Working with GarageBand

This post will cover the basics of editing audio in GarageBand. Click on the images to enlarge. You can also click on Video Screencasts in the Table of Contents below to jump straight to the screencasts.

Table of Contents:

When you first open GarageBand and create a new project, you will see the following:

Your first steps will be to close out the Grand Piano window, and go up to Track in the menu options, and select New Basic Track. This can also be done by pressing Shift + Command + N.

Create one more New Basic Track. Two tracks will typically be the minimum number of tracks you will be working with. One track will have your ambient sound and the other will contain interviews. Select the Grand Piano track by clicking on the piano icon, and go back up to Track in the menu options and select Delete Track.

Adding your audio into GarageBand is as simple as dragging an MP3 onto one of the two New Basic Tracks that you created. In the image below, I am dragging an audio file titled R09_0032.MP3 into the top track in GarageBand.

Now that you have your audio imported into GarageBand, let’s go over some of the main bells and whistles in the program:

  • A – The play button. I recommend using the hot key for this, which is the space bar. Your cursor will be busy highlighting, editing and dragging clips on the timeline, and so it is faster to use the hot key rather than click the play/stop button. Again, space bar will both play and stop your audio.
  • B – The icon, which looks like a pair of headphones, will isolate that particular track to work on, muting all others. Useful when you have more than one track on the timeline but you need to edit the audio from one.
  • C – Clicking this down-facing triangle icon will bring up the volume control associated with the track.
  • D – This is your audio track. Double-click it to bring up a detailed view of the track, in which you will be editing.
  • E – Your audio levels. You typically want them to be peaking in the yellow area. Adjust the volume in each track accordingly.

In the image below, you will see:

  • A – The track volume, made visible by clicking the down-facing triangle for the associated track (see C, in the previous image).
  • B – Detail view of selected audio track (called the Track Editor), made visible by double-clicking the track in the top section (see D, in the previous image).

Editing Audio

The audio editing section makes much more sense and is easier to explain through the screencasts at the end of this post. However, if you prefer text, I will type out instructions as best I can.

Editing audio in GarageBand is a subtractive process, much like … sculpture? or carving? You start with your your original audio clip and delete the parts that you do not want.

Yea, this is basically what audio editing is in GarageBand. (Flickr photo by ThisIsIt2)

Audio editing is done in the Track Editor, made visible by double clicking on your track after you import it. Think of it as a more detailed view of your audio track. When you place your cursor over the track in the Track Editor, one of two cursors will appear. The first is a crosshair, which appears when your cursor is towards the middle of the track (from top to bottom). This is the cursor that you will be using to highlight and then delete audio. The second cursor resembles a vertical line with arrows pointing in either direction. This appears when your cursor is located near the top of the track in the Track Editor and is used to move clips forward and backward along the timeline.

Click on your interview track to bring it up in the Track Editor. (Double-click if the Track Editor is not already open, single click if it is already open and you are switching between tracks). Once you have your clip in the editor:

  • Isolate your interview track by clicking on the headphone symbol associated with it.
  • Find a quote that you want to use. You will isolate this quote by deleting audio immediately before and after the clip that you want to use. You do this by selecting a small part before your clip (using the crosshair cursor) and pressing delete. Repeat this at the end of your clip.
  • Continue to do this for all of the quotes that you want to use from your interview track(s).

Adjusting Volume

Another important aspect of GarageBand is being able to control your volume levels. For example, you will most likely want to lower the levels of your ambient track when bringing in your interview, so that the two tracks do no compete with each other and the viewer is able to clearly hear what the interviewee is saying.

To do this:

  • Click on the triangle icon for the track you wish to edit in order to reveal the track volume.
  • Click on the blue line, which represents the volume level along the timeline, to add anchor points.
  • When you have more than one point, dragging one point up raises the volume, and down, lowers the volume.
  • Make two points, one in front of where the interview starts, and one immediately after the interview starts. Drag the second point down to lower the volume of the ambient sound during the interview.
  • Repeat this process at the end of the quote (or when all of your quotes and detail sounds are done) but this time, raise the second dot back up to the original volume level.


To export your audio:

  • Go up to the menu items at the top and select share, Export song to disk
  • Compress should be checked
  • Compress using MP3 Encoder
  • Audio Settings – High Quality
  • Press export and save it
  • Give exported MP3 to myself, Brad or Laurie to add photos to (flash drive, iChat, email, whatever works)
  • You have now done all the steps needed to edit audio for a basic audio slideshow.

    Video Screencasts

    Getting familiar with GarageBand
    Basic Audio Editing in GarageBand
    Fading Audio In/Out in GarageBand

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