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This is where GarageBand for iPad starts to get a bit clever: you can choose from a Smart Guitar, Smart Bass, Smart Keyboard or Smart Drums.
For us, the Smart Guitar is undoubtedly the pick of the punch, and will be a real help to non-guitar playing keyboardists who want to work on song ideas. The Notes option gives you a standard guitar fretboard to play with (you can even bend strings here) but switch to chords and - you guessed it - chords can be played just by pressing a button. You can also swipe to play them manually or choose automatic strumming with the Autoplay control.
There are a couple of downsides: for a start, only four sounds are included (Acoustic, Classic Clean, Hard Rock and Roots Rock) and the stompbox effects on these appear to be fixed. You can turn them on or off but they can’t be changed. What’s more, you can’t choose your own chord palette - you just get a pre-defined selection (this depends on your selected key) that sound good together.
The Smart Bass and Keyboard Instruments are similar in style and design, but feel more like derivatives of the Guitar than anything else. Maybe we’re wrong, but we can’t see ourselves opening these up too much in the future.
The same can’t be said of the Smart Drums Instrument, which lets you program beats by dragging drum pieces (acoustic or electronic) onto a grid. This has Simple and Complex parameters on the left and right sides of the horizontal axis, and Loud and Quiet at the top and bottom of the vertical.
This perhaps makes it sound more complicated than it actually is: Smart Drums gives you the ability to create a groove by moving pieces around. As a way of kick starting a song without resorting to a built-in Apple Loop (a selection of these comes included with GarageBand for iPad, by the way), it’s hard to fault.