Alchemy

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Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

I'm glad to see a version Alchemy Synth making an appearance in the newest update of Garageband. I've never been able to do much with Garageband, but it gives me a bit of hope that the Alchemy Synth lives on for iOS, and wasn't just eaten by Apple never to be seen again. It feels weird compared to the stand-alone app, and I don't recognize the names of presets on a quick glance at it, but at least it is there, reincarnated to some degree, relieving a bit the transitory feel of iOS music production.
I think it is a good omen, a portent fortelling the re-birth of our beloved NS.
(Insert heavenly sounding chords here).

PS has anyone found a decent workflow for getting samples out of GB? I see GB is still not AB compatible. Apple sure holds a grudge don't they? Stubborn bastards.

syrupcore
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Joined: 09/26/2010

I think you can mix a project down in GB and copy it to the clipboard or something. I've never tried it.

Stiksi
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Joined: 11/21/2010

Meh, the Garageband version of Alchemy (iphone) is like Alchemy for babies, it's a very very limited soundboard.

I love Alchemy, this is not it.

instinctive
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Joined: 07/23/2011

@Slam-Cut: You should consider trying GarageBand as an all-in-one DAW. It really has lots of stuff by now. Real inserts with a relatively good palette of effects, including any Audio units, automation, extremely good sounding (even if not very tweakable) synths / real world instruments, works on iPhone, and its UI is really extremely effective and well thought-out, even on the phone. It clearly has left "toy" territory with the last few updates.

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

@syrupcore: figures they would lock users in to an i-Tunes based workflow. It may be worth a try to get some samples out of it. Wow, what a contradiction to mobile music production: GB has to be used while connected to my laptop, and then only at home so I don't risk my identity being stolen by being on a public wi-fi such as at Starbuck's. Buzz kill.

@Stiksi: I agree with you, but I wonder when Alchemy will stop working with a future iOS upgrade. GB version is like a zombie version, but not a cremated version. Is that a weird analogy or what?

@instinctive: I have tried. There is something about it that i just can't get to grips with. Every time I go in to GB I feel like I end up just messing around with sounds but can't get any music produced. Maybe if I spent months trying to crack the GB workflow I could use it, but I think I am just too attached to a linear sequencer style like NS. What I really don't like about GB is the Apple Arrogance, which is they don't bother to participate in the community of iOS developers/music producers and don't care if their app doesn't play nice with other apps. It's like their message is that we shouldn't bother trying to use all those other apps and just stick to making music inside of their sandbox. That turns me off to trying to learn to use the GB workflow. I'm not so stubborn that I won't try to make use of some of the cool sounds in the app, but it is such a hassle to get the sounds out of it that it destroys any practical workflow I can come up with.

I think I may just have to bite the bullet one day and hook up two iOS devices and make some samples by going digital to analog out and back to digital. That seems so last century.

syrupcore
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Joined: 09/26/2010

I'm the same. I can tell it's a nice app but I can't ever seem to make anything in it I wind up liking. I'm probably approaching it wrong or always in 'test mode' or something.

instinctive
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Joined: 07/23/2011

@Slam-Cut: Well, GarageBand is in effect a linear sequencer, but with the ADDED benefit of the scenes stuff etc. which I didn't yet explore. I also find rubberband selection and note editing etc. pretty similar to NS, even though it doesn't use handles, which is a negative. But for not using handles, they nailed the editor pretty well!

I've only "seriously" used it on a 4" iPhone so far, and I'm really impressed by the UI. The way they put things, hide things, show things depending on the situation / editor etc. is really quite brilliant. Or the "magic" way the Stop (or was it Rewind?) button works. Like for example, when you're in the piano roll, it returns to the beginning of the current PART, but when you're in the song view, it returns to the beginning of the SECTION, etc... they really put some thought into it.

Or the fact that when you add an insert effect to a channel, you can add it between any two existing effects, eliminating the need to move it around AFTER the fact like in other DAWs... good!

