Mac or iPad spec for Garageband?

Any power Garageband users out there?

A musician friend would like to start using Garageband and to date her only Apple device is her phone. So she is considering a MacBook of some sort or an iPad Pro, and was interested in a deal she saw on last year’s iPad Pros.

Any advice I would give would be slanted towards suitability for photo / video which she does not do so much of. However, I think the Pencil 2 solves the annoyances with the original Pencil, and since the Pencil 2 is incompatible with the old iPad and vice versa, I’d recommend the newest iPad. Similarly, there are huge discounts right now on 2017 MBPs but I wouldn’t want her to get one of those and suffer from keyboard dust issues. I even suggested a Mac Mini might be worth considering as she already has displays and keyboards.

She is likely to be using multiple tracks on Garageband and is wondering what hardware spec she should be looking for (RAM, storage, CPU, dongles, docks, connections to external displays and music gear), as she does not want to pay for a machine that ends up being underpowered. She is also weighing the pros and cons of iOS vs Mac OS, and is intrigued by the possibility of using touch / Pencil with Garageband, versus not having that option with Mac OS.

I sent her the iPhonedo video demonstrating recreating the Wonder Woman theme in Garageband for iPad ( ).

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Lots of considerations here, including what kind of audio interface she has or wants, whether she’s already using another DAW, has VST or AU plugins, to what extend she needs something portable, what type of musician she is (eg is she an ‘in the box’ electronic producer, or needs to track acoustic instruments, or transpose, mixdown/normalize, master, etc), whether she is building a bedroom setup or a nascent home studio, whether she needs to budget for mics ($100-$thousands), stands, studio monitors, an audio interface (prices from $80-$5000), etc. Not enough info, really, because there are all sorts of tradeoffs depending on need and budget (which isn’t mentioned but is a vitally important consideration).

I know several musicians who are iOS-only, some using Garageband, most using Cubasis (like Garageband on steroids, from Steinberg [A Yamaha company]) or all-in-one groove machine/production environments like NanoStudio or Gadget. But the most powerful setup will still be on a Mac, where you have a huge variety of plugins and DAWs (Garageband, Logic, Ableton Live, ProTools, Reason, etc), and easier integration with production hardware and music gear.

You can make music with any low-end iOS device, or any Mac (with enough RAM) as long as you aren’t working with 50 tracks and lots of virtual instruments. There’s a bit too much unaddressed here, I think.

I have a bedroom studio, with a 2017 iMac with 40Gb RAM, and I deleted Garageband from my Mac in favor of using Ableton Live with numerous virtual instruments and plugins for editing, powered stereo monitors, a keyboard controller and a LaunchPad.

If your friend is interested in an iPad I’d suggest she read deeply and ask questions on Reddit. Some good subreddits include:

If she’s into hiphop:

One of the best musician discussion forums is at the incredibly active Gearslutz site. (I used to spend a lot of time there.) She would probably find a lot of great info in forums there like:

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I use Logic, but when I experimented with GarageBand I remember being frustrated with the iOS version.
This is not to say it’s bad, just be aware that the iOS and Mac versions may still have significant differences.

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GarageBand on iOS is not as feature rich as MacOS and the interface is not the best to use. It is really designed to compliment the desktop version, not replace it.

In terms of spec, my daughter uses Logic on a 2017 MacBook Pro with 8 gigs of RAM and 512gb ssd. It runs very quickly, although she doesn’t use more than around 20-30 tracks at a time. The most important thing was extra storage because there are a lot of samples and loops to store (you can use an external hdd but this significantly slowed down the program).

GarageBand will need less than Logic because it doesn’t have all the loops and instruments, just a small selection.

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