I'm sort of the Brian Wilson of people who plonk ineptly in Garageband.
January 13, 2012 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any awesome tips, tricks, hacks, etc. for becoming a Garageband (11) hero? If so, this is the AskMe where you would post them and garner the favorites and best answers you so crave.

I'm trying to get some Garageband chops. Right now, I have an M-Audio Keystation 61 midi keyboard, a gittar running though a Line 6 Pod HD Desktop, and an M-Audio Firewire Solo for a mic (although I just realized that it's Firewire 400, and my Mac Pro only has Firewire 800, I think--can this still be connected?).

I've been able to make an 8-second loop I now use as a ringtone, but I really want to be recording actual songs.

Are there "best practices" when recording in Garageband? For instance, if I'm trying to lay down a drum track, my clumsy fingers are limited to recording the kick drum and snare at the same time--there's no way I can do the high hat on the same pass. When I go back, do I have to record the high hat as a whole other track? (More broadly: how do I add more of the same instrument to the same track? Can you merge tracks?) Also, is there a kind of key repeat control knob? So, on drums, is there a way to just hold down a key and have, say, a snare hit at a certain tempo (rather than repeatedly hitting the key myself)? Is there an automated arpeggiator on the Mac version like there is on the iPad version?

I'm a bit lost, and, to be frank, I don't know what I don't know--so in addition to any of your own tips, can you recommend any good books or on-line tutorials? I didn't find youtube too helpful.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
More broadly: how do I add more of the same instrument to the same track? Can you merge tracks?

I don't think you can, but what's wrong with just adding another track? If you look at pro stuff done in something like Logic these days, basically every single little thing is in its own track. Sometimes for pure convenience, I'll play four drum sounds or so in one track, unless I want to be able to manipulate the sound of each one individually, in which case I'll put them all in different tracks. Since you can loop each track, putting them in different tracks is really not that different from putting them in one track, unless you are drastically changing the presets for each track (in which case you have to go an change them for all the tracks that you want to have that same sound).

So, on drums, is there a way to just hold down a key and have, say, a snare hit at a certain tempo (rather than repeatedly hitting the key myself

I don't know if you can do this on Gband. I would think you might be able to work out a way, since this is possible on drum machines and the like. But you can certainly just record one measure of whatever snare sound you want and then loop it as many times as you want. That would save you from hitting the key more than once or twice or so.

Is there an automated arpeggiator on the Mac version like there is on the iPad version?

Certain software instruments have this built in.

Just keep playing around. Gband is, for free software, surprisingly robust, but it can take a while to learn all the little things.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2012


I believe Firewire 800 is backwards compatible with 400.

For drums: I am no Garageband expert, but I have done tons of DAW recording on a number of programs. I presume Garageband has its own MIDI drum instrument built in, which is what you are using? If so, then yes, when you are recording the drums as you say, then it is just recording data of the 'drum hits' (vs. actual audio, like you do when you record a live instrument into your machine like your guitar). So there should be an option to let you 'overdub' record over the previous drum take and add-in hi-hat or any other available parts of the kit to that MIDI drum track. Some programs by default will either overdub parts like that - or - erase what you previously recorded entirely and put only new data down. But like I said, I don't know Garageband, so I suppose it's possible that's not an option. Once you have a pattern you like, I'd say copy & paste the pattern as many times as necessary.

Likewise, it is theoretically possible that you could record your different MIDI drum parts on different MIDI tracks and merge them together later if you wanted or needed to. Depending on your personal method of recording and your virtual drum kit plugin, sometimes that could be handy because it makes it super easy to adjust the relative volumes of the different parts of the kit to each other later by just moving the volume controls for each track. Some drum kit plugins let you adjust the relative volumes of the parts of the kit inside the plugin window.

You could also conceivably buy/find pre-written audio loops online and import the audio into tracks. Then you don't have to play much, just chop & drag & edit your loops. Sure, conceivably less original, but also less time spent programming your drum tracks if you don't want to bother.

Finally, there have to be forums on the interwebs dedicated to Garageband (not that there aren't a bunch of multitrack recording MeFiters around here) where you might find specific answers more quickly / by searching. : )
posted by bitterkitten at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2012


I know nothing about Garageband, but you'll need a Firewire 400 to 800 adapter. The protocol is compatible, the connectors are not.
posted by hwyengr at 10:21 AM on January 13, 2012


Firewire 800-to-400 cables are always useful to have around as a Mac user.

Sequencing drums outside of Garageband -- assuming you don't like the loops included -- is probably the way to go. That way you don't have to "perform" them correctly.
posted by supercres at 10:36 AM on January 13, 2012


Thanks for the responses!

I don't think you can, but what's wrong with just adding another track?

I had the (perhaps mistaken) assumption that having a million tracks would be a Bad Thing and increase latency, cause stuttering on the track, and preclude my song from being a hit.

But you can certainly just record one measure of whatever snare sound you want and then loop it as many times as you want.

Agreed, though it strikes me as odd that there isn't some function that just lets you dial in "high hat, 1/16 note, 8 bars."

Certain software instruments have [an arpeggiator] built in.

Can you point me to them? I don't think I've figured this out yet, and I like the function on the iPad.

I think what I'll end up doing on drums is dissecting some of the built in loops to extract the parts I want and go from there.

Thanks for the tip on the Firewire cables--I'll pick one up from Monoprice.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2012


For instance, if I'm trying to lay down a drum track, my clumsy fingers are limited to recording the kick drum and snare at the same time--there's no way I can do the high hat on the same pass.

Why record these in real time? Why not just draw the notes into the section?

I use an earlier version of Garageband. On that version, if you hold down the cloverleaf key and click in the section editor you'll drop a new note into the section. Drag it up and down the staff to find the exact drum sound you want. You can assemble drum loops pretty quickly this way.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:03 PM on February 8, 2012


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