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GarageBand '11 Essential Training

with Todd Howard

Video: Pre-mixing

Pre-mixing is the stage where you get your project set up to mix and do any final editing that you need to do. I always start by lowering the track level on all of my tracks down to -6.0 dB or even a little bit lower. We may have a decent production mix going here, but for the sake of actually clarifying the mixing process, I'm going to take you through all the steps I would go through to mix this piece. And even though some of these things may get moved back to where they were, I'm going to start by bringing everything down to -6.0. You'll find in doing this that the sounds are going to be sort of out of balance all of a sudden and we can begin to work with them.
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  1. 2m 17s
    1. Welcome
      1m 13s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 4s
  2. 23m 4s
    1. Connecting instruments, MIDI controllers, mics, audio interfaces, and speakers
      4m 24s
    2. Setting important Mac OS X and GarageBand preferences
      4m 32s
    3. Creating a project with tempo, time signature, and key
      4m 37s
    4. Creating a track
      9m 31s
  3. 25m 42s
    1. Exploring Real Instrument tracks and setting a good input level
      6m 20s
    2. Exploring Software Instrument tracks, keyboard velocity, and MIDI
      6m 59s
    3. Exploring Electric Guitar tracks and monitoring
      7m 48s
    4. Positioning the cursor on audio regions to access different tools
      4m 35s
  4. 10m 23s
    1. Choosing a genre in the Project Chooser
      2m 3s
    2. Auditioning players in the band and hiring new players
      8m 20s
  5. 16m 45s
    1. Browsing and filtering the Apple Loops library
      5m 20s
    2. Dragging Apple Loops into your arrangement and choosing from alts
      6m 33s
    3. Jamming along with your composition
      4m 52s
  6. 35m 11s
    1. Setting tempo, enabling count-in and metronome, and dragging in a drum loop
      5m 22s
    2. Using GarageBand as a scratchpad for recording new ideas
      3m 29s
    3. Using the Arrange track to create song form sections
      3m 1s
    4. Splitting Apple Loops and choosing alternates to build a drum part
      6m 36s
    5. Recording multiple takes with cycle record
      4m 32s
    6. Punching in a small section of audio
      6m 20s
    7. Using Groove Matching to tighten up the rhythm of a performance
      5m 51s
  7. 33m 56s
    1. Tuning up and tracking a rhythm electric guitar part
      4m 26s
    2. Customizing the guitar sound using amps, stompboxes, and effects
      11m 44s
    3. Using Flex Time to fix a double-tracked rhythm guitar part
      7m 40s
    4. Using Cycle Record to record multiple takes for soloing
      3m 40s
    5. Compositing a final guitar solo from multiple takes
      6m 26s
  8. 19m 25s
    1. Recording a Software Instrument track
      3m 48s
    2. Editing the parameters of Software Instruments
      8m 44s
    3. Editing MIDI notes in the piano roll editor after the performance
      6m 53s
  9. 14m 12s
    1. Recording lead vocals
      6m 39s
    2. Correcting pitch with automatic tuning
      4m 16s
    3. Reordering, duplicating, and deleting song sections using the Arrangement track
      3m 17s
  10. 1h 7m
    1. Creating successful mixes
      7m 4s
    2. Pre-mixing
      15m 31s
    3. Equalizing tracks
      5m 51s
    4. Compressing tracks
      10m 13s
    5. Adding reverb and echo effects to individual tracks
      6m 39s
    6. Creating automated volume and pan moves
      10m 41s
    7. Freezing tracks to improve system performance
      2m 0s
    8. Using master track effects and automating a fade-out
      3m 31s
    9. Creating a final mixdown: Exporting a finished song to disk
      5m 40s
  11. 12m 51s
    1. Sharing your songs with iTunes and burning CDs
      3m 6s
    2. Opening a GarageBand project in Logic
      4m 26s
    3. Archiving GarageBand project files
      5m 19s
  12. 36m 44s
    1. Taking music lessons
      7m 32s
    2. Creating ringtones
      3m 50s
    3. Creating podcasts
      14m 12s
    4. Scoring a movie
      11m 10s
  13. 53s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course GarageBand '11 Essential Training
4h 58m Beginner Jul 29, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

This course is a comprehensive guide to the popular digital audio software from Apple, demonstrating the tools and techniques to create, edit, and publish music and podcasts. Author Todd Howard covers the ins and outs of the application, from interfacing with external devices, exploring Apple Loops, and recording instrument and vocal tracks to creating successful mixes, performing edits, and sharing finished projects. Additionally, the course introduces the new features in GarageBand '11, including Flex Time and Groove Matching, which provide powerful methods for editing and tightening up the rhythmic timing of tracks.

