Rolling Stone feature explores Apple’s ‘Music Apps’ team, GarageBand’s origin and future

As GarageBand celebrates its 15-year anniversary this year, Rolling Stone is out with an inside look at how Apple creates the sounds in the app, the role of GarageBand in music production today, and more. The report is “the first media visit Apple has ever allowed to its Music Apps studio.”

Phil Schiller told Rolling Stone that the origin of GarageBand is largely from an “experiment” Apple performed in 2004:

“GarageBand in 2004 came from an experiment in what we could do with computers,” Schiller said. “Back when we were working on the original iMac, thinking about how the world was going to change around us, we were inspired by the idea of a new breed of software to connect all the things that were starting to appear. Maybe someday the next John Lennon would discover their talent using the computer they got as a kid for Christmas.”

Rolling Stone offers a detailed look at where Apple creates GarageBand sounds, and the team behind the process. Apple’s Music Apps studio is in an unmarked building a few minutes away from Apple Park. The GarageBand team is led by German engineer Dr. Gerhard Lengeling, who joined Apple 17 years ago.

When it comes to creating GarageBand sounds, the report describes the excruciating process of reproducing an American upright bass:

In the digital reproduction of an American upright bass, a player in the studio plucks a string, holds his breath for seven seconds to ensure there’s no extra noise on the recording whatsoever as the note shivers into the air (engineers have custom-coded an app to time the duration precisely), and repeats the endeavor at different finger positions, volumes and pressures, day in and day out.

In the real-world, GarageBand is incredibly popular among artists as it’s an easy way to lay down the beginning of a track. Sometimes, however, the result from Garageband is so good it ends up being the final version:

Some people are so good at making demos in GarageBand that they bring in something and I’m like, ‘We can use 80 percent of that as the final record if you want,’” says Mike Elizondo, who’s produced with artists such as Dr. Dre and Eminem and also worked as an A&R executive at Warner.

“There have been times an artist will bring in a vocal they recorded in Garageband just using a laptop internal microphone and it sounds cool. Skylar Grey does this a lot.”

Despite constantly updating GarageBand, however, Apple is careful not to market GarageBand as “too professional a product.” It also sells Logic Pro X for $199.99, and Susan Prescott, Appel’s VP of apps marketing, says the goal is to stay relevant for everyone:

“The dynamic between GarageBand and our pro product, Logic, is organic,” says Susan Prescott, vice president of apps marketing. “It’s not ‘create a feature for pro and stream it down,’ or ‘design for consumers and then shove it up for pros.’ We want to stay relevant for everyone.

As for the future, Schiller says he sees machine learning playing an increasing role in music production and GarageBand:

“Without getting into specifics, I think machine learning — as in, systems and software that will enable more ability to help anticipate what someone wants to do — will be of value,” Schiller says about what’s in the works.

Of the danger of GarageBand influencing music too much, he says “there is a cause and effect” between any type of creativity and its creation platform.

Read the full report from Rolling Stone here. 

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