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#1 Bigwan

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 09:08 AM

Hi all,

Not quite sure where to start here...

Current setup is a Line 6 Toneport UX2 into a mid-2011 Mac Mini (2.3 i5, 16Gig RAM and SSD) running Sierra, Garageband and Pod Farm 2.5. I have EZ Drummer 2 with a few expansions, EZ Mix 2 and EZ Keys Upright. The only MIDI controller I currently have is an Akai MPK Mini. I also have an iphone 6s (work phone) and Focusrite iTrack Pocket with Garageband iOS which I love, but ultimately find frustrating as the screen is so small (and I haven't got the daintiest fingers!), there's perceptible latency when playing bass into it and you're restricted with available time signatures.

I'm writing (trying to write!) downtuned, atmospheric, progy, almost industrial hard rock/metal (think a cross between mellower Rammstein and Devin Townsend Project). So I'm finding myself drawn to sample packs I see in threads here and elsewhere like Sonic Forest or Project Alpha/Bravo (most need the full version of Kontakt as discussed elsewhere here, which I don't have)

Bass is the only instrument I can play with any proficiency and with 2 young kids, a busy job and a new puppy I have very little free time to learn to be proficient with another instrument at the minute (hence the Garageband touch instruments and EZ Keys, etc.)...

With that in mind what would be the best way to spend my hard earned reddies for writing and recording?

I'd toyed with the idea of something like a Komplete Kontrol keyboard and Komplete 11 but... well, it's a MASSIVE learning curve, and effectively a new instrument to boot (mapping chords to keys on the Kontrol looks like a cheats dream though!), but the sounds available look fantastic! Expensive though...

I'd also played with the idea of Logic Pro as it looks like great value for what you get and, as if by design, it builds on my Garageband experience.

My other thinking was to buy an iPad and spend more time on Garageband iOS on more usable hardware.

If you were in my position and had 500 quid to spend, what would you do?
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#2 ambient

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 10:00 AM

There are really nice and very good samples of pianos, strings and synths in Garageband. For the money it really is excellent.

Have you got a keyboard to use with it?

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#3 Bigwan

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 10:24 AM

Only a little Akai MPK Mini at present. As I say I'm not a keyboard player and I've never played piano. Bass is the only instrument I can "play", and I use the term loosely... even have my electric guitars tuned in a variation of open C to keep things simple. I agree the sounds in Garageband are excellent!
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#4 BigRedX

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 10:32 AM

What is the ultimate purpose of your recordings?

Are they simply for your own amusement? Demos to show your band how the songs should work? Or would you like to be releasing them on CD/Vinyl/Download?

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#5 Bigwan

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Posted 14 July 2017 - 11:14 AM

Own amusement primarily as I'm sans band at the minute. Having said that I've never been one to be satisfied with "demo quality", whatever that even is nowadays... Eventually I'd like to be releasing my own material, so that's always in the background. I know I don't have the best interface, so I've been eyeing the Audient ID4 too...
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#6 bazztard

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 05:50 AM

if you can't play any other instrument then it's pointless trying to record on your own. Spend the 500 to buy people free drinks til you find some musicians to record with. seriously.

You can't be a one man band if " Bass is the only instrument I can "play", and I use the term loosely"

meet other musicians and collaborate


PS please post pic of your puppy :)
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#7 Bigwan

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 07:44 AM

View Postbazztard, on 15 July 2017 - 05:50 AM, said:

if you can't play any other instrument then it's pointless trying to record on your own. Spend the 500 to buy people free drinks til you find some musicians to record with. seriously.

You can't be a one man band if " Bass is the only instrument I can "play", and I use the term loosely"

meet other musicians and collaborate


PS please post pic of your puppy :)

Not sure I entirely agree, and I may have been doing myself a slight disservice! I can play guitar passably enough for my purposes! A band is the goal of course but I want more of a creative input than I've had previously.

I should add that one of my long term projects has been gathering gear to form a silent rehearsal space for just such a band as I'm done with the whole volume wars nonsense. So I have a Behringer X18 desk and have been converting an acoustic drum kit to an e-kit over the last few weeks (must get back to that!).

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Edited by Bigwan, 15 July 2017 - 07:53 AM.

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#8 Dad3353

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 07:51 AM

View Postbazztard, on 15 July 2017 - 05:50 AM, said:

if you can't play any other instrument then it's pointless trying to record on your own...

