GarageBand for iPad Tips 1 & 2: Playing Above the Guitar Nut & Fretting for Overtones

I’m extremely interested in using the iPad 2 and GarageBand for iPad as a music creation tool. While there are a lot of reviews of this combination on the web, there isn’t much in the way of tutorials so far. So, I decided to share a few of the things I’ve learned about using GarageBand on the iPad in the past couple of days.

As someone who has fussed with a guitar now and then over many years, I was most interested in GarageBand’s Smart Guitar feature. The first thing that struck me is that while none of the on-screen instruments are true analogs of the real-world instruments, the guitar and bass are the least like the actual instruments. It kind of looks upside-down because the bass strings on the iPad tend to be “lower” than the treble in relation to the ground with the iPad titled slightly up at the rear. Steel guitar and Dobro players may not have this bit of visual conflict. The biggest issue is the working with the “strings” themselves. When a real-world guitar is played, one hand holds strings on frets to change the notes while the other plucks or strums the strings to make sounds. On the iPad, both functions are essentially done on the fret board. This leads to:

Tip 0: Switch from the Smart Guitar’s chord mode to notes mode for real experimentation.

Tip 1: Generally speaking, no one plays above the nut of guitar. This is the strip that joins the guitars fretboard to the headstock. However, tapping the area above the nut in GarageBand’s guitar results in the note from an open string (E, A, D, G, B, E in standard tuning).

Tip 2: My first instinct was to play each note “clean” by lifting my fingers off of the fret and moving to the next note. However, this results in a mechanical sounding sequence. However, holding a previously fretted note or notes with a different hand or different fingers on the same hand results in the previous note(s) continuing to play to provide overtones. This, to me, provides a more real-world sound. I used the “Hard Rock” guitar setting since it emphasizes this aspect the most. However, it works with other guitar settings too.

If you have tips on how to make the most out of GarageBand for iPad, please let me know. I’ve got a few more tips to share myself in the near future. Stay tuned (pun intended).

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