How to create your first song in GarageBand

Duncan Evans
18 January, 2013
View more articles fromthe author

This is the first in a series of seven tutorials that will introduce you to Apple’s music creation and sequencing app, GarageBand. Across these tutorials, we’ll walk you through every element of putting a song together, perfecting its production and then sharing your creation.

While GarageBand isn’t as fully featured as something like Logic, it’s designed to be easily accessible and quick to learn. This makes it perfect for beginners, who’ll soon be able to put together songs with loops and samples. It’s also tremendously useful for professional musicians, who want a way of quickly and easily jotting down a musical idea for later. The iPad’s portability and versatility lends itself very well to this.

We’ll be focusing our tutorials on the iPad edition of GarageBand, though much of the advice also applies to the iPhone and iPod touch version, which is even more portable, but doesn’t have so much screen space to work with.

We’ll start with the first steps of creating a song, naming it, and choosing the key, tempo and time signature, before recording a few tracks.

Vital Info

Device: iPad

Difficulty: Beginner

Time required: 15 mins

What you need:

GarageBand ($5.49)

iOS 5.1 or later


1) First Steps

When you first load the app, you’ll be taken to the My Songs screen, which will be empty. Get started by clicking the ‘+’ button in the top-left corner and selecting ‘New Song’. You can return to this screen at any time when you’re in another part of the app by selecting ‘My Songs’ in the top left.

2) Pick an instrument

You’ll then be asked to select an instrument. Swipe to the one you want, and tap to make it full screen. ‘Smart’ instruments have a cog around them and use preset grooves to make it easier to keep your creation in key. When it loads, have a little play so as to get a feel for the instrument.


3) Key change

Before you get too carried away, hit the wrench button in the top-right corner. This is the main song menu. Pick a tempo (slower for reggae and acoustic, faster for dance and rock) and the key that the song will be in. If you like unusual time signatures, you can change to 3/4 or 6/8 here.


4) Record it

It’s now time to lay down a track. Hit the Record button at the top, and after a one-bar countdown, you’ll be recording for eight bars. Try to keep in time with the metronome, but don’t worry if you’re out. If you make a mistake, hit stop and then back to return to the start. Then just record again.


5) Add Another Track

When you’re happy with a recording, hit the button with three lines at the top to go to the track view. Hit the ‘Instruments’ button to select another instrument and record some more. If you want to record more bars at once, first use the ‘+’ button in the top right to change a section’s length.


6) You’re done

Once you’ve built up a few tracks, hit Play at the top and your song should be complete. Right now it’ll just be a continuously looping string of audio, but we’ll show you how to set up different sections, edit individual tracks, tweak instruments and put together a piece of music in future tutorials.

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us