Topics include:
  • Connecting instruments, MIDI controllers, mics, and speakers
  • Creating a project and specifying tempo, time signature, and key
  • Jumpstarting the recording process with Magic GarageBand
  • Recording real instruments, software instruments, and electric guitar tracks
  • Compositing a final track from multiple takes
  • Creating, naming, and organizing song sections using the Arrangement track
  • Equalizing and compressing tracks
  • Adding reverb and echo effects
  • Sharing songs with iTunes and Logic Pro
  • Archiving GarageBand project files
  • Taking guitar and piano lessons
  • Creating podcasts, movies scores, and ringtones
Audio + Music
Todd Howard


Pre-mixing is the stage where you get your project set up to mix and do any final editing that you need to do. I always start by lowering the track level on all of my tracks down to -6.0 dB or even a little bit lower. We may have a decent production mix going here, but for the sake of actually clarifying the mixing process, I'm going to take you through all the steps I would go through to mix this piece. And even though some of these things may get moved back to where they were, I'm going to start by bringing everything down to -6.0. You'll find in doing this that the sounds are going to be sort of out of balance all of a sudden and we can begin to work with them.

But I'd rather have everything center around this -6.0 point rather than having everything center around the 0 dB or unity point, because as soon as you start raising things above 0 at that point, you're going to be clipping down here on our main master out. If we start everything down a bit, we have much better chance of having a mix that's not hitting our ceiling; in other words, leaving ourselves some headroom. Let's play back one of the louder sections of the song. I'm going to play where the big welcome note is and also a part of the pre-chorus and just see what the levels look like and what things look like over here as well.

(Music playing) I'm still finding that there's an awful lot of level especially with this vocal. I'm going to mute the vocal for a second and see if that was what caused the major clipping here. (Music playing) Definitely, the vocal had a lot to do with that. So I may actually start with this particular song, since there's an awful lot going on in all these big guitars and stuff, is actually maybe pull down to -7.0.

Seems like a pretty subtle negligible point to make here, but you'll find that at the end once we actually start adding some EQ and some Compression that we're going to be fighting with our levels clipping in the overall mix. So starting off there is probably a good idea. (Music playing) Okay, so we're going to have to just move up that loud spot anyway. (Music playing) Click those lights off. (Music playing) Okay, so we're already still almost right at our threshold, so there are some spots we're going to have to work with and some of these levels.

I think the wide guitars and also these notes on the lead vocal, that we're going to actually have to add some volume automation to bring those down into control and sort of be able to ride them throughout the song. So now we'll start to listen back to the track and make small adjustments to the overall track levels, attempting to achieve a basic balance between all the elements in the song to start with. So I'm going to play the song back from the beginning and adjust the volume levels just a little bit left and right here to try to find a general balance, a starting place for all the elements in the song.

So I'll just start from the top. (Music playing) And also if you have a concept of where you want particular things panned, for instance, our double-tracked rhythm electric guitars are designed to be panned hard left and hard right, you can go ahead and do that now as well.

I've also decided that with this mix, the drum part tends to have a hi-hat or a ride cymbal that's already mixed off to the right off center in the stereo drum loop. And I'd like to find something that would provide a good balance off to the left. So I'm going to move the Echo Piano part out a bit left as well. You can see I've already moved it out to find a spot between piano, which I can solo, and the drums which I can solo and try to find a good balance between the high-end cymbals of the drum kit and the high-end sound of the piano part. (Music playing) That's just a good starting place there for those two positions.

Also, the Dreamy Guitar preset is most definitely a stereo sound. It has some movement from side to side in the Stompbox Effects that are being used, the delay being the main contributor to that. Have a listen here. (Music playing) So I think I'm definitely going to keep the guitar straight up the center to allow the preset effects to work their magic with the stereo spectrum.

Unsolo the guitar. Another good piece of housekeeping is to trim any spans of excess audio off of tracks that were recorded, but when no one was playing. Listen to the beginning of the electric guitar rhythm tracks. There is a lot of noise before the guitars are even supposed to come in. Little place of touching the pick to the strings or getting something pass that noise gate. So the way to deal with this is to just simply trim these tracks. I'm going to click and Shift+Click the second one, grab my Trim tool, and just move those in to right before the guitar has actually come in.

So now this is completely silent in the guitar track and they don't actually make any sound at all-- (Music playing) --until they come in. Vocals are also a good place to strip the silence out of your tracks, as often singers will clear their throat or hum the pitch that's about to come up, or even just breathing or the rustling of lyrics sheets will translate as strange noises in your final mix. I'm going to go here to the vocal track, zoom in a little bit, actually double-click to bring this into the editor, and figure out exactly where the beginning of this is.

