Getting Started with GarageBand

January 12, 2021 | Music Creation & Production

By Lydia Yoder

If you've used a Mac computer, iPhone, or iPad in the past 15 years, you've probably heard of GarageBand. It's Apple's audio design software that lets you record your tunes and utilize a huge library of pre-recorded sounds to produce music. Music production involves designing things like the form, instrumentation, and sound of a piece. Especially now, when most musical performances have been forced entirely virtual, learning how to produce music digitally is perhaps more practical than it's ever been!

With GarageBand's user-friendly interface, it's not too hard to throw some sounds on a track and hit play, but to make engaging quality compositions takes a bit more skill and knowledge. Think of GarageBand as a piano. Anyone can sit down at a piano and play a few notes, but it takes practice and an understanding of music composition and technique to produce an excellent piece.

Despite being designed with a beginner musician in mind, GarageBand is an incredibly powerful tool. Believe it or not, some of the biggest hits by Rihanna, Radiohead, and Kendrick Lamar have been produced to some degree in GarageBand. GarageBand is a door to seemingly endless possibilities, and it can be a bit overwhelming for students new to the software. So, where do you even begin?

Recording engineer, producer, and Concord Conservatory of Music instructor Daniel Fox says that the best way to get started with GarageBand is to dive right in and start playing around. However, he has found that, like most activities, music production can have some traps for beginners to fall into when they start. Fox says he tends to see two different ways in which new students can work themselves into a corner. Fox says, "Some students come in with solid technical skills—they're comfortable with the software and are hyper-focused on the technical aspects of GarageBand—but then they aren't sure where to go musically." The opposite can also happen, where accomplished performers who have a firm grasp of music and composition are overwhelmed with making the computer do what they want. Successful music production requires striking a balance between digital skills and musical innovation.

Another way Fox recommends beginners get a feel for GarageBand is by trying to replicate existing songs. Mimicry is the best form of flattery, right? By applying a critical ear to your favorite tunes, you practice identifying the more subtle components of a piece you might have never noticed before. And all the while, you get to explore the ins and outs of the GarageBand software with a clear goal in mind.

Learning to use GarageBand is well within your grasp, even if it's merely through some good old-fashioned trial and error. Of course, the best way to really improve is with a professional's guidance. Go check out Concord Conservatory of Music’s online group class, Track Builders! Taught by Daniel Fox, this completely virtual class is a terrific way for people of all skill levels to learn the tricks of the trade and study form, instrumentation, production of different genres, and more!