Words Alone Cannot Describe

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Words Alone Cannot Describe GarageBand

One of the ways I earn a living is teaching private guitar lessons to youth and adults in the Washington DC-area. Quite often I bring along my iBook to guitar lessons. If the house has wireless Internet, I can quickly look up the lyrics to songs. And sometimes I use my iBook to pass along some MP3 or QuickTime videos that I’ve made that help my guitar students learn fingerpicking, chords or strumming. Using my USB flash drive, It takes just a minute to copy some files from my iBook to any Mac,Windows or Linux computer.

Last week I ran into an experience worth writing about. One of my guitar students is a nine year old boy who has been playing guitar for 4 years. That’s quite unusual. Guitar is a difficult instrument to learn. I usually only take on a guitar student if they are 12 years old or older.

This particular guitar student is a real delight to teach. I’ve been showing him some fingerpicking and rock and roll strumming techniques. He catches on fast. We both enjoy the lessons a lot.

This boy mentioned to me that his parents were thinking of buying him a new laptop. I quietly mentioned that an iBook would suit his musical interests well. He quickly agreed. Not only would he have iTunes on such a laptop, but also Garageband. GarageBand is such an incredibly playful program that words alone cannot describe the joys this software can bring you. Within the past month I discovered just how playful GarageBand can be when some friends and I used GarageBand to compose a song for the Spread Firefox campaign.

At the end of last week’s guitar lesson I chatted with the parents of this student about how happy I was with their child’s progress. During our conversation, the parents mentioned to me that they decided to get their child a Windows laptop -- one that had previously been used by their business. My guitar student looked crestfallen at the news. I did the only appropriate thing a person should do -- and supported their decision. “A Windows laptop is a fine choice,” I commented. “In fact, I’d love to have a Windows laptop myself.” (So that I can install Linux on it.)

What I needed at that particular moment was to reach into my laptop case and pull out a free DVD video showing adults and youths playfully using GarageBand. I should have said, “I think a Windows laptop is a fine choice. By the way, here’s a DVD you can have that shows some adults and youth using Apple’s GarageBand software. GarageBand comes for free with all new Macs.”

Words failed me. There was nothing I could do at that moment to explain the joys of GarageBand other than to have a DVD video to pass along to this family.

If Apple were to create such a video, how could it be distributed? Apple users would gladly pay the $5 shipping charges for 10 copies of such a video. (Or better yet -- 12 copies of the video -- cheaper by the dozen.) So if Apple picked up the cost of producing the video and the cost of duplicating it, the cost of distribution would amount to zip. Zero. Nada. How many Mac enthusiasts would pay for such a video to share with their friends, family and neighbors. Oh, just 100,000 or so.

This same video could be placed on the hard drive of every shipping Mac. And this same video would be installed on the hard drive of every shipping 5th generation iPod.

I need to mention one last fact in this article. My student lives in a house whose driveway is long and winding. The house is probably worth between $3 to $5 million. The issue here was not that this family could not afford an iBook. The issue was that Apple didn’t give me the tools I needed to help this family understand why their son needed an iBook.

Words along cannot describe the joys of GarageBand. That’s why a GarageBand demonstration video is so sorely needed -- posthaste.

Do you know what would happen if more people learned about GarageBand? A broad smile would break out across their face. Come to think of it, a broad smile is about the only way to convey what GarageBand is about.

Phil Shapiro
The author works as an technology access activist and educator in the Washington DC-area. He can be reached at http://www.digitaldivide.net/profile/pshapiro and at pshapiro@his.com

This article was distributed via the The MUG Center's Newsletter Content Sharing List, which lets Mac user group members and Mac user group newsletter editors share articles.