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iLife Tutorial: Write a song in GarageBand

GarageBand’s Apple Loop library contains more than a thousand potential seeds to kick-start your next project, here's how to make the most of them.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing a song.
Some people start off with a melody or lyric idea, others come up with a chord progression on piano or guitar, while many use a drum beat for their initial inspiration. Each and every time though, however you start, the essential building blocks of chords, melody and rhythm remain constant, so just that little extra push to get started is often all that’s required.

GarageBand ships with a library of over 1,000 Apple Loops that can be great catalysts to get those creative juices flowing. We’re going to examine how to use these to help your musical ideas take shape, with the aim of having a finished song at the end of the process. Obviously, everybody writes songs in their own way, so the order of the steps below is subject to some individual interpretation!

Step 1: Create new project
From the intro screen, select a new Songwriting project by clicking the icon and then Choose. Set a save location, tempo & key and click Create.

Step 2: Prepare project
The project contains some preloaded tracks and a drum loop to start you off. You can delete this by clicking it and choosing Delete from the Edit menu.

Step 3: Browse loops
Click the eye icon in the lower-right corner to reveal the Loop browser. Click the filter buttons to narrow your search to the type of loops you want.

Step 4: Drag and drop
Click on the name of a loop to listen to it. When you find one you like, drag it into the arrange window, then drag the upper-right corner out to the required length.

Step 5: Add bass and keyboards
Click the bass or piano track and record a part with a MIDI keyboard. Click the + button to add new tracks and keep adding until you’ve built a complete section.

Step 6: Record melody
If you have a melody idea, select the voice track and click the Record button. Record your melody over your tracks, then hit the space bar to stop.

Step 7: Show Arrangement Track
Choose Show Arrangement Track from the Track menu. Click on the + button to create a new arrange region. If it’s too long, drag the right-hand edge back.

Step 8: Rename and copy
Double-click where it says Untitled and name your section Verse or Chorus. Then click-hold the name, hold down the Alt key and drag to the right to make a copy.

Step 9: Change parts
You can replace regions in your copied section by selecting them and choosing a new take or hitting the Backspace key and recording new parts in as before.

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