Once you open up GarageBand, the first prompt will be to create a new project (you can also do this with Cmd + N or File > New). You can choose your type of project, like “Ringtone,” “Hip Hop,” “Songwriter,” and “Voice,” among others. One option is “Empty Project,” which is probably the one you’ll want to start with if you’re new to this software.
Then it will prompt you to create your first track. If it doesn’t, you can go to Track > New Track or hit Option + Cmd + N. You can choose the type of track, including Voice, Instrument, or Software Instrument.
Let’s use a Software Instrument as an example. After you create a new Software Instrument track, you’ll see on the left side of the screen a library of the different virtual instruments. In the middle-right of the screen, you’ll see what you’ve recorded. In the bottom-right, you’ll see the editor.
But all of this sits behind the digital piano window, which corresponds to the QWERTY keyboard. So for example, the letter K might be the note C, the letter O a C#, the letter L a D note, and so on.
Probably the first thing you’ll want to do before recording is set the Beats Per Minute, aka BPM aka Tempo. This is at the very top of the screen in the middle. Just double-click (or click and drag) the number above “Tempo” and put it in your preferred BPM. And you can change the key or time signature by clicking them
Alright, so now you’re ready to start putting your song together. The best place to start, especially for GarageBand beginners, is Apple’s huge loop library.
Maybe inhale deeply before you do this. There are so many loops it may take your breath away.
Every single virtual instrument in GarageBand has multiple loops — a short piece of pre-recorded music or drum beat. To open up the loops, hit the O key or just visit View & Show Apple Loops. That opens up a panel on the right. From there you can pick your instrument, genre, and mood.
Once you find a loop you like, just click-and-drag it into your session. If you want to loop the loop, click-and-drag the upper half of the right edge of it. Then pull it to the right until you’ve looped it enough times.
You can do this over and over again with different loops and different instruments. Just make sure they’re all in the same key. You can also double click on the loops to edit, add, and move the MIDI notes (i.e. the notes or parts of the drum being hit).
Plus, you can download free loops that don’t come with GarageBand at outside places like MacLoops or Loopmasters.
If you’d like to record a software instrument, you can either use the digital piano within GarageBand, your own MIDI keyboard, or you can manually place each MIDI note. Just create a new Software Instrument track and create the music with your chosen method.
Let’s use GarageBand’s musical typing keyboard as an example. Hit Cmd + K and the keyboard will appear. Then choose the virtual instrument you want and start playing.
If you’d rather record a live instrument, just create a new Voice track (for vocals or acoustic guitar) or a new Guitar track (for electric guitar). You’ll need an audio interface for this. That’s the device you plug your guitar or microphone cable into which then plugs into the computer, usually via USB.
(However, if you’re using the iOS version of GarageBand, you can plug a guitar cable directly into your iPhone or iPad as long as you have a ¼” to ⅛” adapter).
From there, you can play with all the different effects that are included with GarageBand.
Once your song is done, it’s time to share it with the world. They make it easy to do this (just make sure you hit File & Save first!). When you’re ready to share the song, choose Share & Export Song to Disk. This will export the GarageBand project as a file that you can upload to Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or distribute to Spotify or Apple Music (file types: AAC, MP3, AIFF, and WAV).
Or you can share your song on iTunes or Soundcloud directly by choosing Share > Song to iTunes or Song to Soundcloud.