Of course, I'm waiting for NS2 like everyone else, but I've tried Cubasis, Auria Pro, and pretty much everything else, but since the last few updates, I'm hooked on GB. It's also extremely robust, I haven't yet spotted a single bug. (Auria and Cubasis, anyone? :D :D :D)

Also the fact that Garageband files are compatible with Logic Pro X... (because, you guessed it, GarageBand IS Logic Pro X ;))

Jim Hanks
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Joined: 06/14/2011

I've been pretty well hooked on Cubasis for a couple months but I have hit some bugs to work around - mostly when dealing with IAA and AU stuff which is the main reason I got it in the first place. Hmm, might be time to give GB another look.

Devvy
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Joined: 03/26/2013

I bought Cubasis just before this update of Garageband, and I would not have bought it if I knew before what was in the update of GB.
To me, this update really brings GB where it should be. The only thing lacking at the moment is better automation control.

I have played around a bit with what Instinctive calls the 'Scenes stuff', and it is certainly very useful for building up little pattern snippets, something that is not as easy in Cubasis, but you have to get used to how it works and the limitations.

GB still lacks a decent programmable synth; the Alchemy patches are not more than heavily customizable sounds, not a full synth. But the synth of Cubasis also is not very great. I have good experience with iSem though.

The "problem" of GB is the price. For what it currently offers, it is extremely cheap and as such hard to beat. I for sure can not justify the price difference between Cubasis and GB, although indeed Cubasis is more focussed on the professional with proper import/export facilities, and midi. But it also lacks a lot of stuff that is present in GB (looping of patterns, for instance...).

TwistedGenetics
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Joined: 07/27/2016

I tried Garage band for a bit but I can't get on with it. I like the ability to record from other synths again without going via audio share though :)

instinctive
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Joined: 07/23/2011

@devvy: What's missing for me is a proper stereo / cross delay (can be "fixed" via an AU plug though), and sidechainable compressor (cannot be fixed via AU I think? Or can AU plugs have multiple inputs?)

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

@instinctive: thanks for those tips. In all fairness I haven't spent a lot of time digging deeper into GB, and there is something about the UI, I think you touched on it with "The way they put things, hide things (this is driving me nuts), show things depending on the situation / editor etc", that doesn't compel me to dig deeper. Obviously NS has spoiled me a lot. When I start to get a little frustrated in another app I just turn back to NS because the small amount of time I have for doing music gives me anxiety if I don't feel like I am making progress composing a piece. GB will take a lot of time to get used to. I spent a little time with GB this morning and I did find that linear sequencer & piano roll you mentioned. I had previously opened only one of the demo songs to try to see how things worked, and it had everything in the scenes view. Scenes style loop-based music production just stops my brain cold. When I tapped the icon for what I thought would be the piano roll and saw nothing there I assumed it must be something else. My mistake. GB does have a linear sequencer with piano roll, but I did find it a bit less intuitive and less naturally conducive to creating music. If I spent more time on it I'm sure I could learn to work with what's there. Reminds me of the feel of Music Studio.

All of those criticisms are really more on me for not getting familiar enough with the app, so I'll try to use it some more to see what I can do with it. However I did find a few things that I think are not me: (but could be...)
- Preset selection is very awkward. If they aren't going to give us an actual synth then they should make this easier. Simple arrows to move to the next preset or a keyboard in the preset selection menu would help.
- Some presets have an artificial velocity sensitivity on them and I couldn't see any way to turn this off and on (there is probably a manual I could actually read to get this info)
- Piano Roll: no obvious 'select all" or loop with your finger to select a group of notes. There are features like these that I really rely upon in NS. Are these feature hidden somewhere?
- The GB version of Alchemy is available only on iPhone 6 and above. I have an iPhone 6, and I still have an iPhone 3GS and an iPhone 4, both of which play the full version of Alchemy just fine. My iPad Air plays Alchemy just fine too, but the update says GB Alchemy is compatible with iPad Air 2 and above. Really? Not trying to push new hardware are they? I hope Apple doesn't kill Real Alchemy with a new iOS update. I'll give GB a 5 star review in trade for this!
- GB is compatible with Logic Pro but I can't easily get sounds/stems out of it to use in another app. I hate feeling boxed in to a sandbox.

