How to use the editing features in Garageband for iOS

There are many editing tools available in Garageband on iOS which can transform a basic composition into something far more impressive. In this guide we’ll take a look at some of the features, explains how they work, and discuss why you would want to use them in the first place.

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The track controls panel

Probably the most useful editing tool in Garageband is the track controls panel. To access this look for three vertical lines midway down the left column on the Tracks view screen (the one with all the individual tracks displayed as coloured bars). Drag the three lines out to the right and the tracks control panel will appear. In it you’ll see the various instruments in your recording, with individual volume sliders, headphone, and mute options for each one. If you press the Play button at the top of the screen you’ll also see animated, real-time volume levels displayed for the tracks.

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Next Prev Garageband Editing 1

The track controls panel

Probably the most useful editing tool in Garageband is the track controls panel. To access this look for three vertical lines midway down the left column on the Tracks view screen (the one with all the individual tracks displayed as coloured bars). Drag the three lines out to the right and the tracks control panel will appear. In it you’ll see the various instruments in your recording, with individual volume sliders, headphone, and mute options for each one. If you press the Play button at the top of the screen you’ll also see animated, real-time volume levels displayed for the tracks.

 

Step 2 of 10:

Fine tuning the mix

The Mute button on the left is best used when you are trying to see how that instrument is affecting the mix. Turning it on and off will show if the track is covering up other instruments or interfering with their frequencies. If you want to zone in on a couple of instruments in particular then use the Solo (headphone) button to isolate them. This makes it easier to see if they are clashing. Finally you can adjust the volume on each track with the sliders, making sure to listen for any that stand out too much or get lost in the mix.

 

Step 3 of 10:

Quick track edits

Tap on the instrument icon of a highlighted track and you’ll be presented with a small selection of options. These are very basic edits which include Delete, simply removing the entire track, Duplicate, which creates a new track based on the one selected but doesn’t copy any recordings, Rename, pretty self explanatory, and Merge. Garageband has a limit of 8, 16, or 32 tracks depending on your hardware, but to get more you can merge others together once you’ve finished working on them. Simply tap Merge, select the tracks, then tap Merge in the top right corner.

 

Step 4 of 10:

Quick region edits

Double tapping a part of the actual recorded track, or region, will bring up another menu with different options. Most are obvious (cut, copy, delete, rename, loop), but there are also the very useful Split and, for MIDI tracks, Edit. If you want to copy a certain part of a region, or have a recording that is nearly right apart from one bit, then you can cut it in half using Split. Simply place the playhead where you want the break, tap Split, then drag the little scissors icon down to create two separate regions. Edit is a little more complicated so we’ll cover that next.   

 

Step 5 of 10:

MIDI editing

Tapping the Edit option turns the screen into a grid pattern with a piano keyboard down the left side. On the grid are little green blocks which represent the notes in your recording. To change the timing drag them left or right, if you want to make a note longer or shorter than tap and hold it on the right hand side of the block, and finally moving them up or down will alter the pitch. In the upper left corner is a pencil icon, slide this to the right and it turns red. Now you can add new notes by tapping on a grid square or delete existing ones using the same method.

 

Step 6 of 10:

The Settings button

Although you can get plenty of things done in the track controls panel, for more powerful tools you’ll need to tap on the three sliders icon in the top right corner. This opens up the Settings pane for whichever track you have highlighted. Different types of recording have their own colours - green for Midi, blue for live audio and loops - and the options that appear will vary accordingly. Every track has settings for mute, solo, and track volume which behave in exactly the same way as in the track controls panel. 

 

Step 7 of 10:

Panning tracks

Below volume you’ll find a slider for Track Pan. When you create tracks in a recording they are all set pretty much to be in the middle. This basically means that you hear the same thing from both speakers, but with panning you can move them to be more prominent in either the left or right. This is very useful when mixing as it can create space for instruments and generally widen the sound. Many top producers will have set places where they pan instruments, and also group certain ones together. Experiment to hear how it can affect your song, especially through headphones.

 

Step 8 of 10:

Applying effects

The next two controls are Echo Level and Reverb Level. The first will, as the name suggests, echo whatever is happening on the track, repeating the notes straight after they’re played. It’s a great way to make a recording sound richer, but needs to be used with restraint. Reverb replicates the echoes of a virtual environment (stadium, small club, etc) to make the track sound like it was recorded there. At the bottom of the Settings menu you’ll also find the Master Effects option. Here you can choose the type of Echo and Reverb you want to use for each track. 

 

Step 9 of 10:

Quantization - your new best friend

When recording instruments it’s vitally important that you play in time. If you use a MIDI controller keyboard then you have the added help of the Quantization control. With this option you can take a track that is a little sloppy and snap all the notes into tight alignment with the tempo. Simply select from either Straight, Triplet, or Swing for how precise you want the effect, and select a note value from below if you know which one is relevant. Otherwise just try them until you’re happy with the results. The effect is non-destructive so you can always click None to return the track to its original state. 

 

Step 10 of 10:

Transposing

The other MIDI specific control is Transposition, which is an easy way to change the pitch of any recordings you’ve made. Say you’ve put together an arrangement but decide that really you’d like a high keyboard part rather than the one you have, tap on the Transposition button, move the Octaves option up by one and it’s done. The same can also be done to create a lower part and if you make a duplicate track you can have even more fun by giving them different pitches. For those 70s Sci-Fi discordant styles you can also adjust the pitch in smaller increments using the Semitones option.

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