August 12, 2020 A Technology Blog

Garageband and Apple: How to Use Garageband on Mac

Musicians such as Rihanna, Usher, and Steve Lacy have used Garageband to compose some of the great songs we know today. In fact, Kendrick Lamar’s chart-topping single “Damn,” was produced by Lacy via Garageband.

Lacy claims that he used Garageband on iPod Touch, but there are some benefits to using Garageband on the desktop Mac OS software.

For one, the layout allows you to browse more easily and get a full-sized digital audio workspace (DAW) experience. 

While the desktop GarageBand setup is significantly different from the mobile app setup, you can make the switch. Here are some tips to help you understand the layout. 

  1. Starting Your First GarageBand Project

The first step to learning how to use Garageband on Mac is to simply start a new project. When you open the app, the startup window will give you a list of project options. 

At the bottom right of this window, you’ll also see the option to listen through your computer’s built-in speakers or from an external speaker you’ve connected. 

The various project types include “keyboard collection” “amp collection” “voice” and “hip hop.” You can also choose your tempo, time signature, and key signature. 

Each project type allows you to select a creation process that’s tailored to a specific instrument. 

For instance, the amp collection allows you to select the type of guitar tone you want and amplifier to further characterize that tone. 

At the bottom of your workspace, you’ll see a series of knobs that resemble those on an actual amplifier. 

Next to the knobs, the last button in the far right corner pulls up a menu of guitar tones to choose from. Once you select a tone you can customize that tone with those knobs using distortion, compression, echo, reverb, etc.

The keyboard collection similarly has a library of keyboards to choose from while the voice option has voice filters and the hip hop option has electronic tones to use. 

If you’re not sure which project option to choose, or you want to customize an instrument, you can simply select “New Project.”

  1. Types of GarageBand Tracks

Garageband is a multi-track creator and editor which means that you can compose a song with various parts. 

So once you select a project, you’ll choose the track you want to start creating. You can choose from the “software instrument,” “audio” or “drummer” tracks.

The software instruments option allows you to play and record with a synthesizer, keyboard, or organ sounds. When you plug in a USB MIDI keyboard, you can play with various keyboard-related sound samples from GarageBand’s library. 

You can also pull up GarageBand’s musical typing feature, which allows you to play piano-like instruments with corresponding keys on your keyboard. 

Whether you want to record vocals or an instrument, you can use the first “audio” track option with the microphone icon. 

For recording guitar or bass lines, you can plug your instrument into an audio interface or plug directly into your computer’s audio input and start recording. 

Finally, the drummer track type lets you choose an automated drummer for various genres and styles. Each drummer comes with a signature kit and you can choose from a variety to match your specific sound.

Once you’ve selected all this information, GarageBand will open a blank workspace where you can start creating. 

  1. How to Make Your First Song

Garageband records tracks which are layered together to produce one cohesive audio track. 

Create a Chord Progression Or Select a Loop

First, you need to establish a series of chords for a melody. When you open a new project, you’ll have the option to select a key and time signature. 

However, if you choose to change these signatures later on, you can find them inside the LCD (liquid crystal display). The LCD is the bar that stretches across the top of your workspace underneath the name of your track. 

If you’d rather experiment with material instead of starting from scratch, GarageBand allows you to choose from a library of short instrumental loops. You can find these under the “Show Apple Loops” in the “View” tab.

Customize Tones and Edit

You can change the tone of your instrument to produce specific styles or effects. When you click on a track in your project, a long list of other tones for that one instrument will appear in a tab on the left hand side. 

This means that you’ll be able able to browse through a series of tones for your drum kits, guitars, or keyboards. 

Make sure you update your sound library so that you will have all the available sounds in the GarageBand library. It’s important to do this before you start a project because it will give you sounds that may not have otherwise had access to.

Once the quality of the tones meets your standards, you can trim, copy, or rearrange sections of each track. Click and drag to select sections then use Command C and V to copy and paste.

  1. How to Make Your Recordings Sound Professional

Along with selecting a key and time signature, setting your tempo should be one of the first steps you do before you hit “R” to record anything. 

To help you avoid inconsistent tempo, you should always play to the metronome, which is located in the LCD bar.

Playing with a constant pulse helps you play in perfect time and prevents you from speeding up or slowing down throughout the track. 

You may not detect speeding or slowing while you play, but it can be a glaring mistake when you playback the audio.

Your recording will sound more professional and you’ll also improve your musicianship by playing to a metronome. 

If you’re having difficulty playing to the metronome, you can use the ‘drummer’ track option from the original startup new project menu to play along to an automated drum set in perfect time. 

Even if you attempted to play to a click but the result wasn’t in perfect time, sometimes you can use the quantize feature to automatically fit your recording into perfect time. This feature shifts sounds so that they hit the downbeats perfectly.

GarageBand is a Common Musical Language

Musicians everywhere have been using GarageBand since its 2004 debut. In 2020, Apple can proudly claim that GarageBand is an authoritative go-to app for creating music. 

Once you learn to speak the GarageBand language on OS, you’ll be able to navigate the program in its most comprehensive form. 

Speaking of learning a language, we have tons of other articles you can check out to help you navigate other technical features like Garageband. Be sure to check some out!

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