Building a Soundtrack in GarageBand 4
– Editing an Audio File

This is the fourth in a series of tutorials on Building a Soundtrack in GarageBand.


The tools for editing audio in GarageBand are generally effective, but they lack the ability to fine-tune region placement and length the way that beefier applications like Logic Pro can (essentially with nudge features). Regardless, with a little extra work, you should be able to get your audio files edited and placed just the way you like.

Edit the Length

You can change the length of a file by:

  • dragging the lower left or right corner of a region, and by
  • cutting the file using Edit/Split, or command-T

If you split the file, de-select the file you just cut, then click/delete the portion you don't want. You can always drag one or both ends of a file back out again to regain the truncated audio. Audio editing in GarageBand is non-destructive.

Fine Tuning

To fine-tune an edit or a region placement, first open the Audio Region Editor by double clicking on the audio file or by selecting an audio track and then clicking the scissor icon in the lower left corner.

If Snap to Grid is active, de-activate it by selecting Control/Snap to Grid or using quick key combination command-G. Even when Snap to Grid is off, regions will continue to snap to markers and beginnings and ends of other regions.

To gain finer control, zoom in tighter on the region in the main track.

To get the beginning or end of the file to show in the editor, drag the scroll bar or place the timeline near the beginning or end of the clip on the music track and double click the file. The audio region in the editor will adjust its position in relation to the timeline.

Blue vs. Green

All clips can be dragged onto pre-existing tracks. Blue audio clips need to go on blue audio tracks but green MIDI clips can go onto either green software instrument tracks or onto blue audio tracks. If you drag them onto software instrument tracks, GarageBand will load the software instrument required to play the MIDI data. If you load them onto a blue audio track, GarageBand will turn the MIDI data into audio. Then it will respond just like any other audio.

Fine-tune an edit by dragging the lower left or right corners of the file in the editor.Fine-tune the entire region placement by clicking near the top of the region (under the timeline) and dragging.

Looping

One of the more important editing features in GarageBand is the ability to loop a file by dragging the upper right hand corner of the region. I'll demonstrate using this latin dance guitar groove. If I switch the LCD to Measures Mode and re-activate Snap to Grid, it will be much easier to edit this 4 bar loop. Since the loop will always play from the beginning of the visible portion of the file, changing the section that loops just requires truncating the portion you don't need.

Extras

There are a couple of useful features hiding on the audio regions themselves:

  • If the audio file is part of a collection of sounds (in this case: Latin Danza Guitar), an up/dn arrow will appear next to the title on the main track region. Click on it and a dropdown menu will appear containing other files within that collection. If you'd like to audition alternate collection options, click on one of them and it'll replace the file that is currently on the track.
  • Now look at the file in the Audio Regions Editor. Notice that after the title in the upper left corner of the file in the editor, you'll find an arrow within a box. Clicking on it causes the file to loop so that you can easily audition your latest edit.

Incidentally, the Pitch feature on the left only applies to music regions. It doesn't function with non-musical files. The Enhance Tuning and Enhance Timing functions work with all audio files - including sfx. The Enhance feature forces the file to the nearest tonal half-step and to the nearest timing division as defined by the user in the Timing dropdown menu.

 

Previous tutorials in this series include:

  1. Setting Up Your Interface,
  2. Adding SFX, and
  3. Adding Music

These covered how to access the various GarageBand windows and browsers, how to search for audio and how to place it on a track.

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