Software & Web Development

Getting started with GarageBand

Wait!! Yes, youthe person who absent-mindedly clicked on the link that led you here, realized that you were about to receive instruction regarding Apples affordable audio/music application, thought Heck, Im no musician, I think Ill read about user permissions instead, and has his or her finger poised over the mouse button, trackpad clicker, or iOS screen that will whisk you elsewhere. You neednt be a musiciantrained or otherwiseto get some use out of GarageBand. In fact, the application was designed with non-musicians (or the minimally musical) in mind. And best of all, theres no talent required. So stick around, at least for the next couple of paragraphs so you can learn exactly what GarageBand can do for you.

With GarageBand you, as non-musician, can create musical scores for your movies without being able to play a lick. If you can place blocks end to end, you can create a compelling score using GarageBands loops. You can also create your own ringtones from your favorite songs. You can edit any compatible audio filenot just music files but recordings youve made with your iOS device (class lectures of business meetings, for example). And if youd like to try you hand at playing guitar or piano, GarageBand includes introductory lessons for doing just that.

And if you are a musician, GarageBand offers much more. It can serve as a musical sketchpad for writing tunes. You can use its built-in stomp box effects and amps to wail away on your guitar at 3 AM without waking your neighbors. The applications Drummer feature means your tracks can sound more lifelike. And with its software instruments you have the kind of synthesizer palette that once cost thousands of dollars to replicate.

Lets begin our look at how these features shake out and how you can put GarageBand to the best use.

Choosing a project

With the understanding that the application can be used in a variety of ways, youre presented with a project chooser when you first launch GarageBand. If youve downloaded the free version of the application along the left side of this window you see New Project, Learn to Play, and Recent. If youve paid the $5 in-app purchase fee for the complete set of content, youll additionally see an entry for the Lesson Store.

Select New Project and youre presented with seven different kinds of projectsKeyboard Collection, Amp Collection, Ringtone, Hip Hop, Electronic, Songwriter, and Empty Project. Well look at these project types shortly.

Choose Learn to Play and the main portion of the window includes Guitar Lessons, Piano Lessons, and Artist Lessons tabs. Included in Guitar Lessons are Intro to Guitar and Chord Trainer. Piano Lessons includes an Intro to Piano lesson. And the Artist Lessons tab is empty by default.

These lessons wont get you very far so select Lesson Store (again, available with the in-app purchase) and you see options for downloading additional guitar and piano lessons and individual artist lessons. With your in-app purchase all guitar and piano lessons can be downloaded for free. Artist lessonstunes taught by their original recording artistsare based on a single song and cost $5 each.

Recent presents you with a list of projects youve recently worked on.

When choosing New Project, the bottom of the project chooser displays a Details entry with a downward pointing triangle. Click on the triangle and you find controls for modifying a projects tempo (how fast or slow it goes), its key signature (the root major or minor key such as C major or E minor), its time signature (the number of beats in a measure and the kind of note that gets the beat4/4, for example, which means four beats to the measure and the quarter note gets the beat), and pop-up menus for choosing the audio input and output you want to use with the application. These settings are almost entirely intended for those people using GarageBand for musical purposes. If you dont know what they do or youre using GarageBand to create a ringtone or movie soundtrack, just leave them alone and click Choose to launch your project.

About those seven projects

I mentioned that Id talk about GarageBands seven project types in greater depth and now seems like as good a time as any. Lets do so in a musical context.

Imagine that youve booked time in a local recording studio. Youd like to record your five-piece band. It would make little sense for you and the rest of the band to show up and find the studio set up for a symphony orchestra or for a single voice-over artist. No, you want to find the room configured for the kind of audio you intend to record. And thats the idea behind GarageBands projects.

When you select Keyboard Collection and click Choose, GarageBand creates a project that includes 15 pre-configured tracks, each with a different keyboard soundfrom a Steinway grand piano track to classic electric piano to synthesizer lead. Select Amp Collection and a different 15 tracks appear, each using a different amp and collection of effects. The Ringtone project bears a single track and exposes GarageBands Loops browser (which Ill explain in a future lesson). The Hip-Hop project includes seven tracks, including a classic drum machine, grand piano, string ensemble, and some synthesizer instruments. Electronic has nine pre-configured tracks, composed largely of synthesizers. Songwriter includes six tracks designed for drums, vocal, guitars, bass, and piano. And the Empty Project is just thata trackless project that prompts you to select the kind of track you wish to create (Software Instrument, Digital Audio, Guitar, or Drummer). To give you an overview of the interface well choose Empty Project.

The GarageBand interface

We have to select some kind of track. For the purposes of showing you around, lets select the first audio selectionthe one that displays a microphone on a standand then click Create. The GarageBand interface appears in full force. It contains these elements:

The control bar

GarageBands control bar is packed with features. Lets run them down.

