Join Garrick Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video Touring the GarageBand interface, part of GarageBand Essential Training.
Before you start making music in GarageBand it's important to take some time to get to know the interface. So let's jump right in and click the garage band icon in the dock. Now if you haven't added it to your dock you'll find GarageBand in your applications folder which you can get to from the finder by choosing Go and Applications. But I suggest you add GarageBand to your docks since we'll be using it so much. If you previously worked on a project in GarageBand, that project should open when you open GarageBand. Otherwise, you'll see this window. And from here you can create new projects, open existing projects, access the built-in music tutorials, or purchase additional lessons.
I'll talk more about these options in upcoming movies, but for now let's go back to new project. And I'll just double-click the songwriter project. That just opens up a new project which in this case has been set up with some basic tracks that should be useful for song writers. Now, I'm just going to use this as an example to walk you through the interface. Now for the most part everything in Garage Band happens to be in the single window. This window is organized into several different areas, and additional areas and some separate windows can be open when you need them. But for the most part, you'll be spending the majority of your time in the single window.
If you've worked with other audio editing applications, some of these buttons should look familiar. At the top of the window for instance, we have the transport controls for controlling playback. We have rewind, fast forward, stop, play, and record. And they all work the way you'd expect. To the right of that, we have this display area. This is where you will find information on which bar and beat of your project you are currently on, the tempo or beats per minute of the entire project, the key and the time signature. And if I click the play button, you will see the bars, beats and division displays change as the song plays. So, you can see here I stop on bar or measure 4 on beat 1 division 1.
Now, this display area can be toggled between two main states. We're seeing the default beats and project display right now. But, clicking here on the left, I can choose Time, which changes the display to show me the time code of where my playhead is in the song. So you can see I'm about seven seconds in now. And again, this is the playhead right here, so when I click play again, you'll see the playhead move, and the time display will change now. And again, that just indicates where we are. All right, to the right of the display, we have a set of four buttons. The first one is the cycle button which is used to repeat a selection section of your project over and over.
As you'll see later, it's useful when you need to review a specific section, or you want to record multiple takes of the part you recorded. Next to that is the tuner. In order to use it, I need to first select a real instrument track, meaning a track for an instrument that can be tuned, unlike the strummer track. I'll select natural strum. Now the tuner's available, you can see it pops open here. Now, I don't actually have a guitar connected right now, but we'll take a closer look at tuning in an upcoming movie. The other two buttons here are the count in and metronome button, which are tools for helping you come in at the right time, and to keep to the beat while you're recording.
We'll see these in action later as well. Continuing to the right, we have the master volume slider which is for adjusting the overall level of your project. And you probably noticed that you saw level meters inside the master volume slider while the song was playing. So you can make sure your project's volume isn't too loud or quiet. And to the right of that are three buttons that toggle open different panels here on the right side of the main window. The first one opens up the Notes panel for jotting down any notes or reminders about the project to yourself. Next is the Loop browser, where you'll find the huge collection of pre-installed musical snippets that you can drag into your projects.
You can use loops to do everything from adding little touches of different instruments and rhythms to your project, to creating entire songs assembled entirely from loops. We'll look at loops extensively in the next chapter. And the third button here opens the media browser, and this is where you can access the music, sounds and videos stored on your computer that you might want to add to your GarageBand projects. Notice that you can have one of these three panels open at any time. Clicking on them toggles among the three panels. You can also close any open panel just by clicking it. Let's jump back to the upper left corner here and take a look at these buttons.
The first one here is the Library button which open and closes this panel here on the left. Now the library panel is contextual. What you see in it depends on what you have selected. Notice, it changes when I select different tracks here. So when I select say the Brit and Clean track, which is an electric guitar track, I see electric guitar amps I can select and modify. When this drummer track is selected, I see the various built-in drum sets I can use. This allows me to quickly change the sound of my selected track. Next to the Library button is the Quick Help button. When it's enabled, rolling your mouse over most objects brings up info letting you know what that object is used for.
