My new PowerBook came pre-loaded with the iLife suite, including GarageBand, which I've never investigated before. I didn't think it would be of much interest to me, as I'm better at listening to music that making it. But I idly fired it up to see what all the fuss was about, and before I knew it, I had spent a couple of hours intently noodling around with some reggae loops. It's a very addictive bit of software. First, the loops and samples provided are very high quality, and fairly diverse in style. I was pleased to discover some world music sounds like the tabla, the oud and some gamelan loops. I then got very excited and searched for a hurdy-gurdy, but unfortunately they don't have my favourite instrument. Second, GarageBand is exceptionally easy and intuitive to use. You discover pretty quickly that it does take a fair bit of talent and skill to produce a track that isn't repetitive and progresses in a musical way (the first 12 bars are easy, then you wonder where the heck to go from there), but even without any talent, it's possible to produce something that sounds fairly decent. I'm even starting to think that I might dust off my old electric guitar and get a cable of some kind to plug it into the PowerBook. I'm curious to know what the guitar amp simulations are like.
Adding instruments to the mix one by one reminded me a lot of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells; perhaps the fact the the default instrument in a new mix is the Grand Piano is a subtle tribute to him1. Well, if he can record more or less the same album — what is it, three times now? — it would probably not be impossible for somebody to come up with a big hit using GarageBand. However, I think it's more useful as a tool to create background and incidental music for movies and slideshows, or just to while away a few hours creatively when the Great British Summer is in full flood.
1 Before you look, there is also no Tubular Bells loop. It's probably just as well.