GarageBand Edit & Effects

Editing, Effects, Mixing & Mastering

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Introduction

You have laid down the tracks and chosen the loops, you are now ready to sit down and do what recording engineers spend weeks or months doing once the band has left the studio. Four steps:

  • Editing is done in different ways in GarageBand, dependent on the track. In the green tracks you have almost unlimited control: you can move notes up and down, quantize to improve the rhythm, change the volume of each note by very small or large amounts, add vibrato, even change a flute into a cello.....
    In the blue and purple tracks you need to work carefully because you are operating directly on the sound wave. It is much harder to find your place (so you need to zoom in and out a lot - control-left & right arrow) Distortions and clicks can occur and even though you can change pitch and tempo, there are limits to how far you can go.

  • Effects need to be added; you have recorded everything with as few effects as possible to give you maximum control over the final mix. Effects like compression and equalization have their own chapter in the GarageDoor, because they are so important. And they are like the spices in a cooking: you can't cook without them, careful blending is a must, and too many will ruin the dish!

  • Mixing needs to be done with great care, using lots of A-B comparisons. It is best to have a favourite, high quality recording near by to compare your song with. A solo, or vocal track, usually needs to stand out much more than beginners are comfortable with (this depends on the music style of course), and the choice of moving a track a little further to the foreground or background of the mix can have a hugh impact on the end result. Should you use reverb or volume to move a sound further back? Should you pan the piano across the stereo spectrum or locate the instrument on either side? Can you mask a bad note with a quick dip of the volume track? The GarageDoor will try to address these and other mixing questions.

  • Mastering, the final step in the recording process. Levels, compression, noise gate, playback options are discussed in the mastering chapter.

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The inbuilt Audio Unit effects

GarageBand comes out of the box with an extra twelve Audio Unit effects, which you will find in the pull-down menus of the Track Info: details menu.
What do they do?
  • the AUBandpass cuts higher and lower frequencies and lets the middle ones through
  • the AUDynamicsProcessor is a compressor/limiter that affects the dynamic range
  • the AUDelay is a delay effect, like Echo
  • the AUGraphicEQ is an equalizer that allows you to control the volume level of 31 frequency bands. Can be very handy to suppress a bad sound in a precise frequency range
  • the AUHiPass allows only higher frequencies to pass
  • the AUHiShelFilter allows you to raise or lower the volume of high frequencies
  • the AUPeakLimiter is a compressor/limiter effect that allows you to set the maximum volume. Useful for controlling clipping.
  • the AULowPass allows only lower frequencies to pass
  • the AULoShelFilter allows you to raise or lower the volume of low frequencies
  • the AUMultibandCompressor allows you to compress the dynamic range according to frequency bands
  • the AUMatrixReverb is a sophisticated reverb control effect
  • the AUParametricEQ lets you control the frequency and the bandwidth to be boosted or cut
For more on Audio Units, see our special Hangtime AU Tutorial



TheGarageDoor Image Gallery


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Effects - overdoing it

The effects section in the Track Info window has seven check boxes. If you are too heavy handed here, you will notice your Mac's performance slow down considerably.

See for example the Guitar pre-set "Dreamy Shimmer": it uses up 6 out of the 7 effects, including echo as well as reverb (!). In a multiple track project, this guitar could easily turn from shimmer to stutter.
home recording
click image to view

You can buy "Home Recording for Dummies" from Amazon.

Further reading...

Home recording If you are passionate about home recording, there are some very good books available to guide you. A book like "Home Recording for Dummies" will help you raise your standards - and give you the confidence to experiment with more advanced ideas.
"Home Recording for Dummies" is one of the most popular books on the subject and I have always recommended it highly.

A couple of reader reviews (from amazon.com):
This book is great!!!! I have been messing around with home recording for about 2 years, So I say I am still new at this. This book has got me off on the right foot, and helped to set up the studio I have now. It has also shown what kinda of upgrades I can make in the future. I now have everything that I want to get in the future laid out in the order I want/need to get them. I highly recommend this book I wish I had this two years ago !!

My only dislike of this book is that it didn't come sooner for me. I don't consider myself a novice, nor do I think of myself as an expert. I fall somewhere in the middle and think I can still benefit greatly from the topics covered in this book. Unless you've gone to college as a sound engineer, there is something useful for you in this book !
DJ Papabear

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