Edit like a pro in GarageBand '09

Unlike Apple’s Logic Pro or Logic Express digital audio workstation software, GarageBand '09 is not set up for precisely editing the audio content of Real Instrument tracks. But with a few simple but powerful techniques, you can eliminate the artifacts that prevent your tunes from sounding their best.

1. Choose your material Let’s say you recorded the bass part to a Real Instrument track, but the performance is a bit uneven, and now you want to choose just one measure and repeat it for the final piece. This is just one situation in which you can apply the editing technique described below.

After launching GarageBand, change the LCD Mode to Measures (if it isn’t in this mode already) by clicking on the icon to the left of the digital readout at the bottom of the window or choosing Control->Show Measures in LCD. Place the playhead at the start of the first measure you want to repeat.

Double-click on the region containing the material you want to loop to open the Editor.

2. Zoom in (really) tight First, set the small “Lock-the-timeline-and-editor-playheads” button (in the lower-right corner of the Timeline) to Lock so that the playhead in the Editor remains in view when you zoom. Then drag the Zoom slider (at the bottom-left of the Editor) all the way to the right.

This little control locks and unlocks the timeline and editor playheads so you can see and control different parts of your project.

After you’ve zoomed in all the way, you’ll see a series of peaks and valleys, a waveform display that represents actual sound waves.

Notice the 0, +, and – symbols to the left of the Editor. When the wave is above the zero line (in the plus region), it is pushing the listener’s eardrum inward; when the wave is below the zero line (in the minus region), it is pulling the listener’s eardrum outward. Any time the eardrum moves, we hear sound. But when a sound wave is exactly midway—at the zero-crossing point—there is no sound or very little sound. And this is the exact point at which we’re going to start editing, resulting in a pop-less transition from region to region.

3. Cut Before making your edit, change the LCD Mode to Time. Then position the playhead at the zero-crossing point, and choose Split from the Edit menu (or hit Command-T). Zoom in on the Timeline (top pane), select just the excess snippet, and delete it.

Place the playhead exactly at the zero-crossing point between two sound waves.

4. Fine tune Notice, that, because you didn’t make the cut exactly at the start of the measure, you have a very small gap between the audio and the measure line. This is inaudible; however, we’re going to fill this space with silence (or “room noise,” actually). That way, we can avoid subtle timing problems and enable the edited region to automatically change tempo if you drag it into different projects as a loop (see tip below).

Select a small flat piece of audio that has no waveforms in it, by clicking and dragging while the cursor is a large crosshair, and copy it. Change the LCD to Measures mode, place the playhead at the start of the measure, and paste (it’s OK if there’s a tiny gap between the regions). Select both regions in the Timeline, and choose Join from the Edit window to connect them. Don’t worry if the waveforms change slightly; this won’t affect the sound.

5. Finish the loop Repeat steps 1 through 4, this time at the end of the measure. Then turn your edited region into a loop by dragging it from the upper-right corner, so the cursor turns to a circular arrow; this will repeat your sound for as long as you drag. (Tip: Add your loop to the Loop Browser by selecting it and choosing Add to Loop Library from the Edit menu.)

Add a little snippet of silence, or “room noise,” to make up a complete measure.

In addition to creating loops, you can use these techniques for seamlessly piecing together sections of any audio (Real Instrument) content, so you can sound like the pro you know you are.

[David Weiss is a San Francisco Bay Area based freelance writer.]

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