iPad Music Production: GarageBand
Illustration by Richard Downs

Recording and editing MIDI tracks


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iPad Music Production: GarageBand

with Garrick Chow

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Video: Recording and editing MIDI tracks

Now that we have some drums and percussion in our song, let's add some keyboard. I already have the keyboard track that I previously created so I'll just double tap to bring that up. And the beauty of playing the GarageBand keyboard versus a real acoustic piano with the microphone on it is you are not locked into your performance with the GarageBand keyboard as you would be with a real piano. I can just play my part and then later if I decide I want a different instrument to play those parts, I can do that. I can fix bad timing issues, I can change complete notes. Let's take a look at how this works. I am going to roll back to the beginning and with the Grand Piano I am just going to play the verse of the song.
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Watch the Online Video Course iPad Music Production: GarageBand
2h 48m Beginner Sep 11, 2012 Updated Aug 02, 2013

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In this course, author and musician Garrick Chow reviews GarageBand for the Apple iPad—an inexpensive yet powerful app that allows you to record and edit music with both real and virtual instruments. The course begins with a tour around the interface, examining the instrument and track views. Garrick demonstrates how to play both touch instruments and Smart Instruments, as well as how to connect and use real instruments and microphones. Garrick then explains how to build, record, and edit a song from scratch, and how to then export and share your music with iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, SoundCloud, email, and with other devices.

Topics include:
  • Selecting instruments
  • Setting up a song
  • Playing touch keyboards and drums
  • Playing Smart Instruments
  • Using real guitar amps
  • Working with loops
  • Recording instrument tracks
  • Editing MIDI tracks
  • Importing audio files
  • Exporting songs to multiple locations
Subject:
Audio + Music
Software:
GarageBand
Author:
Garrick Chow

Recording and editing MIDI tracks

Now that we have some drums and percussion in our song, let's add some keyboard. I already have the keyboard track that I previously created so I'll just double tap to bring that up. And the beauty of playing the GarageBand keyboard versus a real acoustic piano with the microphone on it is you are not locked into your performance with the GarageBand keyboard as you would be with a real piano. I can just play my part and then later if I decide I want a different instrument to play those parts, I can do that. I can fix bad timing issues, I can change complete notes. Let's take a look at how this works. I am going to roll back to the beginning and with the Grand Piano I am just going to play the verse of the song.

So I'll tap Record. (music playing) All right, so that's one pass through the performance. Now obviously I could go back and do a little bit better than that, but just to show you the amount of power you have over what you've played let's leave it that way, we are going to go back in the Track View.

So here you can see the MIDI region I just created. Now there were a couple of flubs in there. I think the first thing I want to do is I want to change the sound of this keyboard. The Grand Piano is okay, but let's try a different instrument for this. Let's go with the Electric Piano and let's listen to that once. (music playing) So the exact same performance, but now played through a different instrument. (music playing) So obviously not the cleanest ending there, but let's see what we can do about that.

Let's go back to Track View. So now we want to edit this region. So I am going to select it, tap it to bring up the menu and tap Edit. So what I am seeing now are the MIDI regions that I have just written. These are all the notes that I have played and they correspond to the notes that you see over here on the left. I can actually to play that keyboard so I can hear what the notes are, but each one of these dashes that you see on the screen represent the notes that I have played, you can look at the notes, you can tap them, listen to them, you can see the corresponding key lights up there on the left-hand side.

You can look at their horizontal position to see if I was ahead of the beat or behind the beat. You can see the second selection of notes here are syncopated, so they appear just a little bit before measure three starts and that's pretty good here on measure four, everything lined up pretty well. Just move that back into place. Let's play this again and now look at the notes as the playhead goes by them. (music playing) Okay, so I immediately see two problems here.