I think I'd respectfully disagree on this point. Using myself, humbly, as an 'example', I can't play the trombone, nor Hammond B3, even less a string quartet, but I manage to compose a few modest ditties which please the ear of some (and sometimes myself, too...). One can learn a lot from learning; this includes not only the technique of playing an instrument, but also how various instruments fit together (or not..!). I play drums, and dabble (a technical term...) in guitar, bass, some keys, but mostly Vst instruments of all sorts, including singing voices. It costs little; there are many free, or quite inexpensive, packages out there waiting to be adopted. Virtuoso..? Certainly not, but most folks with a grain of 'noddle' would be able to find inspiration somewhere in there, and more than half the fun is in the experimentation, including the failures..! I'm not sure that Sibelius or Mozart were experienced players of all the instruments they wrote for, either, so I consider that at least I'm in good company, even if not (quite, yet...) up to their mark.
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#9 Bigwan

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 07:52 AM

View PostDad3353, on 15 July 2017 - 07:51 AM, said:



I think I'd respectfully disagree on this point. Using myself, humbly, as an 'example', I can't play the trombone, nor Hammond B3, even less a string quartet, but I manage to compose a few modest ditties which please the ear of some (and sometimes myself, too...). One can learn a lot from learning; this includes not only the technique of playing an instrument, but also how various instruments fit together (or not..!). I play drums, and dabble (a technical term...) in guitar, bass, some keys, but mostly Vst instruments of all sorts, including singing voices. It costs little; there are many free, or quite inexpensive, packages out there waiting to be adopted. Virtuoso..? Certainly not, but most folks with a grain of 'noddle' would be able to find inspiration somewhere in there, and more than half the fun is in the experimentation, including the failures..! I'm not sure that Sibelius or Mozart were experienced players of all the instruments they wrote for, either, so I consider that at least I'm in good company, even if not (quite, yet...) up to their mark.
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#10 Dad3353

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 08:03 AM

View PostBigwan, on 15 July 2017 - 07:52 AM, said:

What would you buy Dad?

A difficult one, really, but I think I'd start by looking at what line of inquiry suits my needs with some free, or sample versions, such as the Kontakt Player. There are very many packages that will work, either completely, or for a limited, trial, period with the free Player; that'll give some idea as to suitability. The Kontakt catalogue is vast, but it depends on the direction you wish to explore as to which are a good choice.
I'm rather 'loaded' towards orchestral, so products such as Philharmonik are, to me worth every penny; others go for cinematic sounds, or EDM instead. A good sampler is always useful (Tx16Wx is great, imo...), and the Toontracks EZ range are useful, too. EZ Keys, for instance, can create the basis for a whole song (even an album full..!) with simplicity and ease; one may then build upon the base thus formed and 'flesh it out' to one's taste. B)
Enough for now..? Try a few freebies first, and see what direction opens up before you. Go on; surprise yourself. You know it makes sense..! ;)

Edited by Dad3353, 15 July 2017 - 08:04 AM.

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#11 Earbrass

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 08:15 AM

For what it's worth my advice would be to hold off spending any money for now. Have a go at recording a few tracks with what you already have. Limited options can be a great spur to creativity, and having wrung all you can out of your current gear you will have a much better idea of where your money is likely to yield the most improvement.
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Posted 15 July 2017 - 08:57 AM

View PostEarbrass, on 15 July 2017 - 08:15 AM, said:

For what it's worth my advice would be to hold off spending any money for now. Have a go at recording a few tracks with what you already have. Limited options can be a great spur to creativity, and having wrung all you can out of your current gear you will have a much better idea of where your money is likely to yield the most improvement.

Absolutely this. I think that working around limited gear aids creativity... then you can work out where your money is best spent. Get too much stuff at once at you may baffle yourself. For myself, I have a Akai mini keyboard (like you) which I play single finger style. I did a passable version of Stevie Wonder's Superstition like this, programming it stepwise. Huge fun. However, as I'm a woodwind player, I am toying with the idea of getting an Akai wind controller (oo-er).

Good luck.
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Posted 15 July 2017 - 11:02 AM

If you do want to spend a few quid and can, as you say, play guitar passably, think about one of these:

Fishman Triple Play

I impulse-bought one a couple of months ago - not used it properly yet (still getting to grips with new recording gear) but it's very, very good.

