Turn Your Mac into a Fully-Featured Music Studio Using GarageBand

GarageBand is perhaps one of the best things that could have happened to a Mac user. You can purchase the app from the App Store. However, if you have bought a new Mac, it will have GarageBand preinstalled. If you are wondering what the fuss is all about, it’s quite simple. The app actually turns your Mac into a fully-featured music studio. And that’s not all as it is even available for the iPhone and the iPad as well. If you wish to learn more about it and how you can benefit from it as a musician, read on. 

How Can It Help?

Before you jump to conclusions, it would be wise to understand what the app does in the first place. The app is unlike anything you may have come across before. Not only can you record all kinds of music but you can create music sessions by connecting MIDI devices and real instruments to your Mac. The latest versions allow you to create fantastic music without requiring any instruments. Not only can you create music tracks for video projects but also create your own custom ringtones or music to share with friends and family.

For an artist or musician, GarageBand is nothing short of an all-in-one music studio. This means you will not have to spend ridiculous amounts of money for a fully-equipped studio in order to record your music. The app has a lot to offer, however the features may look a bit complex which is why it might not appeal to most. This does not necessarily mean you should shy away from it. As complicated as it may seem, the app is quite easy to use.

Handy Features to Benefit From

Regardless of the type of music you wish to make, it is much simpler on a Mac. You will have better control and get access to various features which are rarely available in any music studio app. What’s even more interesting is you do not have to be a pro to get started. A knowhow of the features and interface will have you creating music, ringtones and audio tracks in no time. If you are wondering why it is one of the best fully-featured music studio apps out there, it would be a good idea to go through the features it has to offer, which include:

Instrument Editor

The beauty of creating or editing music on the Mac with GarageBand is you can play instruments with an onscreen or an external keyboard. Moreover, you also have the option to do so with the Mac’s own keyboard too. If you have hit a clunker, don’t worry. Those days are gone when you had to rely on gifted musicians or have to play each note and chord to perfection. GarageBand is a complete music studio with its own music processing capabilities. Similar to a word processor, you have the ability to correct your mistakes using GarageBand.

You can go about correcting mistakes with software instruments which are controlled and triggered by your Mac’s keyboard or any other external controller, like a musical keyboard. While playing these instruments, your key presses are recorded as MIDI data. By clicking the Edit button from the Control Bar, you will be presented with an edit pane which is located at the bottom of GarageBand’s window. The edit pane visually represents each note as a green dot on a grid. The pane tab is referred to as the Piano Roll simply because music produced for pianos was written on scrolls with holes punched in them.

It’s quite simple: the higher the placement of the dots on the grid, the higher the pitch of the notes will be, and vice versa. The horizontal span of the grid represents the total duration of an audio track which is divided into beats and bars at the top right of the grid.

Clicking on a specific dot will give you access to the sound along with the instrument assigned to the track. If you have recorded a piano track, clicking on a note which is pitched at Middle C will actually play through your Mac’s headphones or speakers. Not only can you move the selected notes but also change their timing as well. If this wasn’t enough, you can also add new notes while making the necessary adjustments to your audio track.

The Ability to Fix Rhythms

Making music is not as difficult as it used to be. It can be done from the comfort of your home and by using your Mac. As long as you play the right notes at the right time, you can start creating music in no time. The instrument editor offered with GarageBand is state-of-the-art. You can use the quantization feature, which allows you to force software instruments to align to a rhythm on the grid.

For example, you need a bass part to play note E on all four counts of a measure. However, your timing wasn’t like it was supposed to be and hence the track is missing out on beats. This can be corrected by quantizing the measure. After selecting the track, select the edit pane. Choose the four notes from the Time Quantize menu and voila, like magic the selected notes will automatically transfer to the nearest quarter note. Once this is taken care of, play the track and each note will fall on the same exact beat.

Transposing Tunes

After recording the necessary instruments for your final audio track, you will most probably need vocals to create an amazing track. However, after placing the microphone, you might realize the volume of the track is too high. There’s nothing to worry about, as you can easily adjust the pitch of each software instrument using GarageBand. The process is referred to as transposing. After choosing the right track, select show transposition track.

You will find a new track at the top of the GarageBand window, click on the orange line where the necessary changes need to be made and drag the line up or down. Once you are done, the software instruments will adjust accordingly. On the other hand, real instrument tracks can prove to be a bit of a challenge. But this does not mean you cannot adjust the track’s pitch. It is entirely possible by selecting it and accessing the edit pane.

The transpose slider can then be dragged up or down to make the necessary changes. If you transpose these tracks too much, they will sound really bad. Keeping this in mind, it would be wise to stick to three to four increments at max. Anything beyond that will result in a sound as if Darth Vader were playing the track.

Alternating Tempos

Similar to how you can change a track’s pitch, you can adjust its tempo too. By default, GarageBand sets all tunes to 120 beats per minute. This can be changed by entering a different tempo or while creating the project itself. You can also click and drag the tempo slider in the GarageBand’s LCD.

However, if you are looking to be a bit more creative with alternating tempos, you can do so by selecting Track and clicking on Show Tempo Track. The track will appear at the top of the GarageBand window with an adjustment line. Double click the area where the tempo needs to be changed by creating adjustment points. You can also drag those points up or down to increase or decrease the song’s tempo.

Mixing Music

Even though GarageBand does not have a track mixer, it can still automate your audio tracks over time. So, what does this mean for you? For starters, these automation controls allow you to configure each instrument like increasing the volume for the chorus. This is possible by choosing Mix and then clicking on Show Automation. Each track will fatten and display a pop-up menu. Initially each label will be set to default. You will also gain access to volume controls as well as an automation button. After clicking the automation button, you will be presented a yellow line within the audio track’s timeline.

You can add adjustment points on the line. You can then drag these points up or down to change its parameters. Once you are done, you can play back the track for it to follow the automation you have configured. There are various other aspects which can be changed about the sound. It is only a matter of time and understanding before you start creating tracks which you hadn’t even thought possible in the first place.

Conclusion

There is more to GarageBand than meets the eye. With a Mac and a little bit of enthusiasm, you’ll be creating masterpieces in no time. But that’s not all, as you are not limited to just creating or editing tracks. Apart from creating your own custom ringtones, GarageBand is also the perfect app for your podcasting needs. To put it in simple words, the app has a lot to offer for everyone and is perfect for songwriting and movie soundtrack production as well. Considering the $5 you have to pay to access these features, it is worth more than what’s being asked for in return.