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Mixing in GarageBand

From: iPad Music Production: GarageBand

Video: Mixing in GarageBand

Once you have all the tracks recorded for your song and all the sections arranged the way you like, it's time to mix your song. Now mixing song involves several different aspects including setting the levels of each track, setting each track's position in the stereo field, adding effects and a lot more. Now in all honesty you are not going to find too much in terms of tools and options for mixing in the iPad version of GarageBand. You'll get a lot more control out of professional level audio applications or even on the Mac version of GarageBand. But you'll find that, especially if you've been recording with the built-in instruments or the Apple Loops as we have here with the Electric Piano, the Drum Kits and even the built-in guitar amps, that these sounds have been professionally engineered and recorded already, so they're going to sound pretty good right out of the box.

Mixing in GarageBand

Once you have all the tracks recorded for your song and all the sections arranged the way you like, it's time to mix your song. Now mixing song involves several different aspects including setting the levels of each track, setting each track's position in the stereo field, adding effects and a lot more. Now in all honesty you are not going to find too much in terms of tools and options for mixing in the iPad version of GarageBand. You'll get a lot more control out of professional level audio applications or even on the Mac version of GarageBand. But you'll find that, especially if you've been recording with the built-in instruments or the Apple Loops as we have here with the Electric Piano, the Drum Kits and even the built-in guitar amps, that these sounds have been professionally engineered and recorded already, so they're going to sound pretty good right out of the box.

So let's take a couple of moments here and take a look at how to mix in GarageBand. First make sure you can see all the Track controls here. If you see them collapsed like this, just drag horizontally across to expand the controls. Because even though, as I mentioned earlier, you can go up to the Mixer controls and adjust your track settings from here. It's going to be a lot easier to do your initial mix just using the sliders and buttons that you find in the Track controls on the left-hand side. So we are going to begin by setting the overall level of each track relative to the other tracks. Now I generally like to start with the rhythm section and I like to start by dragging all the Volume sliders all the way down, so we can just start from zero.

So I am going to start with my Drum Kit and make sure that's selected and I am just going to tap Play and I am going to keep an eye on these meters here. Now you're seeing that the mics are actually picking me up here, but once I tap Play I'll be able to adjust the level of the drums. Okay, now I am still hearing the metronome so let me just stop that. Let's go back to our Settings and I am just going to turn the Metronome off because I don't really need that for the mix and I am just going to find it distracting. And now I'll tap Play and I'll start playing with the level of the drums.

(music playing) Now as a general rule, you want to keep an eye on the level meter in the track itself and the Master Volume level meter up here. Because even though these were professionally recorded Apple Loops and there is very little chance I can distort them here, when I start combining this track with the other tracks, I might end up sending too much volume to the output. So I generally like to start with the Volume controls a little above the center position.

That gives me a little bit more breathing room in case I need to add more later or pull some back. After getting the drums about where I like them I usually like to work on the bass next to get those two sitting well with each other. (music playing) Now there really isn't too much right and wrong here, it's really about what sounds good to your own ears.

So that's about what I like for the drum and bass mix right now, so let's just continue. Let's work on the keys. (music playing) I will throw in some guitar now. (music playing) And lastly we'll add in the keyboards.

But I want that to be pretty subtle so I am going to keep that lower. (music playing) Okay, GarageBand automatically loops to the beginning for me. So far I still need to add the tambourine and that little sample at the beginning, so I am just going to let it continue to roll. (music playing) Move it ahead just a little bit so I can hear the tambourine.

(music playing) And the last track is just that sample of the reverse symbol I put at the beginning of the song. Now to see that a little bit better I am just going to expand it out a little bit. That way, drag it over, go back to the beginning and let's just see where that will go.

I am going to bring that up pretty high, and let's listen. (music playing) Might even want a little bit more than that. (music playing) All right, so I think I am pretty happy with that initial mix. Now again, another aspect of mixing your song is panning in the stereo field. Right now, by default, all the instruments are sitting right in the center of both the left and the right channel and it can start to sound a little bit muddy or crowded in there.

You can expand the sound of your mix by moving some of the instruments either all the way left or right, or just subtly to one side or the other. For example, we have the Tambourine track, which like all the other tracks currently sits in the middle of the stereo field. And I think it could benefit from being hard-panned, meaning put all the way either to the left or to the right. And I think that will open up the mix a little bit more, it will be a little bit easier to hear that tambourine. I can't do the Pan controls from the Track controls here on the left, I have to go up to the Mixer controls and here we'll find Track Pan. Let me actually get the song playing, just zoom back out here, get my playhead somewhere where the tambourine exists, and I'll tap Play and play with the panning.

