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How to record the ultimate action movie score in GarageBand

Follow this simple nine-step guide to creating an amazing, tension building action movie score in GarageBand. You'll be the next John Williams in no time at all.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Sidebar
GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Main
Behind every great action movie is a great score – the continuous music that weaves itself in and out of the film to build tension, create drama and help immerse the audience in the action.
If you’re thinking about filming your own action movie you’ll want to record a score to go with it. There’s a few common themes, or conventions, that underpin every action movie score such as crescendos (where the music gets louder), orchestral hits, long string parts and high-tempo parts in fast-paced scenes. Using GarageBand’s built-in instruments, loops and effects, emulating all these things is easy and we’ll show you how to create an action movie score to rival those in Hollywood blockbusters.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Steo-By-Step

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 1

Step 1: Up the tempo

Create a new project and when you’re presented with the ‘New Project from Template’ dialogue box, move the tempo slide up to about 150bpm.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 2

Step 2: Stringing along

To start with a dramatic intro, create a new software instrument and select Hollywood Strings or Orchestral Strings from the Strings category for your first track.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 3

Step 3: Add some drones

Record a low-end string drone. The easiest way to do this is with musical typing (which uses your Mac’s keyboard as the input) from the Window menu.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 4

Step 4: Fade it in

Click the arrow button by the track volume to bring up its automation functions and create a slow fade-in for your strings. This will create a tense opening.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 5

Step 5: Add more audio

Open up the loops browser and select Cinematic to find some appropriate loops. The ‘Super Stager’ loop starts with a dramatic hit which works well.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 6

Step 6: Layer your loops

As the tension builds in an action film, more and more elements are heard within its score. Reflect this in your soundtrack by layering similar loops for dramatic effect.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 7

Step 7: Create a cross-fade

Although layering is a good idea, sometimes loops can clash. You can solve this issue by cross-fading loops using automation so they’re clearer.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 8

Step 8: Add some ‘atmos’

‘Atmos’ refers to everyday sounds you might hear in a scene. Try adding a helicopter sample and use automation to pan it from left to right.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Step 9

Step 9: Repeat and re-use

Add as many different ‘atmos’ samples and loops in as you like, even repeat some to build up your audible story; it all adds to the dramatic effect of your score.

Click on the image below to zoom in and view the annotations.

GarageBand Tutorial - Movie Score - Annotated