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Apple’s popular digital audio workstation, GarageBand, has been a fan favorite since its release in 2005, and now that it’s become free for all Mac and iOS device users, the number of people trying to learn how to use GarageBand has seen another increase.

Depending on your experience with playing instruments and your passion for experimenting, there are tons of things that you can do on GarageBand, but, for this article, we’ll focus on learning how to use one of GarageBand’s most famous features — the stock Apple loops.

For those who are not familiar with loops, they are pre-recorded music segments that can be repeated over and over again for a certain length of time and can be made from an audio recording; a guitar, piano, or drum sample; or a combination of all. A popular example of a loop was the drum loop playing in the background of Rihanna’s massive hit, Umbrella, also known in the GarageBand community as Vintage Funk Kit 03.

If you want to create your own music too, perhaps for a demo track or as background music for your video content, you can easily do so by experimenting with the default loops on GarageBand.

To use GarageBand loops to create your own music,

  1. Launch GarageBand.
  2. Create a new project by selecting “File“ then clicking on “New.”
  3. You can also do this by pressing “Command” + N or by clicking on the “Empty Project” thumbnail.
  4. Look for the Apple Loops icon (usually located at the top left section of your screen and looks like a looped rope).
  5. Collapse the Apple Loops menu.
  6. A list of available categories and their corresponding samples will be displayed.
  7. Choose from the options provided.
  8. After you’ve selected a loop that you want to use, drag it to the project timeline then release the mouse.
  9. If you want to check how the loop sounds, just click on the “Play” button (usually located at the top left portion of the screen) to get a preview.
  10. If you’re already satisfied with your chosen loop, specify how long you want the loop to play by clicking on the edge of the loop then dragging it to the left side of the timeline if you want to shorten it or to the right side if you want to extend it.

 

Use GarageBand to Combine Loops

Once you’re done adding your first loop to your GarageBand project, you may want to add more loops to give it a more dynamic sound.

To use GarageBand to combine loops,

  1. Make sure the Apple Loops menu is open.
  2. Repeat Steps 7 to 10.
  3. Each new loop that you’ll add to your project will be placed below the previous loop.
  4. If you want a certain loop (let’s say a drum loop), to play simultaneously with another loop (let’s say the guitar loop), just collapse or expand the loops until their waveforms are the same length.
  5. If one of the loops is shorter than the other loop, you can set the shorter loop to play repeatedly for the duration of the longer loop (You can do this by stretching the shorter loop and dragging it across the timeline).
  6. If you want a second, third, or fourth loop to play a little after the previous loop starts playing, you can do this by clicking on the loop that the starting point of which you wish to adjust, dragging it to the project timeline, then dropping it at the exact point where you want that loop to start playing.
  7. Do the same thing for every other loop that you will add.
  8. Once you’re finished adding your loops, you can check how they sound together by clicking on the “Play” button.

 

Use GarageBand to Edit Loops

While previewing your combined loops, you might notice that some parts don’t work together too well. Maybe because they’re all a little too loud and tend to compete with each other — making the combined output a bit unpleasant to the ears — or maybe the sounds are all a little on the softer side that they didn’t leave much of an impression after being played.

Either way, you can easily fix this situation by adjusting the volume of the individual loops or adding in some nifty sound effects for dramatic appeal.

To use GarageBand to edit the volume of loops,

  1. Go to the project timeline and click on the loop that the volume of which you wish to change.
  2. Drag the playhead to the exact point where you wish the change in volume to take effect.
  3. Navigate to the individual loops’ track headers (the little boxes that look similar to stereo dashboards).
  4. Increase or decrease the volume of the loop by adjusting the volume slider.
  5. Once the changes have been applied, you will see yellow lines going up or going down at certain points during the duration of the track — signifying the increase or decrease in volume.
  6. Do the same thing for the other loops if you wish to change their volume too.

 

In addition to editing the volume of individual loops, you can also use GarageBand to change your loops’ (or separate points in your loops) tempo to reflect a change in mood or a similar effect.

To use GarageBand to do this,

  1. Open the audio editor by navigating to the main menu and selecting ‘View.”
  2. Click on “Show Editor.”
  3. From the audio editor, select “Region” to edit a particular loop.
  4. Next, look for the “Flex” icon (the one that looks like a twisted wave) and turn it on.
  5. After that, look for the “Follow Tempo and Pitch” option and tick the box beside it.
  6. Next, navigate to your loop and pick a point where you want the change in tempo to take effect.
  7. Once you’ve selected your starting point, hold the “Command” key until an icon that looks similar to a pen appears, then do a left click with your mouse to mark that spot.
  8. After that, a slider that will only affect that particular area will appear.
  9. Drag that slider up and down to increase or decrease tempo according to your preferences.
  10. Repeat the same steps if you want to set a different tempo for the other sections of the loop.

 

Saving Your GarageBand Project

Once you’re happy with your loop mix, you may now save your GarageBand project for sharing or future use.

To save your GarageBand project,

  1. Go to “File.”
  2. Select “Save As.”
  3. Give your GarageBand project a name.
  4. Add Tags to your GarageBand project to make it easier to search.
  5. Specify the destination folder where you want your GarageBand project to be saved.
  6. Click “Save.”

 

Doing this will save your GarageBand project in the AIFF format which is okay if you are using your Mac or another Apple device to play it; however, incompatible devices may not be able to play it without using a third-party app. If you want to be able to play your GarageBand project on any type of device and not just on your Mac, you have to save it in the MP3 format instead.

To do this,

  1. Go to the GarageBand main menu.
  2. Click on “Share”.
  3. Select “Export Song to Disk.”
  4. Give your GarageBand project a name.
  5. Add Tags to your GarageBand project to make it easier to search.
  6. Specify the destination folder where you want your GarageBand project to be saved.
  7. Select MP3 among the list of file type options.
  8. Click “Export.”
  9. Your GarageBand project will be converted into MP3 format and now ready to be shared.

 

And that’s it!

You now know how to use GarageBand’s stock loops to create your own music. Next, you should be able to use it to record a track from scratch using software or live instruments, but that’s a topic that we’ll save for another day. For the meantime, try to have some fun playing with your loops.

Good luck!

Note:

The navigation menu may vary depending on your GarageBand version. To confirm if a certain feature is included in your GarageBand version or has been filed under a different name, please get in touch with Apple’s official customer support.