World / Reporter's Journal

Let your Peking Opera begin! GarageBand gets erhu, pipa and gongs

(China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-05-18 11:16

While Apple's relationship with China continues to generate blockbuster headlines - investing $1 billion in a ride-hailing service, first quarter sales tanking 26 percent, online book and movie services suspended, CEO Tim Cook visits China for the umpteenth time - one of the company's more subtle attempts to ingratiate itself with China shouldn't pass without due attention.

Apple on Tuesday announced an update to its music-creation package GarageBand, additions that it says "celebrate the rich history of Chinese music with new instruments and extensive Chinese language localization throughout the app".

GarageBand is an ingenious "toy" where anyone with (or even without) a knack for music can get lost for hours and end up with "compositions" that range from movie soundtracks to special effects for a train wreck. (By the way, this writer has created musical pieces that have led to suggestions that I may want to consider "talking to someone".)

Building on GarageBand's already extensive menu of instruments and sounds, the new update adds traditional Chinese instruments - including the pipa and erhu and a grab bag of Chinese percussion (gongs, cymbals, wood blocks, drums) - along with 300 Apple-created Chinese musical loops, or repeating riffs, from instruments like the guzheng, dizi and yangqin, you can build on or jam along with.

Mac or iOS devices users can also now share their opuses across popular Chinese social networks like QQ and Youku.

"GarageBand is the most popular music creation app in the world and we're excited to introduce these new features that incorporate the rich history of traditional Chinese music," Susan Prescott, Apple's vice-president of product marketing, said in the press release.

Award-winning musician JJ Lin is fronting for the update and the press release features a youtube video of him and Cook jamming on their devices. (geek alert).

"As a musician I'm always looking for ways to take my music in new directions and GarageBand has been such a great tool for me to experiment and add new elements to my songs on-the-go," said JJ Lin.

"I love how the latest update to GarageBand adds traditional Chinese instruments along with brand new loops so I can play around with mixing traditional and modern sounds to create completely new styles," he added.

The Chinese instruments can be played on iPhones or iPads and on Macs through the musical typing feature or by connecting a USB piano keyboard.

Each instrument features a variety of playing articulations, including tremolo picking and note bending for the pipa, and trills, grace notes and glissandos for the erhu.

iPhone users can also use a "3-D touch" option with the erhu and pipa to vary dynamics like vibrato and intensity of attack. Both also include autoplay, which, like a player piano, gives users the opportunity to impress people by pretending to be playing when they're actually not.

Apple has taken what it calls the "Chinese localization" of the app one step further by translating all sounds, loops and instruments into Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese.

Time to get your Yo-Yo on and start composing.

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