How to use samples in GarageBand

How to use samples in GarageBand

Virtual instruments are all very well, but there’s no substitute for reality

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  • Intro 1
  • 01 Audio recorder 2
  • 02 Sampler 3
  • 03 Guitar amp 4
  • 04 Stomp boxes 5
  • 05 Slice and dice 6
  • 06 Accessories 7
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Step 1 of 7: Intro

Our last tutorial showed you how to sketch out song ideas in GarageBand using virtual instruments, but before too long, if you’re serious about your music, you’ll want to replace those with real-world instruments. The software is a capable sequencer for actual audio, as well as virtual instruments, so here we’ll focus on the best methods for recording that audio, and how to process it when you’ve got it.

The most important factors in getting good sound quality are the equipment you use to record and the environment you record in. The on-board mic on the iPad is surprisingly good, but if you’re serious about your recordings then you’ll want to invest in a more serious microphone. There are heaps of options to choose from, and by picking up a USB camera kit for the iPad, you can even attach USB microphones and use them. Here, however, we’ll assume that you’re just going to use the internal microphone on the iPad. 

In the next tutorial, we’ll look at sequencing and songwriting – fleshing out your musical ideas into fully fledged songs.

Vital Info

Device: iPad

Difficulty: Beginner

Time required: 30 mins

What you need: 


iOS 5.1 or later

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Step 2 of 7: 01 Audio recorder

This is the most basic audio recording that the iPad offers, and is perfect for vocals or an acoustic guitar. Simply hit the Record button to begin. It’s a good idea to use a pair of headphones so it doesn’t pick up the metronome or other tracks. After you’ve finished, you can experiment with effects.

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Step 3 of 7: 02 Sampler

For greater complexity, you can record a short sample and then play it with a keyboard. Trim the bit you want to play by dragging the yellow ends of the sample. Reverse and loop options are fun to play with, but be sure to save your best samples to the library, found using the ‘My Samples’ button.

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Step 4 of 7: 03 Guitar amp

If you’ve got a guitar, you can plug it into the iPad’s headphone jack, which doubles as an audio input. To select an amp model, simply swipe left and right, and then tweak its settings using the knobs on its face. There’s also a tuner, which you can access using the tuning fork in the top left.

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Step 5 of 7: 04 Stomp boxes

To add even more musical colour to your guitar playing, you can also run it through up to four stomp boxes, adding echo, compression, chorus, phase, drive, fuzz, and all sorts of other effects. To access them, hit the button on the amp screen in the top right that looks like a remote control.

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Step 6 of 7: 05 Slice and dice

Once you’ve recorded your samples, you’ll want to arrange them. Pinch to zoom in to ensure the timing is spot on, and move it around by dragging. To chop sections out, double-tap a track, then click ‘Split’. Drag to where you want to split, then slide down with your finger to make the chop.

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Step 7 of 7: 06 Accessories

There are a number of accessories designed to make your life easier when recording live audio. For example, the StudioConnect shown here (£119.99, lets you plug in standard-size guitar jacks. The iO dock (£139, is a similar alternative.

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