UI Design Good Example: Smart Instrument for Garage Band on iOS

This time we’re gonna talk about another phenomenal Apple Product Garage Band. I had this app right after it came out and it absolutely blew my mind away, mostly because of the innovative user interface design of what they called Smart Instruments.

I know for a fact for a lot of people, being able to play an instrument has always been their dream since they were a child. To be able to play at a level that your music can be appreciated by others is not easy to achieve. It takes tons of practice. I remember when I was child, I played trumpet. And for the first few weeks, I couldn’t hit any note correctly so the sound coming out of my trumpet sounds more like animal roaring than any form of music. It took me years of practice to finally got to the point that people praise my performance not because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. However, most people don’t want to spend much time and effort to achieve that, and they typically don’t care about being able to play all kinds of music. Some people say that they will be pretty satisfied if they are able to play just one song. Because of this demand, many companies tried to use modern technology to simulate the experience of playing instrument. But there is balance of how realistic that experience is and how easy it is for people who are not familiar with the instrument. On one end we have Guitar Hero that you are just hitting the correct button at the correct timing. On the other end of the scale we have those piano simulators, that you have to play it like you play a real piano. I think the Smart Instrument in Garage Band for iPad falls right in the middle, and has achieved the perfect balance among all.

garage-band-grand-pianoLet first take a look at the Smart Piano. First of all, this interface shares many similarity to an actual piano with keys to generate sounds. But if you take a closer look the keys for Smart Piano are not for a single note but instead for chord. This can go back to my previous discussion about some people only wishes to play songs. In songs, piano are mostly for musical accompaniment not for melodies. So this design suffices for playing sounds. On the other hand there are less number of chords for songs than for notes. For popular music, generally speaking a song will only have 4 to 8 chords. So this design largely reduced the complexity of playing piano by reducing the number of keys to just 8. However, the user still has control over the combination of chords. So they still have the freedom to play any songs that they want. The other thing that hinders people’s ability to play piano is that even after you get the chords right, you still need rhythm. And here they offer 4 built-in ones that should cover most music genre, so the only thing that you need to worry about is changing chords as the song goes on.


We can see a similar design for Smart Guitar.

Overall I think Garage Band has done a phenomenal job of lowering the difficulty of playing instruments but still offers an infinite set of songs that you can play. I really enjoyed playing with it. I hope you like it as well.



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