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Garageband Tips

Here are some notes about how to use GarageBand to record yourself with a backing track

Quick Help
If you click the Quick Help button at the top left (the icon is a question mark) a popup window will appear which tells you about the screen areas and controls that the cursor is hovering over.

Create a new project
  • Close any existing GarageBand project you have open (File > Close).
A window pops up with possible project types.
  • Select “Empty Project” and press “Choose”
  • Select “Record using a microphone or line input” and press “Create”
You should see the main GarageBand screen with one track created (“Audio 1”)

Add a backing track to the Project
  • Find the backing track file in File Manager
  • Copy
  • Return to GarageBand and position the cursor in the grey region under the Audio 1 track
  • Paste
Or you can drag and drop from the finder window to the GarageBand window.
The backing track should appear, but it will initially appear empty until the import is complete.
  • Drag the Audio 1 track below the backing track
  • Set beats per minute (bpm) in the “LCD” panel to correspond to the bpm of the backing track. (This is not necessary, but it helps when you want to edit.)

Set up the inputs and outputs
I use a Zoom H2n recorder as a microphone, connected to the Mac via a USB cable, and I plug in my headphones to the Zoom. If you have a different setup, then you will need to alter these instructions appropriately.
  • Connect the Zoom to the computer and switch the Zoom on
  • Choose “Audio I/F” on the Zoom display
  • Sampling Frequency 44.1
  • Select “Connect” on the Zoom
  • In GarageBand choose Menu GarageBand > Preferences
  • Select the Audio tab and choose the Zoom (“H2n”) as input and as output device
  • Dismiss the preferences panel
GarageBand remembers the input and output devices from one session to the next.

Now select the audio track and make a noise and see if you can see it in the track volume slider.

If it is showing the recording volume then you are set up, but if it doesn’t, then the track is not connected to the input. This can happen in the track is created before setting the input device in preferences. I think the easiest way to fix this is to delete the track and create a new one:
  • Select “Audio 1” then right-click > delete track

Create a new recording Track
Menu Track > New Track
Or press the “+” button at the top of the list of tracks.

Set the Recording Volume
Note that the volume slider on the track is for output volume only, not input
I use the Mic Gain control on the Zoom to control the recording volume.
However, there is a recording level control for each track in GarageBand if you need it:
  • Select the track
  • Press the Controls Button at the top left of GarageBand. (The icon looks like a volume knob.) A blue panel should appear at the bottom of the screen with Compression, EQ and Sends controls.
  • Click the “i” information button at the top left of this panel (beside the master and Compare buttons.)
  • You should see the recording settings, with a record level slider.
  • Make sure the playhead is at the start
  • Select the track (Garageband records to the selected track)
  • Delete any existing content on the track
  • If you want to hear yourself while you are recording, then unselect the mute button for the track, otherwise select it. (The mute button looks like a loudspeaker with a line through it.)
  • Make some noise and check that the track volume control is showing the input volume.
  • Press the red “record” button at the top, and away you go.

  • Unmute the backing track and the track you have recorded
  • Move the playhead to the start
  • Press the play button
If you want to hear your recording without the backing track, then you can mute the backing track.

Adding another recording
You can make several separate recordings within the project:
  • Move the playhead to the start
  • Create a new track (Menu Track > New Track)
  • Mute the old track
  • Select the new track (Garageband records to the selected track)
  • Mute or unmute it as required
  • Record
You can also record a section of the piece by moving the recording head to the place you want to start and recording from there. (This is a bit confusing at first because it moves a bar back and gives you 4 beats in before it starts recording.)

Add Reverb
I suggest you wait until you have done editing before you do this - it should be done just before exporting.
  • Select the track
  • Press the Controls Button at the top left of GarageBand. (The icon looks like a volume knob)
  • A blue panel should appear at the bottom of the screen with Compression, EQ and Sends controls.
  • Twiddle the knobs as required.

Adjust Output Volume
Adjust the volume controls for the backing track and the recorded track so that the balance between them is right.

There is a master output volume control at the top right of the GarageBand window.

You can export your recording to an audio file on the Mac, or you can export directly to SoundCloud. (there are also other possibilities.)
  • Unmute the tracks that you want to be heard in the recording and mute all the others.
  • Menu Share > Song to SoundCloud
  • Menu Share > Export Song to Disk

For the purposes of this tutorial, I will assume that you have recorded all or parts of the piece three times, and that you want the final version to include bars 1-4 from version 1, bars 5-8 from version 2, and the rest from version 3. There may be better ways to do this, but here’s my method:

Firstly we split all the tracks at the places we want to edit.
  • Menu Edit > snap to grid (or not, depending on your preferences)
  • Move the playhead to the first place you want edit at.
  • Select all the recorded regions. Regions are the areas showing the waveforms. Click the first region, then shift-click the last one to select them all.
  • Menu Edit > Split all tracks
This splits all the tracks at the playhead.

Repeat as necessary at all the other places where you want to split the recordings

Now we create a new track and copy the appropriate bits of the various recordings into it.
  • Create a new, empty, track (Menu Track > New Track, or right-click on an existing track and select New Audio Track)
  • Move the playhead to the start
  • Select the first region you want, and Copy
  • Select the new track and Paste (Or you can click and alt-drag the region, but make sure it ends up in the right place without a gap.)
The playhead moves to the end of the region you have just copied, which is where we want it for the next region.
  • Repeat the copy/paste for each piece of the recordings that you want to include.
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