And now I'm going to use the split technique by placing the playhead in the track and hitting Command+T. I've got this extra little piece. I can select and delete. I can even do something in here. (Music playing) Sometimes you want to be careful; you don't want to take out the inhale before a note if that's something that you want to hear. So in other words, I guess what I'm saying is be careful not to cut an inhaling sound in half and have it sound strange. so you can just double-check that by soloing it and listening.

(Music playing) Because that was fine. (Music playing) We can leave that as is, and I'll also check the end. (Music playing) That's pretty close. You can also trim right down here in the Editor, in the lower-left corner. The end of the song is here. (Music playing) So now we just basically stripped the silence from vocal track, getting out any excess noise. I'm also going to check the Dreamy Guitar track which also starts at the very beginning here.

See if there's any noise. (Music playing) No, it's pretty silent, although it never hurts to clean up those spots. The other thing is at the end we've got an awful lot of trailing noise here, some of which is cool and some is just -- (Music playing) -- noisy. We basically like it on there, but we don't need it on this guitar track. I'm going to cut out before the slide. Okay, that's clean as well now, and these two guitar tracks, they have a slide-off that I might want to keep.

Leave those, and let's check out the bass too. Command+T, select and delete. Drums are going to be fine. Acoustic Guitar, what do we have there? And it's a nice long fade. We're going to leave that. That sound can last through till the end. And let's see. Now we've got a good clean ending. (Music playing) Great! The other thing you want to do during pre-mix is make sure any of your final editing that you want to do is taken care of.

I know there's one little thing I'd heard a couple times on listening back at the end of the Dreamy Guitar part, that's just not quite in time actually with the last three notes of the song. Here are those three notes. (Music playing) If I turn this up a bit, play it with the song -- (Music playing) And zoom in a little bit more.

I don't want to zoom in too far, where I can't see it any more, but I'll scroll ahead to the end. Okay, there they are. This is the one. Let me close the Track Info as well, so we can see even a little bit better. Here is the one, so that first note is a little bit late. Here is the two. You can see that that's almost 16th late, or a little less. This one is also a little bit off axis.

So all I'm going to do is use the Flex tool to click above the midpoint for the tops of these three notes, so that I can actually slide them into place. (Music playing) So now they are completely in time with piano and the rest of the band. And the other little cleanup that you need to do, and the pre-mix is a good time to do it, so that when you're actually into mixing and focusing on the individual sounds of everything, you're not always jumping back and forth and making edits.

Ultimately, you end up doing that anyway, but in this case we're going to try to go through the mixing segment of the course here without doing a lot of editing. So I'm just going to do two more quick pieces of cleanup and also add one thing. This rhythm part here in the drums, I'll play it with the guitar for a moment at the end here right before this gap. What I'm going for is right here is where the acoustic guitar accents and the drum loop, which sounds fine up to that point, has its last hit, which is right here.

This last waveform is a kick drum and it comes late. I'd rather have it come right where guitar comes, so here's what it sounds like now. (Music playing) So we have that last hit be right where the guitar is. So I'll do the same zoom in and in this case I am going to use the Split tool, Command+T, to cut that bass drum off. I have to go back and back fill. When we did some of the work with the loops before, you'll recall that process.

And then I will find the place I want that beat to come in, trim the right part of this loop, and move that right into place here. (Music playing) I've got to bring my other loop back up to where it needs to be, so it's all connected. (Music playing) Okay, so now everybody stops. Now the only problem is it seems like the wind drops out of the sails.

If I was actually playing that on the drums, I would probably hit a cymbal hit there, maybe even one when we come back in on the one of the chorus as well. So real quick process here. I'm just going to create a Software Instrument track, I'm going to click and drag it up so that it's right underneath my drum part, so that I can see it a little more easily. Just choose a drum kit and something that has good cymbal sounds. Headbanger has good cymbals. And I'll find the notes by scrolling and clicking.

(Music playing) There are some cymbals. And as a way of doing this quickly, I can press the R key to record and just click on these keys to place the notes in my timeline, and then I can move them around and get them in just the right spot. (Music playing) Okay. If I look in the editor at those two notes and again, use my playhead as a guide, put that right in place where I need it to be.

I'm changing my resolution to a finer degree, so I can actually move the playhead. I'm going to zoom in here, so I can get the playhead where I need it to be. This note would need to be lined up with these. The playhead is my guide. I can click and drag that cymbal into place. And then the same goes for this one, right on the downbeat. (Music playing) Okay. And let me turn the Compressor on, so those cymbals are actually audible and jumping out at us. Let's se how that sounds.

(Music playing) Great! So now we've got a nice way to get into the chorus and we've got some cymbal crashes that we've added in there. I think I've done all of my editing and we're done with our pre-mix and ready to get into the specifics of mixing these individual tracks.

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