How to Make a Rock Song in GarageBand

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How to Make a Rock Song in GarageBand

In this video, I’m going to show you how to create a rock and roll song with GarageBand. This is a beginner’s video to really just show GarageBand and the functionality to those who have not seen it before. So I’m not going to create a whole song. or any type of advanced songwriting or features.

Let’s go ahead and take a look now.

If we click empty project in the main GarageBand window and click choose you will see when GarageBand pops up that it’s going to ask me for the type of audio that I want to use. I can use a drummer track, I can use a guitar a microphone, or even one of GarageBand’s built-in software instruments. To lay down this rock and roll song, let’s just go ahead and select drummer, and click create.

Once that opens, you can see a drummer track has been added, and at the bottom we see the drummer editor, and to the left the library, and the drum kit that we’re using. If you do not see these, hit one of the buttons at the top, the first one is library, and the last one is for the editor. Let’s go ahead, and maximize GarageBand so we can use the full screen. We can hear how this sounds. Alright, so that sounds good. Now the first thing we want to do is check our tempo, our key signature, and our time signature. The tempo is fine, we’ll stick with 120 beats per minute. We do want to change this key signature to E Major. That is the key that we are going to be playing in.

We’re going to use a 4/4 time signature, which is pretty basic with rock and roll songs. I also want to loop just a section of this drum track and lay our parts over that, so I’m going to click the cycle button here. You will see a yellow bar pop up. Now I can stretch or squash this to however long I want it to be. But four bars is good. So we’re just going to hit play and it’ll play those four bars over and over again. As you can see when it gets to the end, it’s going to cycle back to the beginning, and I can lay my parts over that. Now if I want to change the drum style, I can go to the drummer editor at the bottom. I can change it to rock, alternative, songwriter, R&B, electronic, and hip hop. We’re going to stick with rock. We are going to keep using Logan and we’ll just use the drums that they have. Let’s go ahead and play this and mess around with some of the settings.

You can see the X Y Pad here and based on where I move this you can hear changes within the drums. I can make it more complex. I can make it simple and loud. I can make it soft and complex. Let’s go ahead and move it to about the middle. Maybe a little more complex. I can even change what types of drums he is playing on.

I can select the cymbals, the toms, but we’ll stick with the hi hat for now. I can also change the styles that they’re playing, the fills and a swing beat if I’d like to add that. but I think this is good. So we’ll go ahead and stop that. Now we want to add in a bass part. To do that we need a new track, so we’re going to click the new track button. This time we’re going to select software instrument, and click create.

When it first comes up we’re going to have a classic electric piano, but we want this to be a bass. First we need to hear how it sounds. So go to the top menu bar, select window, show musical typing. This is going to bring up a keyboard that I can use based on the keys of my computer. So if I hit notes on the computer, you can hear it actually play back on the keys. And of course These are the letters of the keyboard on the computer not the actual notes of a real keyboard.

So if I hit the A button on my computer it’s going to play a C note. Let’s go ahead and get a bass sound. So we’ll go to the library, we’ll click bass, and select liverpool bass. Now when I play you can hear a bass sound. Alright that sounds good. We want to record with this bass sound. We are going to use some basic chords that you hear in most common rock and roll songs. That’s going to be an E, a B, a C#, and then an A. We’re going to record but first we want to count in a couple of beats so that we actually know when to start.

Right now the count in timer is selected and it’s going to give us one bar. Let’s go ahead and change it to two bars by going to the menu bar, clicking record, count in, and two bars. This will give us two full bars of clicks before we start playing so that we can just kind of get our hands set up on this keyboard. Alright, let’s stop that, rewind and we’ll listen to it. Alright that sounds really good. Now when we are using a software instrument we are creating MIDI notes essentially and that’s what these bars are. We can see that it’s a MIDI region because it’s green. If we look down at the bottom our editor has changed to the piano roll editor. Where we can actually edit these notes.

So I can select and grab them, I can move them up and down for different notes, and I can move them left and right based on their timing. Move it back down to where it was. Let’s say we were off a little bit on one of these notes. We’re just going to shift that to where it’s not landing up on the beat.

As you can see by this line right here, it’s coming in a little bit before. GarageBand has an awesome feature where we can actually quantize the notes which means we are going to line them up to the beat automatically. So go over to time quanitze and we are going to select eighth note. It’s going to push all the notes to it’s closest eighth note. When I do that you can see that these notes line up on the beat. Every note in here has adjusted to it’s closest eighth note counterpart. So let’s hear how that sounds now.

