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Book Review – GarageBand 2: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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When I began using Apple’s music recording program GarageBand six months ago, I started playing around without any instructions. But after some of my first compositions cracked windowpanes and exploded dog heads, I deemed it prudent to learn more. Another couple of months of experimenting passed, but I still felt like there were so many elements to GB that I could’nt use the program to its full potential.

So enter GarageBand 2: The Missing Manual by David Pogue, which I began reading in hopes of salvaging my fractured skills. Suddenly, fifteen pages in, I heard my own voice from five months ago yelling at me, “You fool! Why didn’t you get this earlier?” In other words, I found that David Pogue had written a clear and concise guide that makes GarageBand accessible to both gurus and nimrods alike. For me, there were enough “Aha! So THAT’s how you do that!” moments in reading this, that if knowledge was a debt, I’d owe Pogue my first-born son.

Clocking in at 272 pages, with hundreds of full color screenshots, Pogue writes from the perspective that you are opening GarageBand as a blank slate: if you don’t even know how to drag and drop a file to a window, he explains that. But don’t believe for a second that GB2:TMM is a dull instruction manual— it’s filled with quips relating to music, the computer industry and even GB itself. Pogue does not shy away from pointing out anything that might confuse the mere novice, or conflict with a trained musician’s knowledge. While Pogue keeps an optimistic outlook on your GB potential, he remains honest. “GarageBand 2 may be simple,” he says, “but it isn’t simplistic.”

Aside from explaining the true nature of Apple Loops, recording both live and MIDI instruments, and then editing and enhancing the collective lot, Pogue seasons each section with quick tips, FAQ’s, troubleshooting, and of course, every possible keyboard shortcut. After you have followed every lesson on composing your own soundtrack, there’s a chapter on how and where to publish your finished work.

My lone negative comment on the book is that since I don’t play an instrument or have a music background, I am not able to utilize a few of the instructional sections in GB2:TMM. But that’s no fault of the author. This is all part of making the manual more universal. Nevertheless, for music neophytes like me, Pogue has included a “Music Crash Course” on grasping the basics, as well as sections on reading notation and tuning your instrument with GB.

On the whole, David Pogue reminds me of a good teacher from high school: one who was not only genuinely committed to your learning the material, but who enjoyed the material themselves. I believe that comes through in his writing. Combined with the infinite possibilities and practical interface of GarageBand, I’ve found a book that will never be more than an arm’s length away from my computer setup.

If you’re an aspiring musician, podcaster, or are just looking to try something new, GarageBand and David Pogue’s Missing Manual are an affordable and fun combination that can make things happen.

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About Mark Sahm

  • You don’t play an instrument? So GB works for those of us who are clueless? You can tune your instrument with it? Does it teach basics?

  • Justene: I believe that GarageBand really caters to the clueless and non-musicians. But it is a great tool for anyone— except maybe the high level producer. But at that point, an industry professional would be using Pro Tools or Logic Pro anyway.

    GarageBand itself does not touch on music basics, but the Missing Manual does.

  • I almost believed I could make music after reading this; thanks a lot, Mark.

  • Chris: Thanks for reading. You’d really be surprised all the things you can do in GB. The cliché goes that we all got a book in us, but I think that could apply to making an album of music as well. All it takes is the desire to create and some hard work.