Almost as important as composing a song is making sure it’s properly mixed and mastered. Tweaking tiny aspects of the sounds of your instruments and ensuring the song is in balance is a crucial part of the music creation process. If not done correctly, your piece will sound flat.
GarageBand on the iPad is great for lots of things, but mastering isn’t one of them. You’ll have a much easier time if you export your songs to the desktop version of the software, which offers audio processing and effects that help make your songs shine, such as equalisers, expansion and compression.
There are, however, basic mixing and mastering options on the iPad itself, which let you tweak the levels and sound of your instruments after you’ve recorded them. Here, we’ll take a look at the tools at your disposal.
Time required: 10 mins
What you need:
iOS 5.1 or later
01 Pull out the mixer
The default display for the track window maximises the space available to move loops around in. That’s fine when you’re sequencing, but not when you want to mix your track. Pull the instrument drawer out by dragging it away from the side. This reveals the volume, mute and solo controls.
02 Adjust the levels
Play the song through. Which parts are dominating the sound? Which can’t you hear clearly enough? Drag the individual track sliders up and down to adjust the volume. Don’t worry about making mistakes – if you want to reset any of the sliders to default, just double-tap them.
03 Keep tweaking
You may also want to revisit the levels of echo and reverb on individual tracks to make them stand out. To do this, select an instrument and hit the sliders menu in the top right. You can also ‘pan’ in this menu – experiment recording vocals or guitar twice, and panning each one to a different ear.
04 Master effects
You can also add echo and reverb to the whole track using a series of presets. Hit ‘Master Effects’ in the sliders menu, then explore the settings. Reverb ranges from basic ambiance to a cavernous Moon Dome, while echo can be switched between a range of eight- and sixteen-note patterns.
05 To fade or not to fade
Not sure how to end your masterpiece? Want DJs to hate you? Make your song fade out. Slide the ‘Fade Out’ option in the spanner menu from ‘Off’ to ‘On’ to make your music slowly recede into silence. Alternatively, you could give your composition a proper ending.
06 Exporting your song
Next time, we’ll cover how to share your track, but in the meantime you can send your piece to your iPad’s music collection, so you can listen to it without having to open up GarageBand every time. On the ‘My Songs’ screen, hit ‘Edit’, select the song to export and then share to iTunes.