Building a Soundtrack in GarageBand 2
– Adding Sound FX

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

Lesson 2 - Adding Sound FX:

Take Notes

Before you begin placing sfx or music, you might want to walk through the video you've just imported and make notes about what audio you'd like to insert and where. You can place markers wherever you like at any time:

  • by clicking Edit/Add Marker in the menu, or
  • by typing "p"

Now open the Movie Markers window where you can enter a description, exact time placement and other useful information.

Select Sound FX

We're ready to begin selecting our sfx. This can be accomplished in several ways:

  • by dragging audio in from the Loop Browser,
  • by dragging audio in from the Media Browser, and
  • by dragging audio in from the Finder.

Search Options

In each case, a variety of search options makes the process easier. In the Loop Browser, you can search in:

  • column view (by genre, instrument, mood and favorites),
  • button view (with the same info laid out in button form), or
  • podcast sounds view (which gives you access to Jingles, Stingers, SFX and Favorites folders). In this window, you can access hundreds of high quality, royalty-free sfx and fully produced music tracks.

Also, be sure to include or exclude any audio collections in your search by opening the Loops collections drop down menu also located at the top of the browser.

Finally, in each browser view, you'll also find a field where you can search by typing in part or all of a file name.
In the Media Browser you access media through:

  • the Audio window, which displays your entire iTunes library as well as other GarageBand projects if you have saved them with an "iLife preview",
  • the Photos window, which displays your iPhoto library and can be used in a podcast track, and
  • the Movies window, which accesses iMovies and other data saved in the Movies folder.
  • You can drag all media in from the Finder as well, as long as it is a media type recognized by GarageBand.

Place Sound FX

Let's start by dragging in some ambient sfx. I've already gone through my sfx library and added to favorites the audio clips that I thought might work for one of my projects. Adding to favorites is accomplished by clicking the Favorites checkbox at the end of each audio file in the browser. This allows me to open my Favorites folder and easily locate my preferred sounds rather than having to find each one again out of a list of hundreds - or even thousands.

For an audio clip to appear on a track, you must either:

  • drag it into the empty space at the bottom of the Tracks window (GarageBand will then create the appropriate kind of track for you and even label it in the header. You can always change the header title), or
  • drag it onto a pre-existing audio track (NOT a green Software Instrument track), or
  • create a new audio track (Menu/Track/New Track…, Menu/Track/New Basic Track).

Ambient Sound

Ambient sound creates a layer of information that is somewhat subliminal, but provides confirmation of your general surroundings. It also helps to cover any small inconsistencies in the voiceover if edits in the narration leave pockets of dead silence. There is always background noise in real life. And it is always specific to the location, so be careful to provide the most accurate background noise available. If you participate in a location camera shoot, be sure to record several minutes of location sound without voiceover, in case you need to fill those dead spots later. Fortunately, GarageBand comes with a fairly wide selection of basic royalty-free sfx. Other sfx libraries can also be accessed from within the GarageBand interface, but setting that up is outside the scope of this tutorial.

Foreground Sound

Foreground sounds give an additional layer of realism and can be very effective when placed accurately and mixed at an appropriate level. Most films with a budget create their sounds in post production because it is so difficult to get truly clean sound on location. GarageBand supplies you with some helpful editing tools to assist you in tailoring your sounds. We'll cover that in the Editing tutorial.


Lesson one covered, "Setting Up Your Interface". If you're new to GarageBand, you may want to view that tutorial first.

First, let's move to the next session: Adding Music.