The Library, Quick Help, Smart Controls, and Editors buttons: These buttons toggle on and off various panes within the interface. By default the Library button is enabled, which means that the Library pane is exposed below. Click on the Quick Help button and a small window appears. Hover your cursor over any GarageBand element and an explanation of what that element is will appear in this window. Click Smart Controls and its pane opens at the bottom of the GarageBand window (Ill explain Smart Controls in a future lesson). Likewise, clicking Editors causes the selected tracks editor pane to appear at the bottom of the window. (Ill explain editors in the future as well.)

Play controls: Similar to iTunes, you find play controls in GarageBands toolbar. These controls include Rewind, Forward, Stop or Locate, Play, and Record buttons.

Display: The display tells you a lot about your project. It can broadly be toggled between two statesBeats & Project and Time. (You toggle the display by clicking on the first item in it, which is either a note and metronome or small clock icon.) In the Beats & Project view you see a readout of bars, beats, divisions, and ticks and the projects tempo, key, and time signature. Choose the Time display and you see hours, minutes, seconds, and frames. The readout within this display changes as the project plays or you move the playhead in the workspaces ruler.

Cycle, Tuner, Count-in, and Metronome buttons: Enable the Cycle button and you can select a portion of your project to repeat. When creating a ringtone you use this to determine which portion of a track you want to include as part of the ringtone. GarageBand has a built-in tuner that can work with instruments plugged into your Macs selected audio input or picked up via a microphone (including your Macs built-in mic). When you enable the Count-in button and click Record, youll hear a measure of clicks before recording begins. This helps establish the tempo before you start playing. And if youd like to hear a click matched to the projects tempo as you record and play back the project, enable the Metronome button.

Master volume slider: As its name implies, you use this slider to adjust the overall volume of your project.

Note Pad, Apple Loops, and Media Browser buttons:These three buttons reveal or hide their associated panes.

The Library pane

The Library pane, which appears at the far left of the GarageBand window, is contextual, meaning that its contents change depending on the kind of track youve selected. For example, if you select an audio track, the pane displays a number of presets including Drums and Percussion, Voice, Studio Instruments, and Electric Guitar and Bass. Select a preset and more specific settings appear to the right. For instance, select Voice and you find a series of subsettings including Bright Vocal, Classic Vocal, and Telephone Vocal, among others. For audio tracks these settings control GarageBands effects. So, for instance, when you choose the Voice presets Bright Vocal setting, the EQ settings pump up the mid frequencies and a touch of reverb and compression are added.

Select a software instrument and you find a list of instrument families in the left side of the Library pane. Select one of these families and you see the instrument sounds it contains. This is how you choose different instrument sounds.

If youve selected a guitar track the Library pane displays different guitar and bass tones. Choose oneClean Guitar, for exampleand a subset of effect collections is shown to the right. Similar to audio tracks, these settings are related to GarageBands amps and stomp box effects.

And if youve created a Drummer track the Drum Kit entry is highlighted in the Library pane and you see a list of any installed drum kits to the right.

The Tracks pane

GarageBand is a multi-track Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application. This means that you can record one track, create a new one, record something into this new track to accompany the first track you created, and go on and on layering tracks atop one another. The Tracks pane provides you with a list of all your tracks. Within each track header are, at the very least, Mute, and Solo buttons. Click Mute and you wont hear that track. Click Solo and youll hear just that soloed track. (You can mute and solo multiple tracks.)

If you see nothing more than an instrument icon, the tracks name, and these two buttons, click and drag its right edge to the right. This expands the pane to display Volume and Pan controls for each track. Drag the volume slider to the right to increase the tracks volume and to the left to decrease it. Twirl the Pan knob to the left and the tracks sound moves to the left side of the stereo field. Drag it to the right and the sound moves toward the right speaker.

If you choose Mix > Show Automation the track headers get taller to reveal a pop-up menu below. Using this pop-up menu you can draw in volume and pan automation (have the volume increase or decrease at points you select) as well as automate an instruments Smart Controls (which Ill get to at another time).

The Workspace pane

The Workspace pane displays the contents of your tracks. Software instrument tracks are green and contain dots and dashes that represent notes played by GarageBands virtual instruments (this is called MIDI data). Audio and Guitar tracks are blue and display audio waveforms. Drummer tracks are yellow and also display audio waveforms. Double-click within one of these tracks and its editor pane opens below.

Within the Workspace pane you can select clips within tracks and split, trim, delete, or repeat them.

At the top of this pane is a ruler. If youve chosen the Beats & Project view the ruler displays measure numbers and beat divisions within each measure. If youve selected the Time view instead, youll see time divisions. You can expand or contract the ruler using the Horizontal Zoom slider found at the right side of the ruler.

And more

Ive told you something of the other panes that can be exposedSmart Controls, Editors, Note Pad, Loops, and Media Browserbut Ive taxed your patience enough for today. Well look at these and other features in future lessons.


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