Alright! That sounds really good. So now that we have the bass part, we need to have a guitar part. So we’re going to add another track. Now we could plug in a guitar, or an amp at this time but I do not have any instruments hooked up because I just want to show you the basics of this software. So we will go ahead and click software instrument again and hit create. And this time, we are going to go over to guitar and choose a hard rock sound. We can hear how that sounds. Now, if we want to change the sound later we can very easily within GarageBand. Let’s go ahead and record so that we can see how it sounds and we’re just going to use the same notes. This time we will just add the fifth of every chord so that we can have a little more of a power chord sound. Let’s go ahead and record. Alright, we’re gonna back up. And we’ll listen to that. Ok. So we want to quantize these again because as you can see I came in a little early based on the beat so we’ll select time quantize and we’ll select eighth note.

We have moved everything to the closest eighth note. Let’s listen one more time. Now these notes in the piano roll editor are able to be edited, made longer, shorter, moved around, cut up however you want. If say these are a little short I can select them click this option and then just move them out a little bit so that it makes those notes longer. As you can see these two aren’t lining up but sometimes I like to keep them a little off so it sounds a little more natural. You don’t want it to sound too mechanical by always being right on the beat. Now we have our guitar sound. Let’s close the musical typing. We are going to mess around with the actual audio quality of that guitar instrument.

We’re going to go to the top and then we’re going to close the library. As you can see at the bottom we have controls for this actual guitar sound. Let’s play and listen and we will adjust these sounds as we go to try to get the quality we are looking for. I’m going to turn up the drive here and you can hear it change. Let’s add a little reverb. We’ll stop that. And that’s a really cool sound for what we’re looking for. Now say I want to adjust it a little more I’m going to click on the show inspector button in the bottom left and you can see some plug-ins being used on this guitar. If I drop that menu down you can see that we have a pedalboard, and an amp designer.

If I click amp designer you can see the amp being used for this guitar sound and even the mic and mic placement of that guitar cabinet. We can change all of these settings to get the exact sound and tone we’re looking for and GarageBand has a lot of presets that you can look thru. So this is a great way to get different kinds of sounds and even experiment if you don’t have these amps with maybe some sounds you want to play live. Let’s go ahead and close this and we’re going to click on the pedalboard. Let’s add a pedal to this guitar track. Now we don’t want the flanger so I’m just going to click on that and hit delete. You can see that the smart controls changed based on what kind of pedals and amps I’m using. We’ll go back up to the pedal designer and we’ll just bring in a distortion.

We’ll play and hear how that sounds. Alright, very cool. I like that. So we’ll stop it. Now we’ve got the sound we are looking for. And from here you could basically add another track, and I could record a vocal track with the microphone at this time if I wanted to. Let’s take a look at some other things that you can do with GarageBand. There’s also an EQ setting so I can go ahead and adjust the EQ of this track if I want to. I can also go up to the editors and when I go up, you can see that we have the piano roll editor and we also have the score editor. The score editor is going to let you see music in actual written form, so let’s click on it. Now we played these notes with our keys but it actually wrote out the notes musically so we could print this out if we wanted to share this with others. You can see that we have the clef the key signature, the time signature, and the notes we played.

If you click on notes you can actually insert notes so you could even write music based on the score and it would show in the MIDI regions and play back with the software instrument and effects that you’re using. Let’s play it so that you can look at it real quick. If I click on the bass you can see the bass part. There you have it! Let’s look at a couple other things.

Of course we got our playback controls at the top that we’ve been using. Our LCD screen showing the beats, and divisions, and ticks and key signatures and time signatures. You see the cycle button that we’re using. The tuner. We have a count in and a click track if we want to use that. This is our master volume. We also have a notepad if we want to write down some lyrics or notes for the song.

Let’s look at the last one which is the media browser. This is if I have my own audio files that I want to drag in, whether they be loops or audio that I’ve recorded in the past. The middle one is the Apple Loops browser. These are a bunch of repeatable loops that Apple provides for you to use within your projects. They are based on scale, on type of sound, genre, or even the instrument. Let’s click on tambourine. If we click one time we can listen to this first one. Alright so we like that. Let’s go ahead and click and drag that into the tracks area. Now you can see that it is highlighted in blue showing it’s audio waveform. Whenever we look at the editor at the bottom of this track, it’s the audio editor, not the piano roll editor. Now of course this isn’t long enough to fill the four bars so we need to copy this over.

We’ll just hold the ALT key and click and drag that over and add another section of tambourine. Let’s hear how that sounds. Alright, and there you have it! The very basics of a rock and roll song within GarageBand. Here I could keep adding instruments, I could play live instruments through the computer. I can cut and paste, so if this was say the verse I could easily copy and paste all this into another verse later on after I’ve written the chorus. You can just keep adding from here. So GarageBand is a very awesome, versatile piece of software that you can use to quickly get in here and make some awesome cool arrangements. Now whenever I’m done I can go to the top click share, and I can share this with iTunes, SoundCloud, or even export this song into an audio file for later use.

So I hope you found this very valuable. If you have any questions feel free to contact me and I look forward to seeing you more in other videos. Thanks!.

As found on Youtube