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Understanding the Garageband Interface - How to Use GarageBand

written by: Nicholas•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 3/30/2010

Want to try out your vocal skills with GarageBand, the free music recording software that you got with your Mac? For the most part, GarageBand is simple to use once you understand the basics. This tutorial focuses on learning the GarageBand interface and doing a basic recording.

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    GarageBand - Using the Piano

    garageband start The best way to learn the GarageBand interface is to experiment with it and try different things. Thus, we will use a couple of examples throughout this article, teaching you how to do some basic things with GarageBand.

    To get started, open up GarageBand and select Create New Music Project. Type in a name for your song and click the Create button. Do not worry about the tempo, signature, and key for right now.

    Upon launching GarageBand, you should have a pretty blank screen. If you look to the left side of the GarageBand window, you should see Grand Piano listed under the Tracks section, and a Mixer directly to the right of Grand Piano. There should also be an on-screen keyboard visible.

    So, let's get started with that. You can use the on-screen keyboard to play notes. However, it is not by any means a reasonable alternative to an actual piano. You can hookup a keyboard to GarageBand and record that way, but that's a whole different thing. For the most part, this on-screen piano is used to create backgrounds for vocals, beats, and customize existing loops. Click the A icon on the keyboard. It should turn into a bigger keyboard, containing fewer keys. Now, the keyboard can be played with the keys on your actual computer keyboard. Each key on the on-screen piano is labeled with a corresponding key to the computer keyboard. For example, the C-note of the on screen keyboard can be played by pressing the A key on your Mac's keyboard.

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    GarageBand - Changing Instruments

    garageband guitar Now that you know how to use the piano, let's try adding a couple of more instruments to GarageBand. Click Track from the top OS X toolbar and select Show Track Info from the drop down menu. You should now see several instruments, in list form, located on the right hand side of the GarageBand window. You can click on any of these instruments and to change from the default piano sound to a different instrument sound.

    Try playing the piano again. You should notice that it changes to the new instrument sound.

    You may have to display the on-screen piano again if it's not there. To do so, select Window from the top OS X toolbar and select Piano from the drop down menu.

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    Recording a Track

    So far, you have learned the basics of using the on-screen piano and using additional instruments. Now, it's time to record a basic track. To do so, make sure that you have the on-screen keyboard ready to go, and an instrument of your choice selected. Click the red record button at the bottom of the GarageBand screen. You will notice that the metronome counts the beats for you, which is a nice feature to have. Go ahead and play a couple of notes on the piano and click the red record button again to stop recording. After you have done that, locate the slider positioned near the top of the GarageBand screen. Slide it all the way to the left, so that you are positioned at the beginning of the track. Press the play button located at the bottom of the GarageBand screen. Your track should playback.