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Learn how to compose a song in Garageband’s Notation View

GarageBand’s Notation View can be used to compose from scratch

At first glance, the Notation View mode of GarageBand’s MIDI Track Editor might seem to be merely an alternative to the piano-roll editor for musically minded types who know their quavers from their semibreves. Yet while this is undoubtedly its primary function, it has a little-known trick up its sleeve. In addition to editing existing parts, if you have a little musical theory under your belt, it’s possible to create parts from scratch using only Notation View. Not only is this useful if you don’t have a MIDI keyboard and want to sketch out a few quick parts in musical longhand, it’s also a handy technique if you want to enter a tune directly from a piece of sheet music. So if using Notation View usually makes you a little crotchety, you can ‘breve’ a sigh of relief as we demonstrate how to do it with minimum effort.

1: Create new track

From GarageBand’s Track menu, select New Track, then click the green Software Instrument option on the left. Click the Create button to make a new track.

2: Select instrument

From the instrument list in the Track Info pane, select the right sound for your part. You can choose a drum kit, or any pitched instrument such as a piano.

3: Create blank region

You need to start with a blank MIDI region. Create by holding down Cmd and clicking the Arrange window at the point where you want the region to go.

4: Drag it out

The new region will default to a length of just one bar. If you need it to be longer, position the cursor over the right-hand edge and drag it out to the correct length.

5: Open Track Editor

Double-click your new region or click the scissors button in the lower left corner to open the Track Edit window, then hit the Score tab to enter Notation View.

6: Snap to Grid

From the Control menu, select the Snap to Grid option to make sure that any new notes are placed in line with the quantise grid.

7: Choose clef

There are three clef display options. These are selected by holding down the mouse over the current symbol and choosing either treble, bass or piano-style display.

8: Choose note length

Hold the mouse button over the Insert menu and a grid of different note length symbols will appear. Select the correct one to choose the length of your first note.

9: Insert first note

Hold down the Cmd key and click on the staff at the position you want the first note to appear. A grey ghost note illustrates where the note will be placed.

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