(music playing) There it is all the way to the right, moving over to the left. (music playing) You can see in the Level Meter it is indeed only on the left. (music playing) So I think that opens up the tambourine into the mix a little bit more. Now you don't have to always do a hardpan left or right, you can do a much more subtle panning, for example, maybe with the Synthesizer track. Maybe I just want that subtly more to the right-hand side.

So again I'll just start the track playing. (music playing) And I'll adjust this pan. (music playing) So that was more of a subtle pan, but again I think that adds a little more depth to our mix than what we had with the keyboards just in the center of the mix. Now another thing to keep in mind is once you've panned a track, especially if it's panned hard left or hard right, that's essentially cutting down the volume of that particular track, so you might find that you have to adjust the volume a little bit more once you've done a little bit of panning.

But especially important is to just not neglect panning in your mix. It definitely adds another dimension to your overall sound so be sure that after you've set your levels you start playing around with the panning a little bit. Now some other mixing options you'll find under the Mixer controls are Echo and Reverb Level. For example, if I wanted to select the Guitar track here and I wanted to add maybe a little bit of a reverb to that track to make a little more lush, I could do so, let me just get my playhead back here again. And I am going to solo this track just so you can hear the effects a little bit better. (music playing) Let's get extreme here so you really hear it, although I don't want it that much.

(music playing) And maybe a little bit of echo; again I'll show you the extreme. (music playing) Add just a little bit of echo on that one. (music playing) So if you want a real instrument track to sound a little more full or lush, add a little bit of reverb or echo to it, and do keep in mind that a little does go a long way in terms of these effects. I am just going to un-solo the guitar now. Now this is definitely been a very quick and dirty mix, you'll want to spend a lot more time polishing up your own songs.

But these are just some of the things you need to keep in mind when you're mixing the individual tracks. Now before we finish up here there are still some things I can show that you can do to your song as a whole. Let me just get the playhead back to the beginning here and I am just going to zoom back out so we can see the whole song. If we look under the Mixer settings again, we'll find an area called Master Effects. We will find that instead of having a slider here you'll find different names for these effects, we have Ambient Delay, Half Note Echo, Rock n Roll, Triplet Echo. There is really no way to see what these do unless you just try them out.

For instance, I'll just select Triplet Echo; I'll play a bit of my song. And probably you even just notice but when I actually stop playing the song. (music playing) So you can probably hear that delay effect right when I tap stop it sort of echoed off into the distance. So definitely play around with some of those Echo Levels, let me turn that Off just for a moment here, and we'll go back to Reverb and again, Reverb has the same thing, we have names of reverb rather than a slider anyway to adjust the reverb.

So if I wanted to sound like this has being performed in a Large Hall I could select that. And it sounds like this. (music playing) So I actually like that a lot better than the Echo effect, it really took the song and made it feel like it was in a much larger space. It made it much more full and again lush.

Now the last thing I want to do here is because of the way we assembled the song we just went verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus, just by copying sections, we have sort of a very abrupt ending at the end of the song. Let's give that a listen. (music playing) And just stops, and of course, we'll loop back to the beginning. But as I mentioned earlier we can go to our settings and we have a simple On/Off slider here called Fade Out.

This is again very useful if you've created a song but you weren't quite sure how to end it, or you just have a song like this where we just chopped up pieces and I want to quickly finish the song off. Fade Out automatically applies a 10 second fade to your songs. So it's a nice subtle fade to finish the song rather than having that sudden drop-off. So with that on, we just roll this back to the end again, and we'll listen to our fade out. (music playing) Of course it does still loop back to the beginning.

Now unfortunately you are stuck with a 10-second fade out. There's no way to set that to another length of time. So if you want more control over the fade out or other aspects of your mix, maybe even to add things like automation to your mix, those are things again that you can't do in GarageBand for the iPad. But you can export the project and continue editing it in GarageBand for the Mac, and I'll show how to do that in the next chapter. So for now I think we have a pretty decent mix, just close the Track controls so we can see the song as a whole, and we're going to spend the entire next chapter looking at all the different ways you can get your song out of GarageBand and out into the world.

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iPad Music Production: GarageBand

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Garrick Chow
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