Six ways to speed up GarageBand

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GarageBand may look simple, but beneath its uncluttered surface you’ll find tons of sounds and features that will keep you busy for months. Here are six tips for speeding up GarageBand, so you can give a healthy boost to your musical productivity.

1. Start from an existing project. It can be very time-consuming to create new tracks and get them ready for recording, as this involves adding effects, setting the track volume and pan position, choosing the input source, and other tasks. So, when you’re starting a project that’s similar to an existing one, open the existing one and Save As with the new project’s name. True, you’ll have to delete all the old music, but this is relatively quick. All of your tracks will be set up and ready to go, and that will be a big timesaver.

Duplicate a track, and then move one of them slightly forward in time for an instant slapback echo (see the two tracks on the top).

Don’t worry about missing out on those initial options GarageBand offers you when you open a new project—that is, choosing from Piano, Electric Guitar, or Voice. These are simply the default for a new track, and because you’re starting with an existing project, you’ve defined your tracks already. Likewise, don’t worry about the options to set Key, Tempo, and Time Signature; you can change these at any time by changing the LCD Mode to Project (click and hold on the leftmost button in the LCD) to expose these parameters.

2. Save Your instrument settings. When you’ve set up an instrument, click the rectangular Save Instrument button at the bottom of the Track Info window (Show Track Info by clicking the “i” button in the lower-left corner of GarageBand’s main interface, or hit Command-I), and give your settings a name. Then, as long as Track Info’s Browse tab is set to Show All, My Settings, or Shared Settings on my Mac, you’ll see your new settings on the Browse tab along with the others.

3. Special effects without adding effects. Try duplicating a track (highlight it and choose Duplicate Track from the Track menu) and moving its contents just a bit ahead of the original track, for a quick slap-back echo effect. Experiment by altering the new track’s level and pan controls for a variety of sounds.

This useful command gracefully fades out all tracks together at the end of your project.

4. Fading quick. To put in a fade at the end of your song, you can choose Show Master Track from the Track menu and draw in a fade by clicking on the volume automation line to draw an automation point, and dragging it down to fade it out. Or, you can just choose Fade Out from the Track menu, which does all of these things for you in one click.

5. Build a beat, start with a loop. There are many ways to build a beat, such as recording layers of drum sounds from scratch, or using one of many drum-editing plug-ins. But the fastest way is to modify a loop. Just drag a drum loop from the Loop Browser onto a Software Instrument track, double-click it to open the Editor, and edit away. Click on notes to select them, and click-and-drag to select multiple notes. You can cut, copy, and paste to your heart’s content.

6. Loop record. Don’t record multiple takes as multiple tracks. Instead, loop record. Here’s how:

  1. Display the cycle region by highlighting the Cycle button just to the right of the Play button in the Transport. The cycle region looks like a ruler, and appears just below the beat ruler.
  2. Click and drag in the cycle region to define a section to loop.
  3. Record. GarageBand will store the individual takes as layers in the region, and you’ll see a number on the region indicating how many times the material was looped.
  4. Click and hold on the number to call up a menu listing each take, and select the one you want to audition.

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

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Lessons are well presented and move quickly toward learning songs
    • Interface reorganization makes it easier to locate features
    • Magic GarageBand supports recording
    • Guitar amps and stomp boxes are intuitively presented and sound good
    • Multiple views in lessons


    • No improvement in notation printing from last version
    • Can’t have more than one GarageBand project open at a time
    • No MIDI control of stomp boxes
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