Making music on your iPad is easier than you might think. With the new version of GarageBand Apple has given users a wealth of excellent features that can produce impressive results very quickly. We’ve created this guide to teach you the basics of building a song, and take you step-by-step through using the various Smart instruments that will make your creation sound amazing.

See also: Garageband for iPad, iPhone review


Step 1 -  Beginning your project - When you first load up GarageBand you’ll find that there is already a project called ‘Curtain Call - Demo’. As the name suggests this is here to show you the kind of things that can be achieved with a little effort and time. It’s worth tapping on it and looking at how the project is arranged. You’ll see various gaps where instruments play or stay silent, all of which adds variety to the song and keeps the ear interested. Tap My Songs in the top left to return to the project screen, then tap the plus sign in the top left again to begin your own composition.

Step 2 - Choosing the type of instrument to use - You’ll now be presented with a selection of large icons that represent the type of instruments you can add. There are two main types - the Smart instruments and regular ones. Essentially think of them as automatic or manual. We want to learn how GarageBand works, so we’ll be sticking with the Smart types, but you can mix and match which ones you include in your song by tapping Instruments when in the project page. It’s generally a good idea to lay down the rhythm section first on a recording, so swipe through until you find Smart Drums, then tap on the icon.

Step 3 - Creating a drum pattern - Now you’ll be presented with a large dark grid, flanked by various parts of a drum kit. On the left is an icon telling you the kind of kit currently selected. Tap this to see the other ones available. To create patterns simply tap and drag any of the kit icons (snare, cymbals, etc.) onto the grid. There are four areas - Loud, Complex, Simple, and Quiet - and where you place the icon determines how much this affects the groove and playing style. Experiment with moving them around and you’ll see how it works. There’s also a dice in the bottom left which will randomly generate a pattern for you.

Step 4 - Recording the drums - Once you’ve settled on a pattern, and remember that you can always change it later, then it’s time to lay down the first track. At the top of the screen you’ll see a record button (red circle), tap this and you’ll hear a click-intro, then the drums begin to record. To stop them just press the record button and GarageBand will automatically do so at the end of the next bar. One cool feature is that you can adjust the beat in real-time by moving the icons on the grid as the recording is happening. This adds more variety to the pattern, and Garageband does a great job of keeping everything tidy.  

Step 5 - The Project page - With the drums recorded its time to look at the Project page. At the top of the screen, to the left of the record button you’ll find two icons. One will be the instrument currently active (in this case a snare drum) which will be highlighted in blue, while the other is three lines, tap the second one to go to the Project page. Now you’ll see the drum track at the top. Double tapping on the green strip gives you a few options, including copy or delete, but for the most part we’ll leave that for now. Tap the plus sign in the bottom left and we’ll move onto the bass.

Step 6 - Bringing the bass - Select Smart Bass from the menu and you’ll be presented a different control panel to the drums. As bass is a melodic instrument we’ll be using chords this time. On the right there are two controls, one for Autoplay, which selects that pattern the bass plays, and a rocker switch for chords or notes. To work out your bassline first make sure the rocker is set to chords. Then press any of the columns with a chord letter at the top, say G, and you’ll hear it play. Now practice by pressing the Play button at the top of the screen, and jam along with the drums by selecting different chords at different times.

Step 7 - Recording instruments - When you’re happy with the groove you’ve worked out it’s time to lay down the track. Again it’s a simple case of pressing the record button at the top, waiting for the four click intro, then playing along to the drums. If you make a mistake, don’t worry. Stop the track, hit the rewind button (next to play), and start recording again. It’s probably worth making a note of the chord sequence, so that when you add the next instruments you’ll remember where the changes occur. With this recorded you’ve now got a cool rhythm section in place. Time for some colour.

Step 8 - Creating your own melodies - Adding guitars and pianos is exactly the same process we followed for the bass. It’s a good idea to add a rhythm guitar track to build a bit of body into the song, so go and do that now and then we can move on to manual recording. When the rhythm track is done, add a new Smart guitar. Now switch the rocker to Notes and you can play along in much the same as with chords, but this time using your own ideas. You don’t need wailing solos, just a riff here and there can be very effective. Practice for a while, then try recording your creation.

Step 9 - Editing your riffs - Obviously creating your own riffs is harder than using smart patterns, that’s why Garageband also includes an editor when you do this. Go to the project page, double click on your riff, and you’ll see Edit among the options that appear. When selected you’re taken to a page where the riff is broken down into individual notes, displayed as bars. Here you can drag them left or right to fix timing issues, or up and down to change the note. Holding down the pencil key in the top left corner while tapping on the grid also allows you to add new notes. It’s a powerful tool that can really add polish to your riffs.

Step 10 - Mixing your track - With a number of different tracks recorded you’ll want to balance their volumes to make the song sound its best. Go to the project page and drag out the column on the left with all the instrument icons. Now you’ll see sliders for the volume of each individual track. Adjust these until you’re happy with the balance. If you’re unsure of how some of the patterns are working together tap the headphone icon of the ones in question and listen to them in isolation. Once you’ve finished, tap My Songs, then tap and hold your project until the share options appear. Now, only fame awaits.