Creating Music with
GarageBand 3 (iLife ’06)
Even if you have no musical talent (like me!), you can create great-sounding music in GarageBand by combining musical loops and by editing your loops and tracks until they sound just the way you want them to. You can enhance your tracks with effects, and you can even change the pitch of some of your loops by transposing them. Then your finished songs can be added to the iTunes music library and burned to CD or you can use them as background music in your iMovies and iPhoto slide shows.
To start up GarageBand, click the GarageBand icon on the Dock:
When the Welcome to Garage Band box opens, click New Music Project (unless you plan to work on a song that you previously started (then click Open Existing Project).
In the Save As box, type a name for your song.
If you are not experienced with the concept of Tempo,
Time, and Key, you can just leave these at the default
settings. You can always adjust them later if you want.
The typical GarageBand window will open:
To start with, there is only one track
in your song, and it is always a
Grand Piano track. Of course you
can always change this.
If the keyboard window opens, you
can close that for now.
Composing Music with Loops:
GarageBand comes with over 1,000 musical loops that you can add to your song by simply dragging them from the Loop Browser to the Timeline. With this many loops, it is important to have a convenient way to search through them to find what you want.
To open the Loop Browser, click its button:
Two types of music loops:
There are two main types of music loops, and it is important to understand the difference.
Real Instruments. These loops hold digital audio recordings of real instruments being played. Real instrument loops are blue, with an icon that looks like this:
Software Instruments. These loops do not hold actual sound. Instead, they hold only data, which tells the computer which notes to play and what they should sound like. Software instrument loops are green, with an icon that looks like this:
Both of these types of loops have advantages and disadvantages. Real instrument loops sound more like, well… real instruments. Another advantage of real instruments is that they do not make your computer work as hard as software instruments. The advantage of software instruments is that they allow you more control over the sound.
Adding a Loop to a Song:
Just drag the loop that you want into an empty area of
the timeline. This creates a new track.
To move the loop after you have added it, drag it to the
left or right.
You can also drag a loop onto an existing track.
Mixing loops within a track can help to add variety to your song.
NOTE: You can add software instrument loops to a
real instrument track, but not vice-versa.
Once the loop is in a track on your timeline, you can drag the end of it to make it play repeatedly:
AMAZING FACT: As you add loops to your song, they automatically shift and adjust themselves to fit the beat of your song! How easy is that?
Working with Music Tracks:
Each of the rows on the timeline is a track. GarageBand will allow you to insert quite a few tracks in your song, but you will find that this can be very limited by the processing power of your computer and the amount of RAM that it has. On a basic eMac or iBook that has not been upgraded at all, you should be able to easily create four tracks without running into problems.
Each track contains regions. A region is a set of notes or a snippet of sound.
As you add tracks to your song, it is a good idea to change the name to something more descriptive, such as Third Verse Strings or Guitar Solo (second take). To rename a track, click its name.
A second or so later, the name will highlight and you can type over it.
Mute the tracks:
As you listen to your song, you can mute (silence) certain tracks so that you can hear what it sounds like without some tracks. To do this, click the left speaker icon here, so that it turns blue.
Solo a track:
On the other hand, there will be times when you want to play a track without hearing any of the other tracks. To solo a track, click the Solo button, which looks like a pair of headphones.
Cycling a portion of a song:
As you are working on a song, it is often useful to have part of it play over and over. To do this, click the Cycle button: This will make a portion of the area just under the beat ruler turn yellow. This is the portion of the song that will now repeat. Drag the edges of the yellow area to resize it.
Often you will want to copy a region, so that it will repeat during a song. To do this, click on a region to select it, and then choose Copy from the Edit menu. Move the Playhead to the destination and select Paste. You can also Option-Drag a region to copy it to the new destination, even to a different track, as long as the track is the same type (software or real instrument).
Should I Loop, or Copy? Either of these will make a portion of a track repeat itself, so which should you do? The advantage of copying is that each copy is an independent region, which can be edited without affecting other copies. When you edit a repeating loop, your changes affect the entire looping region.
Zooming in and out on your timeline:
Often it is helpful to expand or compress your timeline so that
you can see more of it at once or focus on one small part of it.
To do this, drag the Zoom controller to the left or the right.
Duplicating a Track:
You can create a duet by duplicating a region of a track and placing it into another track. One way to do this is to select an entire track (click on the track header on the left), and then select Duplicate Track from the Track menu. This duplicates everything, including the effects and settings. If you just want to copy one or more of the regions into another track, without the effects and settings, first create another track of the same type by clicking the Create New Track button:
Then Option-drag the region(s) that you want copied into the new track (you can also use the Copy and Paste commands).
