Hands on: Audiobus and GarageBand on iOS

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Audiobus ($4.99) is an interesting concept on iOS. It’s a program that acts as a bridge between several compatible audio apps — you can find a complete listing of compatible apps here. Add in the apps you want into the Audiobus interface and you can have a drum track from a drum machine playing along to your heavy metal guitar. Up until now, what’s been missing is support for GarageBand, Apple’s iOS recording software. But now, with a recent update for GarageBand, the app will work with Audiobus-enabled apps. I’ve never been thrilled with GarageBand’s built-in amps, so I love that I can use a different amp modeling package.

I’m going to walk you through how to integrate GarageBand, Audiobus and Audiobus-supported apps. Since I’m a guitar player, I’ll be focusing on how I use it for guitars, but any instrument you can hook into your iOS device will do.

Hooking it all together

The first thing you’ll need to do is launch AudioBus. You’ll see a screen with three boxes labeled Input, Effects and Output. Tap on Input to select the apps you want to feed into Audiobus. I’ve chosen Amplitube and Pocket Beats (you can have up to three inputs). Pocket Beats is a drum machine with a heavy techno feel, and combined with my blues/classic rock playing style certainly yielded an interesting jam track. Then tap on Outputs and choose GarageBand.

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You can probably do the next steps in any order, but I like to go from start to finish. I open up Pocket Beats and start the drum machine. I then launch AmptiTube and find a preset I like. Then I tap on GarageBand from the Audiobus app to launch it.

GarageBand is going to ask you what input source to use for your instrument. Note: this isn’t the Audiobus feed, but how the instrument is getting jacked in. Since I’m not using GarageBand’s craptastic amps, I choose Audio Recorder. If you don’t find the built-in amps as displeasing as I do, you can choose Guitar Amp as your input.

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Now, GarageBand takes an extra step, which I found out the hard way. By default, GarageBand records in eight-measure increments. So, I was jamming along to my unholy union of blues rock and house dance beat when I noticed the whole shebang had stopped recording. So be sure to tap on the Plus icon in the upper right of the measure ruler and extend the measure as far as you need.

Next I went to AmpliTube to start the actual recording. On the righthand side of the screen you’ll see a floating palette. From here you can either change the apps Audibus is passing or start the recording. It’s important to note that you will want to start the recording here; not in GarageBand. Play along to your heart’s content.

Once you’re done, open up GarageBand, and you’ll see the Audiobus track.

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How I plan on using Audiobus

The Fender Squire USB Guitar is the guitar I take when I’m traveling or practicing outside. The USB 30-pin connector combined with an amp app is all I need to practice or write with when I’m not in my studio. I usually have some backing tracks I play along with and I’m getting in the habit of recording most of my practice sessions to help me get better. Now, I can use some MP3 I’ve uploaded into iOS GarageBand, get an amp sound that I’m happy with in an app like AmpliTube and record, and write when I’m sitting by the lake this summer.

Apple including Audiobus support in its own apps is an interesting sea change. It’s not often Apple includes support for a third-party service in an iOS app. I hope this is a sign of things to come. Now that Apple has increased awareness of Audiobus, I’m hoping we’ll start to see some great apps become available that will really fuel my creativity.

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