum it. Once you can hear your guitar, you are probably going to want to make sure it's in tune, so you can open up the chromatic tuner in GarageBand with that button and this works like any other guitar tuner. You play one string at a time, you'll see the note that you're trying to tune to appear here on the middle and GarageBand will tell you whether you're flat or sharp. (music playing) And you can make your adjustments accordingly. (music playing) Okay. It's pretty good.

We'll turn off the tuner. So we can hear our guitar, it's in tune, now we can start playing around some different sounds. So if Todd will play a little bit of guitar, you will hear drastically different sounds as we pick different amps. (music playing) Again, there are nine different amps that you can choose from.

Now the sound of your guitar tone is not determined just by the amp itself and its settings, but also through the stompbox effects that are connected to that amp in the audio chain. You can see your stompboxes by tapping this button here in the upper right-hand corner. That reveals these stompboxes or effects pedals and they work very much like their real-world counterparts. To turn them on and off, you simply tap the button. You don't want to step on your iPad with your foot, just use your finger to tap the buttons on and off. So in this case, I have the Squash Compressor and the Blue Echo. So the Compressor is currently on, but if Todd will play a little bit, I'll turn the Echo on and off.

(music playing) Play with some other settings here. (music playing) You can hear what it sounds like with it on and with it off. (music playing) You can have up to four stompboxes attached at one time. If you want to add an additional stompbox, just tap in one of the blank spaces that will give you this menu where you can select from any of the 10 stompboxes that are available, and maybe you want to add a Phaser. (music playing) So you can see you can really drastically alter your sound just by adding a couple of stompboxes to your effects chain.

Now if you want to get rid of one of these, whether it's the one you added yourself or one of the default stompboxes, just simply tap on it again, and then tap the No or Delete symbol here on the right. Let's go back to our Amp Settings. Now if you are relatively new to creating guitar sounds by adjusting amp settings or playing around with stompboxes, you may have a particular sound in mind that you want, but not be quite sure how to get there. What you can do is tap the name of the current sound and this opens up a window where you can see four different categories. Each of these categories has eight different pre-created effect sounds that you can select from.

So maybe I'm looking for something a little bit heavier so I might go to Distorted, and pick maybe the Punk Rock Amp. (music playing) Now you may be happy with that sound right out of the box, but you can also use this as sort of a jumping off point and just start playing around with settings from there. (music playing) You might go into the stompbox to see what's being used here.

I can see it's just a single Fuzz Machine pedal in this case, which is pretty much driving the whole effect I think in this case. With it turned off, we don't have that fuzz anymore. I can turn that back on. (music playing) And even once you set the amp settings and the effects pedal settings, you can still play around with the different amps. It's going to stay in the Punk Rock category, but if I switch to different amps, you will hear drastically different sounds. (music playing) Now if you spend a lot of time crafting the sound that you want, you'll most likely want to save it, because each time you open a project in GarageBand, the guitar amps will default back to their original settings.

So to save a sound, tap the name of the current sound and then here, tap Save. This will give you an opportunity to name your sound, I'll call this Custom Punk and you can see this has now created a Custom category here. So at anytime now, no matter what project I am in, if I have just another guitar selected here that sounds like this. (music playing) If I decide I want to go back to my custom setting, I just go back to Custom, pick it, and here I'm back to the sound that I programmed in.

(music playing) So if you are a guitar player or even a bass player, you have a world of classic and modern sounding amps and effects to play with. And in a lot of ways, this is better than having real amps because you don't have to worry about having the space to store them or even the budget to own them, because everything lives right here in your iPad.

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iPad Music Production: GarageBand

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