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Interview with GarageBand expert Francis Preve

We recently interviewed musician and author Francis Preve, whose most recent work is a book titled "Power Tools for GarageBand: Creating Music with Audio Recording, MIDI Sequencing, and Loops." Preve is a professional musician with a significant track record in the industry. He has contributed production or engineering to dozens of records and is a columnist for Keyboard Magazine. In the interview, Preve discusses his thought process in writing his GarageBand book, the role of GarageBand in his own work, and the use of GarageBand by other professionals in the music industry.

As a special bonus, we've got four copies of PowerTools for GarageBand to give away. We'll give these copies to the first four users who post a comment to this story with the text "I want the book!" included anywhere in the post.

As a professional musician, how does GarageBand fit in to your regular toolbox as a producer, musician, or otherwise?

GarageBand is great for whipping together song and remix concepts with a minimum of hassle. I've turned to it for sketching out ideas on my laptop on numerous occasions. Since Logic Pro 7 is one of my preferred DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations), the ability to import GBand projects directly into Logic for embellishments makes the two products a really powerful combination.

How did you come to write a book about GarageBand?

I was in the middle of my previous book, Power Tools: Software for Loop Music - which covers Apple Soundtrack, Ableton Live and the entire process of composing and mixing with loops - when my publisher approached me about it. I'd just written a feature for Keyboard Magazine on GBand tips and tricks and was extremely familiar with the app, so it seemed like a good fit.

How long did it take you to write "Powertools for GarageBand," and what was it like in terms of previous experiences as an author or writer?

The remarkable thing is that we put together the entire book, including software research and permissions, in less than three months. I've used computers for music composition for well over a decade and most digital production techniques translate nicely from one app to the other, so it was just a matter of explaining how to accomplish the same tricks that pros use in terms that apply to GarageBand.

There are now a number of books available on the topic of GarageBand what makes "Powertools" unique?

While there are some excellent books out there for beginners - I'm a big fan of Orren Merton's "GarageBand Ignite!" - there really wasn't much available for advanced users. Backbeat Books' "Power Tools" series is specifically targeted at intermediate to advanced users who want to get the most out of their software arsenal. Considering how many copies of GarageBand are out there, it was a natural addition to the series.

In outlining the book, I was amazed at how little information was available on the software instruments in GarageBand, so I really wanted to devote some time explaining them to readers of all experience levels. I also wanted to show readers how flexible and expressive GarageBand's Apple Loop collection can be - once you know how to manipulate and combine your various options. I'm delighted by the response we've received so far. It really seems like a lot of users have been waiting for a book like this and I'm proud to have helped them.

Have you encountered significant use of GarageBand in the part of the music industry you occupy?

At first, it was mostly electronica artists who gravitated toward GarageBand. But now, there are quite a few pros who are using GBand as a way to tinker with song ideas and lay down initial tracks without the need to book a high-end studio. Since GarageBand uses the AIFF format at CD quality, you can easily transfer a song you composed in your underwear at 3:00am to Logic Pro or ProTools ;o)

Have you discovered any new music or musicians that you are fond of, and that use GarageBand as a tool?

Seminal punk rocker Tom Robinson just remastered his most important early work using nothing but GarageBand. He transferred the original master tapes (recorded at Abbey Road, no less) to GarageBand and updated the mixes on his own terms. Ed Robertson, from the Barenaked Ladies, routinely uses GarageBand as a sketchpad and even composed ALL of the backing tracks for his X-Games performance using nothing but GBand and a Powerbook. There's no doubt that GarageBand can be a totally pro application once you understand what's under the hood.

What other projects, currently or in the future, do you have in store as a GarageBand expert?

Last month, I did a workshop for the Apple Store in San Francisco and plan to do a few more tutorials at Apple Store locations that are closer to my home in Austin, Texas. I'm also reviewing the latest Jam Packs for an upcoming issue of Keyboard magazine (two words: Love 'em!). Other than that, I plan to get back to doing what I love most - composing and producing music!


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