How to Get Started With GarageBand (The Basics)

One of the best things about GarageBand is that it has been specifically designed for individuals who know little about making music. Regardless of what others may tell you, there is no need for training and neither do you have to be a musician to use the application. If you wish to learn more about it, consider going through the next couple of paragraphs to understand what the application can do for you. 

What Can It Do For You?

The app is unlike anything you may have seen before. You will not need to spend countless hours in order to come up with a compelling score for your homemade movies. It’s as simple as placing blocks end to end. That’s not all, as you can also create your own custom ringtones using your favorite songs. Any audio file compatible with GarageBand can be edited using the app. You are not restricted or limited to editing recordings or music files. The app has plenty of useful features which can be used along with introductory lessons if you want to learn to play the piano or guitar.

GarageBand has a lot to offer, especially if you are a musician. You can use it to write tunes and use its amps and built-in stomp box effects to have a go at your guitar without waking up the entire neighborhood. The possibilities are endless, as the app comes equipped with impressive features like the drummer which makes your tracks sound great and more lifelike. Moreover, you will not have to worry about spending thousands of dollars on replicating a synthesizer palette as you can use the built-in software instruments instead.

Starting with the Right Project

After downloading the free version of the app (if its not already on your Mac), it is important for you to understand what it has to offer. That way if it is exactly what you have been looking for, you can pay for it to access its premium features. Rest assured, the app will exceed your expectations with the myriad of features and options it offers. After launching the app, you will come across the project chooser. Here you get options like ‘New Project’, ‘Recent’ and ‘Learn to Play’ to choose from.  However, if you have paid for the app, you will get access to the ‘Lesson Store’ as well.

Upon selecting ‘New Project’, you can choose from the seven different types of projects. This way, you can work on each aspect of your audio track and music separately. By selecting the ‘Learn to Play’ option, a window will present you the various lessons you can choose, including: ‘Artist Lessons’, ‘Guitar Lessons’ and ‘Piano Lessons’. However, these lessons will not make much of a difference unless you download additional instructions from the Lesson Store. If you have been making in-app purchases, these lessons can be downloaded for free. But artist lessons cost $5 a song.

If you are worried about losing a project you worked on, don’t be. You can access these projects by selecting the ‘Recent’ option from Project Chooser screen.

For those who wish to use GarageBand for their musical endeavors, they will be pleased to learn that the app is user-friendly and it gives you more control over your music and audio files.  The bottom of the project chooser displays a detailed entry along with an icon which looks like a triangle pointing downward. Once you click this icon, you will gain access to controls to modify the project’s key signature, project’s tempo and its time signature. There are several pop-out menus that allow you to choose the appropriate audio output and input to used with GarageBand. If you do not know how they work, it’s wise to leave them as is and launch the project.

Types of Projects to Choose From

The New Project option gives you access to six different project types, which are:

  • Amp Collection
  • Hip Hop
  • Songwriter
  • Keyboard Collection
  • Electronic
  • Ringtone

At first, you might find it to be quite complicated. However, looking at it in a musical context will help you get a better understanding of what each option offers. For example, if you have to record a five-piece band, it is highly unlikely for you to find a studio and set it up accordingly for the vocalist and symphony orchestra. Logic dictates you find a studio that’s already outfitted with the right kind of audio equipment for you to start recording. And that’s exactly what GarageBand is all about.

GarageBand makes it easier for you to begin recording by creating a project with preconfigured tracks. Each project type has its own number of preconfigured tracks with its unique sounds and melodies. Depending on your experience with GarageBand, you will eventually learn to use each option to its fullest potential.

The Interface

After getting an overview of GarageBand and its features, it is quite important for you to understand its interface and explore each and every option available to you. You can access the interface and all of its options by selecting any track. Choose the first audio option and then select create. The interface will appear in with a number of options and a control bar and some pane options including tracks pane, workspace and library pane.

The Control Bar

Instead of accessing the GarageBand menus for the right tools and options, you can use the control bar instead. Not only is it packed with a number of impressive features but it helps you save a lot of time too. You can access the Editors, Library, Smart Controls and Quick Help using the buttons located on the left of the control bar and by toggling through various panes within the interface. The Library option is enabled by default, which means you will find the library pane below.

By clicking the Quick Help button, a new small window pops open. You can use your cursor to hover over any element to get a thorough description of that particular element in the small window. If you choose the Smart Controls or Editors option, you will find a new pane at the bottom of the app window. Similar to the iTunes, the GarageBand’s toolbar has play controls of its own. You can find the usual options, like play, rewind, stop and forward.

The display tells you everything you need to know about your project. You can toggle between two different states: Time and Beats & Project. The time display gives you an elaborate readout as the audio track plays or if you are making changes to the workspace ruler. On the other hand, the Beats & Project view will offer readouts of ticks, beats, bars and the project’s tempo.

By enabling the Cycle button, you can select specific portions of the track in order for it to repeat. This feature is incredibly useful when you are creating ringtones, as you can indicate certain portions of the track to be included as a part of the complete ringtone. For greater control over the instruments you are using on your Mac, the built-in tuner will do wonders for you. By enabling the Count–in and record functions, you will hear clicks before the recording actually begins. This is perfect for individuals to pick up their tempo before the recording starts.

Library Pane

The library pane can be found on the far left of the app window. The elements can be changed depending on the track you are working on. By selecting an audio track, you will have different presets to choose from. After selecting the appropriate preset, additional settings will appear on the right. These settings allow you to modify the track’s overall effects and quality.

Depending on the software instrument you are working with, additional instrument families can be found within the library pane. You can choose different instrument sounds from the instrument families and its subcategories. However, you have to keep in mind that these sounds are quite similar to audio tracks and have settings which are related to the app’s stomp and amp box effects.

Tracks Pane

You have to understand that GarageBand is used by musicians and professionals for a reason. It is a unique Digital Audio Workstation application. In layman’s terms this actually means you can create a single track and then record new elements and sounds into the new track that you have created. You can use the tracks pane to keep track of your audio files. Each track header will show you options including ‘Solo’ and ‘Mute’. In case you are not able to access other options and information about each track, you can simply drag out the pane to the right. This gives you access to the pan and volume controls for each track.

Workspace Pane

The pane displays the contents of each audio track. Each instrument is highlighted in green, while each dash and dot represents the notes played by the app’s virtual instruments which are also popularly referred to as MIDI data. Guitar and audio tracks are highlighted in blue while drummer tracks are yellow. By double clicking any of these tracks, you will gain access to the editor pane below. The workspace pane is for splitting, trimming and deleting specific portions from your selected tracks. However, the rulers can vary depending on the type of display you have selected previously.


The app is a great program for new musicians. Not only is it easy to learn but it is comes with a range of helpful features which even the most skilled of musicians appreciate. Not only can you choose from pre-existing templates but the software instruments give you the ability to start with your projects right away. The days of investing in instruments and paying for studios are over. Making and recording is actually as easy as dragging and dropping elements. You also have to keep in mind that Apple does roll out updates for the GarageBand every now and then. Apart from a new layout, you also get access to new features.

So, after going over all the features highlighted above, you will have a clear idea of how to get started with GarageBand.

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