Step Input

step input
Step Recording              playing with blocks

GarageBand allows you to record an instrument track step-by-step, with full control over note placement, duration, velocity and other variables. First, choose a "software instrument" and click on the scissors to bring up the edit window.
Hold down the command key and use the mouse to draw notes - the cursor has changed to a composer's pen. The velocity defaults to 63 (mezzo-forte, because it is halfway between 0 and 128).
Drag the length of the note block for longer or shorter durations, and drag up or down or forward or backward.
To hear the note, click on it.
To change the velocity, select the note and slide the velocity to the desired loudness.
Hint: the color of the note block changes: darker for loud, lighter for soft sounds!

pitch bend
Editing Modulation & Pitchbend              curvaceous

Did you know that you can easily draw in pitchbends for any MIDI instrument, as well as finely timed and controlled modulation?
Select Pitchbend in the Advanced Edit window at the bottom;
Hold down the command key and the cursor changes to a pencil. You can now click to create curve points, then drag them up and down to create the right pitch bend curve. Small pitch bend commands can give considerable life to MIDI instruments
- try it on guitar, trumpet, saxophone, a bass solo, (on piano if you are into experimental sounds - personally I hate it!)
- then add some modulation (vibrato) using the same curve drawing technique

pitch bend

Continuous controllers              thick & thin

As we saw in the previous tip, Pitch Bend and Modulation can be drawn write by hand but they are usually performed with the wheel of a MIDI keyboard.
The thing to watch out for is that they send a large amount of controller data to GarageBand. It is often a good idea to thin the control points, to reduce processor and memory load. You need to do this manually by selecting control points on the pitch bend or modulation line and hitting Delete.
Selecting notes               it's in the box

A quick way to selct a group of notes in the Software Instruments Track Editor is to drag a box around them.
This is known as a marquee selection. After they have been selected, you can edit their velocity with the slider on the left, change the pitch by dragging them up/down or their timing by moving them left to right. The marquee box comes in very handy when you want to select all notes of the same pitch.
For example, let's change a major melody to minor. Start with a track in Cmajor, where the scale is CDEFGAB and the chord is CEG. Now draw abox around all E's. E is the major third in C, Eb is the minor third. So all you have to do now is drag the whole box down one step and voila: the entire melody is now minor. For more radical examples of this technique, see the Garagedoor | Instruments | exotic scales.

Another handy use for the technique of drawing a marquee box around notes of the same pitch is for mixing and panning a drumkit: On a MIDI drumkit, hits on the snare are always the same pitch, and the kick, high hat, ride cymbal, etc. also have their own "note".
After you've drawn a box around all snare hits, copy-paste them to a new track, called "snare". Now do the same for all the other parts of the drum kit, all on different tracks.
Once you have them all extracted, you can mix and pan to your heart's delight. traditionally, kick and snare are kept in the middle for a natural sound, but don't let that stop you. Tom rolls respond spectacularly well to wide panning!

TheGarageDoor Image Gallery

Chords the easy way              instant chords

If you are not so good on working with chords, but you have a song idea you'd like to move up or down the way it would be in a chord progression, try this technique (which works only with Software Instruments): Popular music has a number of favorite chord progressions:
  • 1 4 5 combinations: rock & roll, Blues, folk, country, etc.
    A Twelve Bar Blues, for example, goes 1411 4411 5415, or in C: CFCC FFCC GFCG

  • 2m 5 1 Jazz. The 2 is a minor chord.

  • 1 6m 2m 5 Popular music. The 6 and 2 are minor chords.

Let's say your piece of music is four bars in the key of C. You want to change it into a 1 4 5 1 progression.
  1. First, duplicate it three times. Do this by Option-dragging the four bar region.
  2. Now transpose the first copy up 5 semitones (= up a fourth) and the second copy 7 semi-tones (= up a fifth). The transpose slider is to the left of the Edit grid. Leave the last copy alone.
  3. Now you have a song that goes C F G C.
  4. For a transposing tool, see the handy GarageDoor transposing calculator
Once you master this, create more interesting chord progressions. **Hot Tip: To create a minor out of a major, draw a box around all thirds (like the F# in a D chord) and drag them down one step to a minor third (an F in the D minor chord).

For more on Chords, see Introduction to Chords at and train your ear with the Chord Ear Trainer.
pitch bend
GB Steptime                    step by step

Andy's OSX Music Software have released a new package for GarageBand users named 'GB Steptime'. GB Steptime is a Step Time Sequencer designed for users of GarageBand who wish to create midi note information for inclusion within a GarageBand project.

Main Features
Easy to use step time sequencer for GarageBand.
Requires no special knowledge of musical notation.
Efficient drag and drop of midi information between GB Steptime and GarageBand.

GB Steptime is a $12 shareware programme. A demo, limited to recording one octave C3-C4, can be downloaded from:

The DoorPost - GarageBand tips newsletter is sent to you every three months and is full of extra tips on how to get the most out of GarageBand. It takes a more in-depth look at some important aspects of digital audio and home recording with GarageBand. Also: Links to free loops, effects and software instruments.
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