Pax (funcrunch) wrote,

Making music

Yesterday I got my hands on GarageBand, a product I've eagerly anticipated since seeing its debut at the Macworld Expo keynote earlier this month. It's part of Apple's iLife '04 suite, which is normally $49 (and completely free with new Macs) but I got it for $29 with my educational discount. For that price, it looks to be about the best software deal I'm likely to find.

Some background...

Some of you may not know that I used to compose music. Nothing good and nothing published, but mostly between the ages of 16 and 17 I wrote a number of songs, mostly pop/rock flavored. Although I could read and write music, I had no understanding of arrangement. So my crappy low-end Yamaha keyboard provided auto-accompaniment, and my written music consisted basically of the melody line and lyrics, had I bothered to write any.

The closest I came to getting any of my rock songs performed was when I was in a short-lived band, and by short-lived I mean about 2-3 weeks. The lead singer was smitten with David Bowie and wanted to do only Bowie songs, but he did add lyrics to one of my originals and we played around with it. We had a good sax player but my piano playing sucked as I never really learned to improvise, coming from a strictly classical background. So that was about the end of our band.

I also wrote a musical inspired by The Scarlet Letter after reading it in a high school English class. I managed to finish the entire script and score and get about five scenes performed and filmed for a class project (fortunately I worked for a theater school at the time so had plenty of available talent), but I was too inexperienced and disorganized to schedule a final performance, and it became impossible to coordinate rehearsals.

Years later I acquired some music notation software, and tried to put my earlier compositions (minus the full-length musical, which truly sucked) into the computer. I tried out four or five different programs over the years, with varying levels of success. I could put in the melody, but I still didn't have the training to create a proper accompaniment. I thought about getting Band-in-a-Box, but I was afraid it would sound cheesy like my old Yamaha, and I didn't think it would work on my Mac.

I eventually gave up, only dusting off my old compositions occasionally when I wanted to show them to someone. My notation software (I now use Sibelius) came in handy for making charts when I started singing in jazz classes, but I was just copying songs verbatim out of fake books and transposing them, not producing anything original.

Now, for the first time I think I can actually make decent arrangements for my compositions. Not good enough to make a high-quality demo, certainly, but I can get my ideas down and take them to a professional (like boyziggy) for further tweaking.

I'm excited. After I created my first little 20-second-long trial song last night, I was grinning ear to ear. Having the means to produce something original, to do something fun but productive with my spare time rather than just coming home and playing computer games every night, is very appealing.

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