1) You don’t need to read music
You might expect that a program dedicated to creating music would require you to have at least some knowledge of scales and chords. Thankfully this isn’t the case. GarageBand is a very friendly program that actually wants to help you. When you start a new project you have access to a wealth of loops from which you can assemble tunes. These are found by clicking on the loop icon in the top right hand corner of the screen, which then displays them in the panel below. Click on a loop to hear it, then if you’re happy just drag it onto the main panel.
2) Finding the Loop you need
There are so many loops to choose from, so Apple has provided an easy way to find the ones you want for your project. With the Loop menu open you can click on the various style icons in the grid to select the type of music, Jazz, Rock/Blues, World etc., and then the playing style, clean, intense, relaxed, and so on. If you want more depth then you can also use the drop down menu to filter only loops that match the scale of the song - either minor or Major - so that you know everything will work together.
3) You don’t need any instruments
Although GarageBand is a fully featured Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), you don’t need to invest in instruments or interfaces to be able to record your own creations. When starting a new composition select the Empty Project option, then Software Instrument. Now when the project opens you’ll have a piano style panel on the screen that tells you which keys on your normal computer keyboard play which notes on the virtual instrument. Have a play around to see how easy it is to use, then click on the menu in the left panel to change to other instruments. Our favourite is the church organ.
4) It comes with your own personal drummer
Programming drum tracks can be arduous and fiddly. Recording live ones are even worse and will have your neighbours sharpening their pitchforks in no time. In order to quell this domestic turbulence Garageband has recently added a new Drummer feature that really is excellent. Just add a track to your existing project, select the Drummer option, and you’ll be given a collection of session players who will automatically create drum tracks to go with your song. If you buy the additional expansion pack (currently £2.99) then you will unlock a much wider selection of players, each bringing their own style to the grooves.
5) Its easy to change the drum tracks after you’ve created them
If you find that the drum pattern isn’t quite what you’re after, you can quickly adjust it by using the drummer control panel. Click on the drum track, then you can either select a different drummer, increase the amount of fills by turning up the dial on the right, or change the emphasis it puts on parts of the kit by increasing or decreasing the options for Percussion, Hi-Hat, and Kick & Snare. Clicking the Follow button here will also make the pattern tighter to whatever you’ve already recorded. All the changes can be heard in real-time, which makes it easy to see how your choices are affecting the pattern.
6) You can record yourself playing and singing
If you’re a guitarist, piano player, or even favour the ocarina, it’s a simple process to record yourself on your computer. You’ll need an external mic, as the built-in ones in computers are only really good for chatting on Skype, with USB models like the Blue Snowball being a very good and inexpensive choice for starting out. Once you have one simply plug it into your Mac, launch Garageband and it should detect the mic automatically and ask if you want to use it. Accept this, add a new track, select Audio (either Vocal or Guitar), plug your headphones into the mic, hit record and you’re good to go.
7) There’s an impressive collection of Guitar Amp models included
Recording electric guitars requires a different kind of input. Of course you could mic up your amp, but if you want a more versatile studio then you’d be better off investing in a USB input like the Focusrite iTrack Solo or iRig Pro. Once installed these allow your guitar signal to reach Garageband where you can transform it via the collection of amp simulators on offer. To try them out first start a new project, then select Amp Collection. Now you can play through various models based on classics like the Fender Bassman, Vox AC30, and a Marshall Stack, alongside several Bass amps.
8) It’s not just for making music
If you don’t want to write songs then you could always create spoken word recordings using Garageband. If you’re away from home and want to read bedtime stories to your children, fancy recording your memoirs, or have thoughts of dabbling in podcasting, you can achieve it quickly and with impressive results. All you’ll need is a USB mic, as described in step 6. Simply create a new project, add a vocal track, then start talking. You can add EQ or effects to your vocals by selecting from the menu in the left panel, and if you choose a jingle from the loops menu then it could act as good background music.
9) You can use it to make ringtones for your iPhone
Creating a ringtone for your iPhone is a good first project. The process is very simple and follows exactly the same steps as creating any other composition. Start a new project, select Ringtone, then once you’ve put together the loops and recordings you like, or even just dragged a song in from iTunes by clicking on the Media button in the top right corner, go to the Share menu at the top of the page and then select Ringtone to iTunes. Now it will output your creation and you’ll find it in the Tones section of your iTunes library.
10) You can share your creations with the world
One of the joys of creating something is undoubtedly being able to share it with others. Garageband has this kind of functionality built in. Once you’ve completed your masterpiece you have the option to either send it to your iTunes library, or you can output the tune directly to the free music hosting site Soundcloud.com. Simply go to the Share menu at the top of the screen, click Send to Soundcloud, then set up a free account when prompted. Now you can let friends and family all over the world have access your wonderful creations without the need to send massive email attachments.