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iLife ’11 Tutorial: Use Flex Time to work with vocals

The new Flex Time technology in GarageBand ’11 makes any audio part ‘elastic’, making it easier than ever to correct and manipulate your recordings.

The holy grail of audio production has for many years been the ability to work with digital audio as flexibly as if it were MIDI data. To be able to pick up and move notes and phrases around without having to duplicate or cut audio clips has been the dream of many of those working with digital audio. Happily, this has recently become possible and was made a part of Apple’s flagship Logic music software. As ever, innovations from Logic trickle down into GarageBand and so it is that in the latest version of the latter – part of Apple’s new iLife ’11 suite – you can manipulate audio with an incredible amount of freedom, without having to learn how to use complex tools. You can move a guitar chord back into time, or change the feel of a vocal part by moving a word without changing the overall duration of the clip. Giving you this kind of power, the Flex Time feature in GarageBand ’11 will help you make even better tracks.

1: Start a project
Load a project or start a new one. To use Flex Time you will need some content, so either record some vocals or import some from your hard drive.

2: Open the Edit view
Double-click on your vocals clip to open it in the Edit view. Click somewhere in it and you’re prompted to activate Follow Tempo & Pitch.

3: Turn off Snap
The clip is analysed for timing information, then it’ll change colour slightly. Go to the Control menu and turn Snap off so that you can make precise edits.

4: Pick up a transient
Select the part of the clip you want to move. Click at its start point and drag left or right. It’ll sound shorter or longer, but the rest of the clip is intact.

5: Edit a specific section
To move a small section without affecting adjacent ones, click at the start of the edit area and at the end. Then move the audio between the markers.

6: Reactivate Snap
If you want to snap the clip into a certain space (eg when your vocal part has been recorded elsewhere but needs to fit a new project), first reactivate Snap.

7: Snap the clip
Click the end of the clip to activate the Flex Tool. Drag the clip left or right – to make it longer or shorter – and wait until it snaps into position.

8: Make adjustments
If necessary, repeat the tricks from above to move any parts of the waveform around to correct any problems. You may need to deactivate Snap again.

9: Make the cut
You can cut off any parts of the clip no longer in use. Position the playhead then Edit>Split. You can select the unwanted part of the clip and delete it.

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