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Shift key in your GarageBand track

Change the mood and add drama to compositions by switching key within projects

One of the more standard techniques in music, and certainly popular music, is the key change. This is commonly used to transpose a melody or chord sequence into a new tonal range, suggesting extra emotional depth. It adds more colour and interest to the music, generally requiring subtlety and skill for maximum impact. For those less versed in musical theory, GarageBand has several options for shifting keys without too much head scratching. Most effective when working with software (MIDI) tracks, switching your tracks collectively to a new key is as simple as changing tempo. However, over the following steps, we’ll also cover more dynamic methods for adding key-changing automations. These techniques will enable you to shift keys like the professionals!


1 Original Key Signature

When you are setting up a new project in GarageBand, you may have a chosen key in mind. As with tempo or time signature, this is changed via the Key Signature pop-up.


2 Major/Minor loops

The chosen key for your project mostly applies to Apple loops. In the Loop Browser these can be sorted by a favoured key or filtered via the Major/Minor Scale drop-down.


3 Drums are keyless

Drums and percussion are undefined by a key, as you may expect. Drum loops, audio and MIDI types, therefore are ‘keyless’ and will be unaffected by any Transposition.


4 Follow Tempo & Pitch

With a project populated with tracks, you can again switch Key Signature. Audio (blue) tracks with Follow Tempo & Pitch checked, will adhere to key/transpose changes.


5 Show Transposition Track

A Transposition Track is used to plot automated pitch and key shifts at defined intervals along your project duration. To edit it, pick Track>Show Transposition Track.


6 Add transposition points

In the Transposition Track, click the line at a chosen interval to add a point. Drag the point up or down to transpose accordingly, observing the help tag indicating value.


7 Edit transportation points

Zoom in on your project to fine-tune transposition points at precise timeline intervals. You can then reposition up, down, left and right or remove with the Delete key.


8 Transposing audio tracks

Recorded audio tracks often won’t follow project transpositions. Here you can force regions to adopt a key shift using the Transpose slider in the Audio editor panel.


9 Transpose MIDI notes

Manual transpositions can be applied to MIDI (green) audio by shifting selected notes in the editor. Highlighting and dragging up or down the scale applies the same principle.