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Posted 15 July 2017 - 11:29 AM

I have a Komplete Kontrol keyboard with Komplete 10 Ultimate and have to say it's amazing. I can't play the keyboard all that well but you can learn chords and play melodies very easy on the KK keyboard. It has a light guide and chord and scale modes so you could set it to Dm for example and it'll light up all the keys in that scale. Then you can just improvise a melody quite easily. I'm learning more scales and chords this way. So I bought an S61 with Komplete 10 without really being able to play it well and I get on ok :)

Even if you get the keyboard without Komplete it still comes with Komplete Select which includes Massive (a brilliant and very versatile synth, especially if you buy third party presets for it) and The Gentleman - a nice upright piano. Plus some more but you'll get a lot out of just these two. You can upgrade from Komplete Select to Komplete or Komplete Ultimate too although they've just ended their half price upgrades on that.

There's also a lot to be said about doing as much as you can with what you have. Maybe download the free Komplete players and see how you get on? https://www.native-i...mplete-players/
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#15 BigRedX

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 09:48 AM

 Bigwan, on 14 July 2017 - 11:14 AM, said:

Own amusement primarily as I'm sans band at the minute. Having said that I've never been one to be satisfied with "demo quality", whatever that even is nowadays... Eventually I'd like to be releasing my own material, so that's always in the background. I know I don't have the best interface, so I've been eyeing the Audient ID4 too...

If it's for you own amusement then I'd look at getting a better keyboard than your current Akai and its mini keys. Alternatively get a bigger or second monitor (your Mac will support 2), especially if you are considering moving to Logic, where you almost never have too much screen real-estate - I currently run 3 x 23" monitors and even then I could sometimes do with more space!

For doing anything more, here is a cautionary tale...

I've always been a home recordist. My first band in the late 70s was a recording project only. A band that had to borrow its bass guitar and had only one (10 Watt) amp and no drum kit, there was no way that we could gig, but we could fake the lack of conventional instruments on tape, so we stuck to experimenting with recording at home and got pretty good at it.

Come the 80s and I joined a synth band and we had 4 track cassette recorder fed from an HH 12:2 mixing desk and a handful of guitar effects pedals. We made some fairly decent recordings with this set up, but I couldn't help but think that the need for over-dubbing to get all the instruments and vocals recorded with only 4 tracks was holding us back in terms of sound quality and production. Something that was seemingly confirmed when we booked a proper studio with racks of outboard gear to make our last recording.

Then in 1990 two things happened. I inherited enough money for me to go out a buy pretty much all the gear I needed for a decent home studio set up. An 8-track cassette based recorder, 12:8:2 mixing desk, a decent sampler and synth and some outboard. At the same time I bought a house that had a suitable room for a dedicated home studio. After that I pretty much spent all my disposable income for the next decade on the studio. Over the decade I must have spent at least £30k on the room and equipment to go in it. By the end I had moved over to a Mac-based recording system with a MotU interface, 40 channel digital desk, huge Tannoy monitors, racks of onboard gear and synths. The quality of my recordings definitely improved, but no matter what I did and how much money I spent on new gear, they never really came close to sounding as good as those by my favourite bands. Also everything took much longer when time was no longer a constraint. Over the decade with various line-ups of my band I produced 3 demos, a 3-track self released CD EP, and was half way through recording a full-length album when the band split. Not a brilliant work-rate when you consider than my first band completed 5 albums worth of material in under 4 years.

When I joined The Terrortones, recording at home was out of the question, because I had neither the Mics or the sound proofing to record acoustic drums, so we used a series of local studios to record our initial demos and then our debut single. One thing that struck me straight away was how quickly the engineer in each studio was able to get a great sounding track together, sometimes with significantly less equipment than I had at home. It was at that point I realised that the limiting factor in my studio wasn't the gear, but was me. I had reached the point where no matter how much more time I spent working on a track or what hot new piece of kit I went ought and bought, my recordings were never going to sound very much better.

In retrospect, the band I was in during the 90s would have been much better served if I had saved up the money and spent it on a month in a good studio with a reasonably well-known producer overseeing it all (easily achievable within a £30k budget). At the end of it, if nothing else, we would have had a great sounding album with a name producer attached to it, instead of a handful of good sounding "demos" and the rest of the tracks in various states on unfinishedness.


To the OP I'm not saying that you won't end up being a great recording engineer/producer, but the chances are you'll never be capable of achieving the results you hear on your favourite recordings. With what you currently have in your home studio you have the potential to produce results that are technically far in excess of what was possible when some of the greatest recordings in the history of rock music were made. It is my experience that a good engineer is far more important than the gear.