Now that you have two tracks with the same regions, you can edit into a duet. One way to do this would be to transpose one of the tracks to create a harmony (see the section on transposing below). You could also experiment with various effects setting for each track so that they sound different. Finally, you can adjust each track’s panning and volume to make it sound like they are coming from different sides of the stage (see the sections on volume and panning later in this tutorial).
Working with Regions:
Transposing a region:
Transposing a loop is an easy way to create chord changes. This is one way to make your song sound much less repetitive. For example you could add multiple regions of one loop, and then alternate the chords. Here is how to do this:
• Drag a loop onto the timeline, and then grab the right edge of it and drag it out so that it is as long as you want it to be.
• Split the loop at the points at which you want the change to take place. To do this, place the playhead at the place you want to split the region, and then select Split from the Edit menu.
Now there are two independent regions that can be treated differently.
• Click the new region you just created to select it and then click the track editor button:
(Shortcut: Just double-click the region to open it in the track editor)
• In the track editor, drag the Transpose slider
to the left or to the right. This allows you to
transpose in increments of one semitone. A
semitone is one half-step. Sliding the control
to the right creates a higher pitch, to the left
creates a lower pitch.
Editing Software Instrument Tracks:
After you have inserted a software instrument loop into one of your tracks, you can edit it in the track editor. There is almost no end to the kinds of changes you can make to this type of data (called MIDI data). Below is a quick summary of some of the things you can do:
Adjusting Volume and Panning:
Sometimes the difference between a good song and a great song is the mixing. Even a lousy song can sound much better if it is mixed well. With GarageBand, you are the engineer responsible for mixing the songs. You need to adjust each track’s volume so that all the tracks sound good together. Some instruments (or vocals) should be set louder than others, but should not overwhelm the others.
Adjusting the volume for the entire track:
You can adjust the volume of an entire track by
sliding the main track volume control left or right.
Panning is adjusting the volume of a track to the left or right speaker, so that it sounds like the different instruments are coming from different area of the stage. This gives you a much more interesting stereo effect. Just drag this knob to the left or right to pan the track. Pan some of your tracks toward the left and some toward the right. But do not pan any of your tracks all the way left or right. This can sound very artificial.
Adjusting with a Volume Curve:
To create fade-ins or fade-outs, or to change the volume of a track (such as muting it) during a portion of a song, you must use a volume curve. Here is how to use a volume curve:
• First, you must display the track’s volume curve. To do this, click on the track’s header to select it, and then click the volume curve button (or press the A key on your keyboard).
• Make sure Track Volume is selected here.
• The horizontal line that occurs below the track is the track’s volume. Click somewhere on the line to create a control point.
• Then click another place on the line to create a second control point.
• Now you can drag one of the points up or down to create a fade.
• You can also drag the control points left or right to adjust the timing.
• To delete a control point, click it to select it, then press the Delete key on your keyboard.
Refining your Tracks with Effects:
Using GarageBand’s effects, you can alter the sound of your tracks as much as you want to, even beyond recognition. Some of the effects are designed to simulate the real world, such as reverberation and echo (making it sound like a concert hall). Others effects allow you change your sound in ways that could only exist in the digital world. GarageBand’s effects can be used on both software and real instruments. And GarageBand does not alter your original audio. Instead, it applies the effects as the song plays. This allows you to experiment with effects without destroying your song in the process. Click a track to highlight it and then select Show Track Info from the Track menu.
Using the Master Track to Finish your Song:
GarageBand’s master track is a special track that doesn’t hold notes or regions, but instead it controls certain aspects of your entire song. Basically, you can apply effects to the entire song, and you can apply a fade-in and/or fade-out if you want to.
First, to show the master track, select Show Master Track from the Track menu (or press Apple-B). The master track shows up as a track at the bottom of your time-line. Make sure Master Volume is selected and then you can use the volume control line to create fades (as in the Volume section above).
Double-click the master track header to open the master track effects window and you can add effects to the entire song (all tracks at once) in the same way that you did for single tracks in the section above.
Exporting your Song to iTunes:
When your song is completely finished, you are ready to export it to iTunes. Why do you want your song in iTunes? Because from there you can use the song in your iMovie, iPhoto, and Podcasting projects. Also, you can then easily burn your song onto a CD so that you can play it for all your friends!!
All you have to do is select Send Song to iTunes in the Share menu.
GarageBand will then mix your tracks down to two stereo channels and save the song as an AIFF file. This is a full CD quality song. If you want to convert the song to MP3 or AAC (Apple’s compression format that provides smaller files that sound better than MP3s), configure iTunes to import in the format you wish (in iTunes, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, then select Advanced, and then click the Importing button). Then select your song and select Convert to MP3 (or whatever format you selected) from the Advanced menu.