Working with Tracks

Three ways to make Tracks
GarageBand combines three different ways of recording sound in one package:
  • Multi-track Audio Recording - the purple tracks. GarageBand lets you record or import live audio on many separate tracks, where you can mix, chop and edit them to your heart's content without loosing sound quality. How to get the best sound into GarageBand? - We'll show you how in Live Recording.

  • Sequencing with Software Instruments. A very powerful way of recording, used by most musicians and studios today, is MIDI recording. GarageBand does not use the term MIDI; instead it refers to working with Software Instruments - these are the green tracks. It works by sending MIDI messages, which tell the receiving "instrument" which note to play, how long to hold it for, to add vibrato, etc. No actual sound is transmitted, just the note instructions. The beauty is that you can now edit with great flexibility and precision: you can turn a guitar into a cello, a bass into a soprano, turn major to minor as well as fixing playing errors or improving timing. GarageBand allows you to play Software Instruments from its inbuilt piano keyboard, from an external keyboard (hooked up through USB or Firewire), from imported MIDI files (tens of thousands are available on the Internet) or by creating notes in the track edit window.

  • Making music with Loops This powerful way of putting new songs together is made very user friendly by GarageBand. It works by putting small snippets of sound (a drum pattern, a bass line, a guitar riff, etc.) on a GarageBand track, and mixing, moving and editing it to fit with other loops or audio tracks. All GB loops are in the Apple Loops format, so matching the tempo and key of loops in is easy. GarageBand comes out of the box with hundreds of loops to get you started. More can be bought from Apple ("Jam Packs") or other parties. You can also make your own - we'll show you how.
    Midi loop tracks are green and real instrument loop tracks are blue.

the Playhead Lock
The playhead is the triangle that moves through the timeline at the top of the GarageBand window. This is the triangle that starts to glow red when GarageBand is "overheating".

You can choose how you want to view the song as it plays by clicking the Playhead Lock button (the two opposing triangles below the right hand scroll bar):
  • When Playhead lock is on (the two triangles are aligned) the Playhead stays is the middle of the window and the regions slide past.
  • When Playhead lock is off (the two triangles are offset) the Playhead moves from left to right across the regions and eventually disappears out of sight.
Changing Region Length
You can change the length of a region in two ways, with very different results:
  • To repeat, or loop the region: click and drag its top right hand corner You will see a curved arrow.
  • To resize a region: click and drag its bottom right hand corner You will see a straight arrow. You can shorten or lengthen a region, both at the end and the beginning.
You can also copy a region by Option-dragging it to a new place, either on the same track or a different one.
Give the mouse a break
Do you still click the Play button in the control bar everytime you want to play the song? Don't. Leave the mouse alone and hit the spacebar - the power user's way.

Your song will play from the beginning, or from where you have placed the playhead. You can quickly move the playhead where you want it with the right or left arrow.
It will snap into place according to your grid settings - 1/1 to go to the beginning of each bar, 1/4 to place it at a beat.
If you have hit C for cycle first, the song will play the cycle, over and over. Hit the spacebar again to pause. You can speed up your work by always using keyboard shortcuts where available.
Learn them by heart early on, and have a print-out handy by your Mac. We have listed all the GarageBand shortcuts.

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