Over the last 5 years I've sold nearly all my studio gear. I've down-sized to a Mac Pro a basic Focusrite interface and a hifi amp and speakers. I'm getting back into synth-based music so at some point I'll be buying a decent keyboard. I think I'm pretty good at writing and arranging music, but if I end up making music at home that I think is worth releasing to the public I'll be taking it to a proper studio for mixing.

I hope that helps and is not too discouraging.

Edited by BigRedX, 20 July 2017 - 09:56 AM.

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#16 Bigwan

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 10:41 AM

 BigRedX, on 20 July 2017 - 09:48 AM, said:



If it's for you own amusement then I'd look at getting a better keyboard than your current Akai and its mini keys. Alternatively get a bigger or second monitor (your Mac will support 2), especially if you are considering moving to Logic, where you almost never have too much screen real-estate - I currently run 3 x 23" monitors and even then I could sometimes do with more space!

For doing anything more, here is a cautionary tale...

I've always been a home recordist. My first band in the late 70s was a recording project only. A band that had to borrow its bass guitar and had only one (10 Watt) amp and no drum kit, there was no way that we could gig, but we could fake the lack of conventional instruments on tape, so we stuck to experimenting with recording at home and got pretty good at it.

Come the 80s and I joined a synth band and we had 4 track cassette recorder fed from an HH 12:2 mixing desk and a handful of guitar effects pedals. We made some fairly decent recordings with this set up, but I couldn't help but think that the need for over-dubbing to get all the instruments and vocals recorded with only 4 tracks was holding us back in terms of sound quality and production. Something that was seemingly confirmed when we booked a proper studio with racks of outboard gear to make our last recording.

Then in 1990 two things happened. I inherited enough money for me to go out a buy pretty much all the gear I needed for a decent home studio set up. An 8-track cassette based recorder, 12:8:2 mixing desk, a decent sampler and synth and some outboard. At the same time I bought a house that had a suitable room for a dedicated home studio. After that I pretty much spent all my disposable income for the next decade on the studio. Over the decade I must have spent at least 30k on the room and equipment to go in it. By the end I had moved over to a Mac-based recording system with a MotU interface, 40 channel digital desk, huge Tannoy monitors, racks of onboard gear and synths. The quality of my recordings definitely improved, but no matter what I did and how much money I spent on new gear, they never really came close to sounding as good as those by my favourite bands. Also everything took much longer when time was no longer a constraint. Over the decade with various line-ups of my band I produced 3 demos, a 3-track self released CD EP, and was half way through recording a full-length album when the band split. Not a brilliant work-rate when you consider than my first band completed 5 albums worth of material in under 4 years.

When I joined The Terrortones, recording at home was out of the question, because I had neither the Mics or the sound proofing to record acoustic drums, so we used a series of local studios to record our initial demos and then our debut single. One thing that struck me straight away was how quickly the engineer in each studio was able to get a great sounding track together, sometimes with significantly less equipment than I had at home. It was at that point I realised that the limiting factor in my studio wasn't the gear, but was me. I had reached the point where no matter how much more time I spent working on a track or what hot new piece of kit I went ought and bought, my recordings were never going to sound very much better.

In retrospect, the band I was in during the 90s would have been much better served if I had saved up the money and spent it on a month in a good studio with a reasonably well-known producer overseeing it all (easily achievable within a 30k budget). At the end of it, if nothing else, we would have had a great sounding album with a name producer attached to it, instead of a handful of good sounding "demos" and the rest of the tracks in various states on unfinishedness.


To the OP I'm not saying that you won't end up being a great recording engineer/producer, but the chances are you'll never be capable of achieving the results you hear on your favourite recordings. With what you currently have in your home studio you have the potential to produce results that are technically far in excess of what was possible when some of the greatest recordings in the history of rock music were made. It is my experience that a good engineer is far more important than the gear.

Over the last 5 years I've sold nearly all my studio gear. I've down-sized to a Mac Pro a basic Focusrite interface and a hifi amp and speakers. I'm getting back into synth-based music so at some point I'll be buying a decent keyboard. I think I'm pretty good at writing and arranging music, but if I end up making music at home that I think is worth releasing to the public I'll be taking it to a proper studio for mixing.

I hope that helps and is not too discouraging.

Not discouraging at all! Totally what I was thinking myself - don't think I've ever been in more agreement with anything you've said on here!

I think in the meantime I'll carry on using garageband on Mac and ipad (bought a new 2017 ipad this week couldn't refuse a 20% off offer).