This note here where I played a G, should have been an F, that's very easy to fix, I just select it, drag it down to half step for whole step and now it's an F. I can hear what that sounds like. (music playing) So it's that easy to fix a flubbed note. Now again, I have some problems here at the very end. This is how it should have sounded. (music playing) Now the problem here at the end is this note which is currently an F, should have been an E and I just have this little dangling note here that I accidentally tapped.

So notice when you tap the note, you can just delete it, so I am just going to get rid of that. In fact I want to get rid of both those notes. Now I could just do them at a time, but I am just going to hold down and now I can drag a marquee around the notes I want to select. Now I can tap one of them, tap Delete and get rid of them both. So now I am actually missing a note here. The great thing here is I can write in the notes that I didn't play. I am going to tap the pencil icon here in the upper left-hand corner and drag it right. Now when I tap in the screen, I'll actually be drawing notes. (music playing) So I have just placed a note down, it's on the E.

Now I can position it where I want, drag it over inline there and I'll extend the end out to line up with the other notes there. Let's hear how that sounds. I am going to turn the pencil off. (music playing) That's pretty much exactly what it wanted to do. Now you might have seen some other things pop up when I tap these notes. In addition to cut and copy, we also have Velocity, maybe you struck a note but you didn't strike it as hard as you wanted and as not as prominent in the mix as you want.

If you tap Velocity, you get a little slider bar here, so you can increase or decrease the velocity of the note. So if I wanted this to be a particularly prominent note, I could increase the Velocity all the way to the right. So if we listen to that-- (music playing) Make that note just a little bit louder. So I have shown you a couple ways here to repair a flubbed performance, but you can also use the editor for creative choices. For example, maybe this A here at the top, maybe I want to move that down an octave, so I can simply grab it, drag it down to the low A, right there.

And of course I can go back and listen to that. (music playing) So maybe for the second repetition of that I just like having that A a little bit lower. Now the one other problem I hear with this is my timing is not really that great. Sometimes I am a little ahead of the beat for my taste, sometimes I am a little behind. What we can do is quantize the performance and that means to time shift our performance so it matches up more to the beat. I am going to tap Done to close out the editor and here with the Keyboard track selected, I am going to go to the Mixer and you see we have a Quantization selection here.

Here I can choose whether I want to line up the notes to quarter notes, eighth notes, 16th notes, and so on. Now it is in point to know which one of these to line them up to. Because I am playing kind of a syncopated rhythm here, I probably don't want to choose the quarter note. Let's listen once and see what that sounds like. (music playing) It's very straight now. (music playing) So everything is following exactly on the quarter note beat. That's kind of losing the groove that I was going for, so instead, let me just undo that.

You can actually see the notes shift there. Let me go back and this time I'll quantize to the eighth note. And let's listen to that. (music playing) So that's the groove that I was going for.

What I have done here is I have taken a pretty mediocre performance and made this sound a lot better, and I only had to actually perform it once. So I am pretty happy with the verse the way it is now. So rather than having to play that again and having to reedit a whole another performance, I am just going to select it, choose to copy it, now I am going to move my playhead to the beginning of section D which is the next verse. So now just double tap, choose Paste, and now I have a copy of that region. Now actually I just noticed that my playhead was not quite on measure 18 there. Not a big deal, I'll just select the region, drag it into play and all I have to do is fill in the chorus, but you can hear what this sounds like now.

(music playing) So I get through the chorus part and my verse part comes right back in. And actually, I just noticed that I want the first drum part to be there as well, so let's move that back. We'll end the chorus there, we'll copy that drum performance, make sure I get my playhead right on measure 18 there, which I didn't quite take that back for enough, let's go there. I'll paste it in. So it's not quite at the end here because that part was a little bit shorter, so let's just drag that all the way to the end.

In fact we'll do the same thing for the pasted in keyboard parts to make sure we have that all. And here we go. (music playing) So now I have built out a significant portion of my song using only one keyboard performance.

I just played it once, and not very well at that, but then I fixed it in the editor, then I copied it, pasted it and now I have two complete verses. So that's really the beauty of working with the keyboard in GarageBand.

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