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New GarageBand Accessibility Developments

November 1, 2010

I realize that I’m posting a lot about GarageBand lately, but that’s because it’s my new toy. Sure, there are serious features in Sonar and Pro Tools that it won’t ever match (having project tempo follow material recorded without a click, detailed vocal editing, drum replacement, etc.), and even many small ones (groove quantize, MIDI data processing like humanize/scaling/interpolation, support for higher end control surfaces). Still, it is a fun little DAW, particularly now that blind users can accomplish some sort of significant work with it.

Since my initial post about GarageBand 6 accessibility, many of us have been poking around at the new interface, trying to figure out what is actually available to us. Here are some pointers to our progress.

Ashley Cox, Ricardo Walker, and Keith Reedy have started work on a mini guide to using GarageBand 6 with VoiceOver. It includes a more detailed explanation of my findings regarding regions and adding loops to a project, with specific steps describing how to perform those tasks.

Beyond cutting/copying/pasting regions and loops, though, they’ve discovered some things that should have been obvious to all of us. VoiceOver includes built-in commands for moving and sizing objects. Most VoiceOver users are familiar with these through moving and sizing windows. However, since the regions show up on the timeline as layout objects, they can be moved and sized, also, using VoiceOver’s built-in commands. There is absolutely no need for a mouse or scripts to move regions around in a project, or to stretch out loops.

They’ve also discovered that it is possible to use copy/paste to copy audio files from a folder in the Finder on to the timeline. For those of you that podcast, this is a great way to quickly insert audio clips and interviews in to the project that you use to assemble your podcast. You can easily drop them in to your project where you want them, but can later move them like any other region.

Today, I’ve discovered another option available to us that, thinking back, should have been obvious to me. Without access to cycle recording, it is extremely difficult to imagine ever creating your own loops or phrases from a MIDI keyboard. It is also not possible to record without erasing what was already on the track (no overdubbing). We can, of course, turn cycle recording on or off by pressing c, but the cycle seemed stuck between bars 1 and 5. I couldn’t find a way to change the cycle time, until today.

The key to it is that pressing C toggles the “cycle region” on or off. I thought that this meant that, when cycle was on, GB would cycle over a region in loop record mode, allowing the user to overdub. I tried all variations of selecting existing regions and toggling cycle. That’s wrong. When cycle recording is enabled, GB creates a temporary region called, you guessed it, the “cycle region”. It is located next to the timeline, in the group with the playback head and song length indicators. You can move and size it with the same techniques used for other regions. It only appears when cycle is enabled. With access to the cycle region, this means that we can now use loop recording, and can use it for overdub and punch scenarios.

It does seem like GB is coming along quite nicely. I’ll be traveling a lot over the next few weeks, with little time for using my full home studio, and will enjoy seeing what I can do with just my MacBook. GB should make an excellent scratch pad.

  1. chad baker permalink

    i like the latest version of garage band apple made improvements that’s what i use
    i don’t cash for protools yet
    is protools le accessible with voice over i know the latest version is 9

    • In Pro Tools 9, there is no longer a LE version. There is only Pro Tools 9 and Pro Tools 9 HD. The HD version is only for use with dedicated Avid audio interfaces, and is expensive.

      All versions of Pro Tools 9 have the same accessibility as was present in 8.04. You can operate most of its features, but it is difficult to learn for a blind user, as the program is massive when compared to GarageBand, and most of the workarounds that are required to operate it with VoiceOver aren’t documented.

      To chat with other blind people that are using Pro Tools with VoiceOver, check out the Pro Tools Access group (PTAccess), or subscribe to the e-mail list directly by sending an e-mail here.

  2. JD Nelson permalink

    What about GarageBand 9? I am trying to copy/paste loops from loop browser into track (without dragging), like it says you can do with GarageBand 6, but it doesn’t seem to be working in GarageBand 9.

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  1. Ricardo Walker demonstrates GarageBand 6 with VoiceOver «

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