The ipad in conjunction with the mac will be very handy for playing garageband osx touch instruments, as a simple control surface, maybe as a little extra screen real estate via USB. Will probably get bias amp on there too. And I can control my behringer mixer from it so a useful addition.
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#17 lurksalot

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 07:28 PM

 BigRedX, on 20 July 2017 - 09:48 AM, said:

If it's for you own amusement then I'd look at getting a better keyboard than your current Akai and its mini keys. Alternatively get a bigger or second monitor (your Mac will support 2), especially if you are considering moving to Logic, where you almost never have too much screen real-estate - I currently run 3 x 23" monitors and even then I could sometimes do with more space!

For doing anything more, here is a cautionary tale...

I've always been a home recordist. My first band in the late 70s was a recording project only. A band that had to borrow its bass guitar and had only one (10 Watt) amp and no drum kit, there was no way that we could gig, but we could fake the lack of conventional instruments on tape, so we stuck to experimenting with recording at home and got pretty good at it.

Come the 80s and I joined a synth band and we had 4 track cassette recorder fed from an HH 12:2 mixing desk and a handful of guitar effects pedals. We made some fairly decent recordings with this set up, but I couldn't help but think that the need for over-dubbing to get all the instruments and vocals recorded with only 4 tracks was holding us back in terms of sound quality and production. Something that was seemingly confirmed when we booked a proper studio with racks of outboard gear to make our last recording.

Then in 1990 two things happened. I inherited enough money for me to go out a buy pretty much all the gear I needed for a decent home studio set up. An 8-track cassette based recorder, 12:8:2 mixing desk, a decent sampler and synth and some outboard. At the same time I bought a house that had a suitable room for a dedicated home studio. After that I pretty much spent all my disposable income for the next decade on the studio. Over the decade I must have spent at least £30k on the room and equipment to go in it. By the end I had moved over to a Mac-based recording system with a MotU interface, 40 channel digital desk, huge Tannoy monitors, racks of onboard gear and synths. The quality of my recordings definitely improved, but no matter what I did and how much money I spent on new gear, they never really came close to sounding as good as those by my favourite bands. Also everything took much longer when time was no longer a constraint. Over the decade with various line-ups of my band I produced 3 demos, a 3-track self released CD EP, and was half way through recording a full-length album when the band split. Not a brilliant work-rate when you consider than my first band completed 5 albums worth of material in under 4 years.

When I joined The Terrortones, recording at home was out of the question, because I had neither the Mics or the sound proofing to record acoustic drums, so we used a series of local studios to record our initial demos and then our debut single. One thing that struck me straight away was how quickly the engineer in each studio was able to get a great sounding track together, sometimes with significantly less equipment than I had at home. It was at that point I realised that the limiting factor in my studio wasn't the gear, but was me. I had reached the point where no matter how much more time I spent working on a track or what hot new piece of kit I went ought and bought, my recordings were never going to sound very much better.

In retrospect, the band I was in during the 90s would have been much better served if I had saved up the money and spent it on a month in a good studio with a reasonably well-known producer overseeing it all (easily achievable within a £30k budget). At the end of it, if nothing else, we would have had a great sounding album with a name producer attached to it, instead of a handful of good sounding "demos" and the rest of the tracks in various states on unfinishedness.


To the OP I'm not saying that you won't end up being a great recording engineer/producer, but the chances are you'll never be capable of achieving the results you hear on your favourite recordings. With what you currently have in your home studio you have the potential to produce results that are technically far in excess of what was possible when some of the greatest recordings in the history of rock music were made. It is my experience that a good engineer is far more important than the gear.

Over the last 5 years I've sold nearly all my studio gear. I've down-sized to a Mac Pro a basic Focusrite interface and a hifi amp and speakers. I'm getting back into synth-based music so at some point I'll be buying a decent keyboard. I think I'm pretty good at writing and arranging music, but if I end up making music at home that I think is worth releasing to the public I'll be taking it to a proper studio for mixing.

I hope that helps and is not too discouraging.
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#18 MoonBassAlpha

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 09:10 AM

Agreed, super honest commentary.
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#19 Bigwan

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 08:34 AM

View PostBigwan, on 20 July 2017 - 10:41 AM, said:

I think in the meantime I'll carry on using garageband on Mac and ipad (bought a new 2017 ipad this week couldn't refuse a 20% off offer).

Yeah... so that didn't last long...

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