Music apps playing well together has become the standard for serious music production on iOS, but Apple is bucking that by trying to force GB users to only think inside their box or Logic Pro. I'm not buying a MAC just for that compatibility. I've already bought a lot of iPhones and an iPad, so I think when I buy a bunch of apps from the App Store I should be able to play with the apps the way I want to. There are a lot of cool features in GB but overall it doesn't have the flexibility to help me create music the way I need to do it. I think full AB comparability would help this a lot. Then I could use GB as a sketch pad and develop tracks in other apps like NS. I know that Apple doesn't want that.
GB can be at the end of an AB chain so that I can use sounds from other synths (today I used Real Alchemy) in GB, but that forces me to stay in GB. GB doesn't allow one to use GB sounds in other apps by being at the front of an AB chain. That's like a pusher offering free drugs to get you hooked, but not allowing you to go to other pushers for other drugs. (OK, I know that's a horrible analogy!) Fair enough. It's their sandbox, and they can make the rules the way they want them.

I look forward to playing with some of the cool little instruments like the violin with violin strings. I wish there was a way to put the note names on the fret board so I can see what I'm doing. Real violinists don't need that, but a synth guy does, and I bet most people using GB don't know there way around the neck of the violin. Still, it's kinda fun. Hopefully on Smart Strings there is a way to play legato and not just pizzicato - still looking for that control. Oh! Just found it. Press and slide. Interesting.

Devvy
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Joined: 03/26/2013

True, the sidechaining of a compressor is not possible I think. But I don't know if Cubasis has it... Maybe I missed it until now.

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

The current ad on US App Store for GB says "Introducing Alchemy".
I guess they couldn't say "here's a chopped up weird less useful version of an app we bought"
All they needed to do was keep Alchemy exactly the same and make it an AU for use inside GB.
Why is it that Apple doesn't just ask me what they should do? Oh, yeah. That's right. They know what they are doing.

TwistedGenetics
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Joined: 07/27/2016

I had a further play and like Slam Cut I got a bit deeper into it.. it's actually ok but what's really aggravating me is when I copy and past samples within an audio lane one disappeares even though I can still hear it arggghhh

instinctive
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Joined: 07/23/2011

@Slam-Cut: Yeah, the preset selection is ridiculous, I think 3 taps to switch to another preset. In general I don't understand why synths don't have a "Select random preset" button, to listen through them. I bet 90% of the names of presets used in most songs start with the letter "A" :-)

But you can bring up marquee-select by just tapping and holding anywhere in an empty area.

Jim Hanks
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Joined: 06/14/2011

You guys are helping keep me away from GB. Thanks! :D

I agree with SlamCut that lack of AB input (or IAA as an input) is a big turn off. Pretty much a deal breaker really

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

"But you can bring up marquee-select by just tapping and holding anywhere in an empty area." - instinctive

Uhh... feelin' sorta dumb here. Don't get this at all. I'm not positive I know what marquee-select is, but is sounds like it might be faster than the normal preset select process. I tried tap and hold in various areas of various pages and I'm not getting it. Does this have to be on the page of the list of presets? Anywhere on the track view? Keyboard? Maybe it's just me and my tap and hold finger-fu skills are weak.

Stiksi
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Joined: 11/21/2010

@Slam-Cut: Wasn't the marquee about note selection in the piano roll?

instinctive
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Joined: 07/23/2011

@Slam-Cut: I always thought the process of drawing a rectangle around stuff you want to select was called "Marquee Select", but maybe I'm wrong? :(

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

@instinctive: Ah ha! I thought you were talking about selecting presets. Yeah, that does work on the piano roll editor. Previously I tried this and caught a single note only, resulting in moving that note out of position. I see now that when you tap and hold, a small translucent box appears and with that one can select a group of notes. That'll be useful. Thanks for that tip.

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

On the positive side for GB, the velocity control slider on each MIDI note in the piano roll editor works nicely. I also like grabbing a track and pulling it up or down to re-arrange the track order. The rolling position marker at the top of the piano roll is nice, but I'd like to have the digital counter as well. There is plenty of room for it. Just a few things that occurred to me while I was working with it today.