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How to create vocal harmonies in GarageBand

Sweeten up vocal lines by creating your own virtual harmony tracks

Who doesn’t love a big ol’ stack of backing vocal harmonies to beef up a chorus? Yet if you’re not the world’s greatest singer, or you have a vocal track in your project that you want to fill out with extra vocal harmonies, how do you go about making them if the singer’s no longer available? GarageBand lacks the Flex Pitch feature of Logic Pro, so creating harmonies out of single-line lead vocal tracks isn’t as straightforward as it might be.

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There is, however, a method that, with a bit of trial and error to get the intervals right, can produce convincing results without having to resort to expensive third-party plug-ins such as AutoTune or Melodyne. Follow our guide and you’ll soon be up to your ears in sweet harmony.

Create virtual harmonies in GarageBand


1 Duplicate track

Here’s a GarageBand project featuring a lead vocal that we want to create harmonies from. Select ‘New Track With Duplicate Settings’ from the Track menu to duplicate the track.

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2 Copy that

The track is duplicated without the audio region it contains. We want to copy this as well, so hold down the Option/Alt key and drag the region down to the new track to copy it.

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3 Open editor

Select the copied region and press the Scissors key in the top-left corner of the toolbar to open up the Editors pane. It’s an important tab to use, so have a quick look around.

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4 Transpose region

Click the Region tab on the left-hand side, then use the Transpose slider to set the number of semitones you want the interval for the first harmony to be.

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5 Harmonise vocals

Play the track with both the original and copied vocals running together, and adjust the Transpose interval until you hit a harmony that works for most of the region.

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6 Split region

Isolate any words or phrases that don’t work at the current setting by placing the playhead either side and using the Split Regions at Playhead (Cmd+T) command to split the region.

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7 Tweak harmony

Adjust the Transpose setting for the isolated portion of the region until it hits a note that works with the melody. Don’t be afraid to experiment to get it right.

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8 And again

For three-part harmony, make a second copy of the original region and repeat the previous steps, using different Transpose settings to fashion the second harmony part.

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9 Mix it in

Use the track volume sliders to balance the volumes, so the first harmony part is slightly lower in the mix than the original lead, and the second harmony lower still below that.

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In detail: Harmonising with plug-ins

Click on the image to view full-size.