Featured Columns

Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Church Tech


At its best, technology lowers barriers of entry. Gutenberg’s press eliminated endless hours of copying books by hand. Lithography enhanced and made the publishing process simpler and less expensive, and laser printers paved the way for anyone with a computer to express and distribute their thoughts.

Photography and movie making have followed a similar arc so that today anyone with a story burning in their heart can approach the tools of expression and let it flow.

New computer technologies do not replace the creativity and gifts of artists. They do, however, make it easier for them to express themselves without steep learning curves or expensive investments in the tools.

One of these tools is GarageBandsoftware that has brought the possibility of creating music inexpensively and without specialized equipment to anyone interested. Beyond this, the latest version of GarageBand is a blast of fun and accessibility.

If you have a recent model iPhone or iPad, you can download GarageBand at no cost, so go ahead and start the download. It is a large app, so you will need to be connected via Wi-Fi to get it, and you will have time to read the rest of this article while you wait. Once you load it, you will have two main choices, Live Loops or Tracks. Tracks allows you to record all the parts of a piece of music one instrument at a time: first the drums, then bass, then the melody.

You can work with them individually and then play them all together. There are amazing things in this part of the app including a few drummers, a strings section, music sampling, and more. But for this article let’s skip right to the fun. Because, let’s face it, you're more likely to keep at something if you receive positive feedback right out the chute. So, tap on the Live Loops option instead.

Now, just one more tap before you are flying. Choose the style of music you are interested in. There are 9 options from Electronic Dance Music, to Electro Funk, to Rock. At this point you will see a 10 by 10 grid of buttons.

Tapping one key will trigger a music riff to play. It may be a drum beat, a bass line, or a guitar solo, and once it has played it will repeat. This is called a “musical loop” (thus named because in analog days items recorded on tape were physically looped to create this effect). But today, all that’s required is the push of a button. Isn’t technology great? Once your first riff is playing, select another and another and get your vibe going. Each row has 10 or so riffs for a particular instrument. If you want to get all the instruments in this set going, tap the button at the bottom of the column—instant jam! GarageBand keeps it all in rhythm. Get your timing down, and you can switch between columns and loops crisply. I challenge you to try this without bobbing your head and tapping your foot.

But wait—here is the icing on the cake. Look at the top of the screen; see that button labeled FX? Give it a tap. It’s like pushing the special button in Willy Wonka’s glass elevator. The secret panel rises up and the sugarcoated special effects open to you! I will leave the details of what they do as a surprise, but I think these options will bring a big grin to your face.

I have always dreamed of being talented enough with an instrument that I could express the musical thoughts and feelings trapped in my head through my fingers, and connect with those around me. Although I have tried my hand at trumpet and guitar, my struggling efforts were never enough to reach fluency of expression, but with the latest release of GarageBand, I have an instrument that I can have a blast with.

The ultimate moment for me came after I connected my phone to the stereo and started going at it. When my son came into the room and asked what I was listening to, I experienced true musical satisfaction. Maybe you will too.

Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

Subscribe to eNews!