GarageBand 101: Using Magic GarageBand to create a jam-along band

It’s been years since I’ve been in a proper band. I’m unable to commit to a band schedule, but it’s nice to jam with a decent rhythm section. Magic GarageBand, however, is turning into a fun way for me to practice.
Magic Garageband is a way within Apple’s(S AAPL) OS X app GarageBand to specify the style of music you want to play (rock, blues, country, etc.), the key, tempo and which supporting instruments you want to jam along with.  While you can use programs like Jammit, where you can buy individual songs by selected artists to play along with, because Macs come with GarageBand already installed,  I’m highlighting this feature since you may not know about it.

Load In: Getting started with Magic GarageBand

From the start screen, select Magic GarageBand and then the style of music you want to play along to. I choose blues.
crump-magic-garageband 01
The next screen lets you customize the instruments you’ll play along with. I’m the only geetar player in this hootenanny, so I fired the other guitarists. By clicking on the bass, I can choose from a variety of bass styles. I’m a big fan of the boom-boom bass, so I chose an upright.
You’ll hear how the different instruments affect the sound of the song as you change them. Once you’re happy, click “Open in Garageband.” One of the chief problems I have with Magic GarageBand is you can’t change the key from the creation screen; you can only do it from within GarageBand proper.
To do that, go down to the LCD-looking screen at the bottom of the window. Click on the left-most icon — most likely it’ll look like a music note. You’ll get a pull down from which you’ll want to choose Project. From there, you can choose the key for your jam session. I chose D minor, because as Nigel Tufnel said, “It’s the saddest of keys.” This jam session will be part of a ballad trilogy I’m working on, as was Nigel.
Now, you can use your jam session as either a basis for a recording, or just something to loop and play along to.

Load Out: Magic GarageBand downsides

As you’ll no doubt quickly find out, Magic GarageBand haS pretty much one riff in each of the genres. While you can vary the feel of the drums, bass, and other instruments, the song will still have the same basic progression. You can’t tell it to do a I-IV-V progression in E, but with a blues vibe. It would also be nice if you could set the key from the creation screen, too, so you can hear how the song sounds in that key.
It will also be obvious when you open the Magic GarageBand project in GarageBand proper that it’s just a set of Apple loops. There’s nothing stopping you from just creating your own jam tracks with loops (I’m a huge fan of BetaMonkey’s drum loops for creating my own backing tracks), but I’m a huge fan of how easy it is to get a rhythm section up and running with Magic GarageBand. Often, when creating my own tracks with loops, I spend way too much time playing with the loops than playing my guitar.
I use Magic GarageBand as a jam tool, mainly to work on improvising and working with scales. I’ll set a key and work on the minor and pentatonic scales associated with that key. While it’s not as robust as I might like, I still use it quite a bit.