Adding some magic to GarageBand songwriting

In the previous installment of my ongoing recording project, I wrote about about how I like to use GarageBand to write songs. Songwriting involves some talent, luck and in the case of a new song I’ve been working on, some magic.

Recently, while talking to my writing partner, Allan Doy, I expressed interest in doing a traditional type blues song—nothing too complicated, just a good slow blues number in A. Unfortunately, when it came time to lay down a quick track to show Allan exactly what I wanted, I couldn't find the right drum loops at the right tempo. I cited Led Zeppelin’s I Can’t Quit You Baby as a rough take on what I was shooting for, but even that didn’t fit exactly what I wanted.

Then I figured out the way to find the sound I was looking for—Magic GarageBand. Introduced as part of GarageBand ’08, the Magic GarageBand feature is designed to introduce users to music-creation software. Just a few clicks, and Magic GarageBand will completely set up a project for you in a specific genre.

You get started using Magic GarageBand by choosing the genre of music you want to create a song for.
And that's how it worked here. Within 45 seconds I had the perfect slow blues song playing, while I filled in the leads and gave Allan the basics of what I was looking for. Within 10 minutes I had the Magic GarageBand song cut up, adding some of the intricacies that I needed. Then I threw in a few harmonica loops, some guitar leads in between the vocals and drum fills to break things up a bit.

We’ll change things up a bit when we get the whole band in to record the track, but it’s amazing what you can pull together in such a short period of time.

If you have never used Magic GarageBand before, you really need to give it a try. Not only is it a lot of fun, but, if you’re just getting started with GarageBand, the feature will also give you a better idea of how to add elements to a song.

With the Magic GarageBand window open, double-click on one of the genres and the curtains will open revealing the default instruments for your song. This is where things start to get fun. You can click the play button and the song will start playing with the selected instruments. However, you can change any or all of the instruments by simply clicking on them and choosing a new one.

For instance, the default guitar for Slow Blues is a Fender Strat called Texas. You could pick a Gibson Les Paul (Slinky) or another Strat (Dirty Rhythm) and totally change the feel of the song. In my case, I used an acoustic guitar for the Rhythm, a Round Bass, Swingin’ Drums and a Relaxed Electric Piano. Give a try for yourself using those instruments and you’ll see exactly what I got.

My finished Magic GarageBand project with the instruments I selected for my song.
For my guitar part, I used my 1985 Fender Squire Strat. For me, the Strat is the sound of electric blues—I get that Eric Clapton vibe going and could play for hours. There is just nothing like sitting back in my chair with a piece of blues music playing, while ripping off a solo.

We'll cover some more topics in future posts on this project. I just got a new Taylor acoustic and began recording that for a couple of new songs. I also got a Taylor Hardbody, which is an incredible electric guitar.

But first, I’ll be talking about my new Pro Tools gear. I just setup my Digidesign 003 Factory, M-Audio Octane and Pro Tools 7.4. Now that is something to behold.

A few readers have contacted me about how to receive notifications when there’s a new post in this series. We have an RSS feed that you can add to your favorite newsreader, or you can go to the Creative Notes Blog section to see past articles.

As always, feel free to comment in the forums with advice, questions, or tips on how your record.

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