Garageband Tips and Tricks
ISBN: 9781870775199

Published in 2007. Covers GarageBand 2 and 3, i.e. up to iLife ’06 releases.

By the time I read this book, the iLife ’11 version is already out. But this book is still relevant. The screenshots apply to GarageBand ’09, and definitely ’08 version. Even if you’re using ’11 version, the features covered in this book are the same.

I’ve been using GarageBand (’08 version mostly). Found this book very readable, very instructive. Useful reference for beginners and even intermediate users to Apple iLife GarageBand. Particularly those who wish to get the most out of GarageBand for recording and mixing their own songs or Podcasts.

(This is probably not to relevant for those who just want a cursory experience of using GarageBand. Not that this book isn’t useful — Chapters 1 and 2 is still worth the read).

This book offers insights and practical tips for the Serious Amateur Musician. If you spend enough time exploring GarageBand, you may discover most features covered in this book. But you might as well fast-track yourself by referring to this.

Even if you considered yourself a more-or-less seasoned user (I do), this would still be useful as it gives an authoritative explanation to several GarageBand features — stuff that you know how to use but may not be able to explain why it works that way.

Chapter 1 – on basic system setup, hardware requirements. Useful tip on using the Repair Disk Permissions feature, via Disk Utility, for preventive maintenance. I know from experience that this works, and is a must — if you want to avoid GarageBand freezing up on you or during your recording process.

Chapter 3 – on coverting your own recorded samples into Apple Loops. Mentions the Apple Loops Utility, which is a free download for developers (author writes: “Apple discourages people like me from disclosing the download URL for the Apple Loops Utility. However if you want to supercharge your homegrown loop making just type the words Apple Loops Utility into Google and you’ll find it soon enough. An 18-page user manual is included in the download”). BTW, I found the Wikipedia entry on this, with relevant links.

Chapter 4 – covers audio recording, tips on mic placement, using the Mac’s built-in mic and adjusting the settings, reducing background noise, tips on recording vocals and electric guitars, description of the amps simulation in GarageBand, even tips on recording woodwinds, strings, piano, brass, how to “patch” your recording (tip: keep recording levels as high as they can go without red-lining).

Chapter 5 – on audio editing, cut-and-paste/ composite tracks. Useful section on editing a recorded GarageBand track using Audacity (Normalisation, using the Drawing Tool to reduce spikes, etc.).

  • Reveal the AIF files by locating the GarageBand project file, and then right-click and choose “Show Package Contents”
  • Make a copy of the AIF file and open that for editing using Audacity

Chapter 6 – on MIDI recording, adjusting the settings available in GarageBand.

Chapter 7 – on MIDI editing, editing the controller data like Modulation, Pitchbend, Sustain, Expression, Foot control. Also covers drum kit combinations, tip on changing GarageBand preset MIDI loops by changing the Fix Timing feature (Quantizing) to say, “1/8 Swing Heavy”, tip on transposing MIDI regions.

Chapter 8 – on GarageBand’s Software instruments, explanation of Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release (there’s an illustration that concisely explains what they are; here’s my computer-drawn version).
ADSR diagram - Keith Gemmell
Section also explains the Analog-style synthesizers and Synths.

Chapter 9 – on Effects like the Gate, Compressor, Equalizer, Track Echo, Chorus, Vocal Transformer, Speech Enhancer etc. (explains what those effects are). Also the Master Effects settings. P 89. lists the OS X Audio Unit (AU) Effects, with a one-line description of what they are.

Chapter 10 – on the Production process. Tips like how to avoid “musical conflict” (mid, low frequencies). Using repetition and variation, layering tracks, “double-tracking”. I learned that generally, guitars should reduce the bass frequencies.

Chapter 11 – on Mixing and Mastering. I learned that the pros move all the layer’s sound levels down. Then (as a general rule) start with the order of drum and percussion loops, then add bass, keyboards/ guitars and other instruments, vocals and backing harmonies. Tips on watching out for the GarageBand preset reverb and echo settings Vs the Master track setting. Suggests the AUMultibandCompressor for a “professional polish up”. Also on speakers.

Note: Chapter 11 isn’t a technical manual on details of Mastering. It points out the various ways and GarageBand features for the mixing and mastering process.

Chapter 12 – on using GarageBand for Podcasting. Suggests a format, e.g. 15min podcast might be this:

  • Spoken Intro – 60 sec
  • Signature tune – 30 sec
  • First topic – 5min 30 sec
  • Musical link – 30 sec
  • Second topic – 5min 30 sec
  • Conclusion – 90 sec
  • Signature tune – 30 sec

Appendix lists the GarageBand shortcut keys.