For example, I can roll over the New Track button here to see what it is. Or I can roll over the track icons, and you can save this window down here. It tells me to Ctrl+click, or right-click, and that's how I select different icons. Notice it also says to press Cmd+/ for more info, and doing that opens up the GarageBand help file for the specific feature your mouse is over. I'll just close that for now, and I'll turn off quick help. The next button is to toggle the smart controls open and closed at the bottom of the window. I'll talk more about the smart controls throughout this course. But basically, this gives you access to the settings of each instrument, amp, or effect you're working with, as well as a separate EQ for each track.
And this last button here opens and closes the edit pane, which is used for editing selected recordings. You can have both the smart controls and the edit pane closed at the same time, which gives you more room to work in the main track area, but you can't have both the smart controls and the edit pane open at the same time. Just close the library. Now this last area is the main area of the GarageBand window, and this is the track pane. It contains these horizontal rows referred to as tracks, and each track represents an individual recording. When you play back your song, each track is played simultaneously.
Generally, the order in which the tracks appear is the order in which they were recorded, but you can easily change the order of tracks by dragging them up and down. Each track has its own set of controls. Some tracks have fewer or more buttons depending on the type of track it is, but each of them have the same basic controls. First we have the speaker icon with a slash through it, and that's the mute button. Clicking this button mutes the track so it can't be heard, and it's useful to click this button when you want to quickly hear what your song sounds like, without a particular instrument in the mix. Next to that is the solo button. Clicking this button mutes every other track but this one.
Notice the mute buttons on the other tracks start flashing. So this is commonly referred to as soloing the track. Now you can mute and solo multiple tracks. And you may often want to do that while you're mixing your song. For example, you might just want to hear the percussion tracks so you would solo them together. Unfortunately there's no way in GarageBand to group solo or group mute tracks. You have to click each track solo or mute button individually. Next to that on some of these tracks is the input monitoring button. And that's used when you want to be able to hear the instrument you're recording through GarageBand as you're recording it.
For example, if you're recording an electric guitar, you'll probably want to be able to hear what you're playing if you're using Garage Band's built-in amps. If you're recording a real amp with a microphone you'll probably be able to hear your guitar out of the air and you won't need to hear it through Garage Band as you're recording. And you can just toggle the input monitoring on and off with this button. Next we have the volume slider for the track. Each track has its own volume control which lets you determine how loudly or softly the track is played back in relation to the other tracks, and this is a crucial part of mixing your project. And lastly, we have a pan dial.
And that allows you to decide whether the track comes primarily out of the left speaker or the right speaker or equally out of both in the stereo mix. And you turn the style by dragging up and down. So you should hear that panning left and right as I do this. And here's the volume control. Now you can double-click both the pan dial and the volume slider to input a manual number if you like. And if you want to set them back to their default locations, hold down the Opt key on your keyboard and click either control. Now there are other track controls that are available. You can see them either by right-clicking on the tracks, and going into track editor components. And here I'll find a menu where I can select other things to display, such as the show track lock, which puts a lock icon there.
Or the Show Record Enable button, which puts the record enable buttons on the track. You can also find these by going to the track menu. And this is also where you can show and hide these same buttons. I'm going to leave the default track buttons for now, but we will be opening some of those other buttons as we need them. All right, so that's a quick overview of the GarageBand interface. Again, we'll be spending a lot more time in all these areas throughout this course, but now you should have a decent understanding of the lay of the land, and we can move on from here.
- Creating a new project
- Adding tracks
- Working with loops
- Recording Software Instrument tracks
- Getting real sounds into your Mac
- Recording and compositing multiple tracks
- Arranging, editing, and mixing your project
- Sharing your music with the Share menu
- Controlling GarageBand remotely from an iPad
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 11/24/2014. What changed?
A: We added one new movie ("What's new in GarageBand 10.0.3") and revised three others ("Customizing the bass sound," "Using Audio Unit and third-party plugins," and "Using the Share menu") to reflect the changes in GarageBand 10.0.3.
Q: This course was updated on 8/03/2015. What changed?
A: We added two new movies, one covering the general 6/30/2015 update to GarageBand and one at the end of chapter 3 on working with and automating the new synth sounds and Transform Pad.