Category Archives: GarageBand

Use Garageband “Loops” as a super-funky metronome!

It’s important for music students to learn to play or sing to a steady beat.  Why not swap your standard metronome for one of Garageband’s fun loops with this super easy project?

1.  Create a new Garageband “Loops” project.

While you can add "metronome loops" into any of these kinds of projects, it's easier to start with a Loops one.

While you can add “metronome loops” into any of these kinds of projects, it’s easier to start with a Loops one.

2.  Select the loop you want to use.

If you create a new “Loops” project, the loop window will open automatically; otherwise, click the “loops” icon in the lower right hand corner of the screen to open the menu.

loops button

I recommend using percussion-only tracks for a metronome, so you don’t have to worry about the key of the piece, so begin to select your track by clicking on one of the percussion filters in the loops list.  (“Beats” is a great place to start.)  To hear what the loop sounds like before adding it to the Garageband timeline, simply click it’s name in the lower part of the window (highlighted in blue).

pick a loop

3.  Add your chosen loop to the Garageband timeline by dragging it there.  Then “repeat” the loop, by dragging the upper right hand corner of the loop to the right for as many repetitions as you want.

Hint:  your cursor should turn into a circular arrow when you hover it over the upper right hand corner of a loop on the timeline.  Click from there and drag to the right to repeat the loop over and over.

add and repeat loops

Since you are not creating an actual “song,” but a metronome, you do not have to be exact with your number of repetitions; just stretch it out for LONG WAYS.

4.  If you want to experiment with different metronome tracks, add different loops below your first and repeat the “looping” step (3) above.  

Hint:  If you have multiple loops on your timeline, you will have to make sure the loop you want played is “solo” — click the little headphones icon to hear only one track at a time.  Re-click the headphones icon to silence the track or turn off solo mode.

This allows you to have multiple "metronomes" in a single Garageband project.

This allows you to have multiple “metronomes” in a single Garageband project.

5.  Experiment with changes of tempo if desired.

Switch the blue “status” bar at the bottom of the screen to “Project”

switch to project

then, use the slider bar to change the tempo.

change tempo slider

6.  You can play your metronome straight from Garageband, or export the files to iTunes if you wish.

Happy Metronome-ing!

Software used:  GarageBand ’11, Version 6.05


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Use GarageBand to Teach Time Signatures

It’s not used very often by those who use GarageBand primarily for pop/rock/hiphop songwriting, but did you know that GarageBand lets you choose between at least 10 different time signatures when creating music?

Because of the instinctive way GarageBand translates music into a visual medium, it can be a great tool for exploring and teaching various time signatures.

Here are some ideas for using GarageBand to explore the concept of Time Signatures:

  1. Open up the loops screen, and explore various loops available for each time signature.  Then students can:

    • conduct along with various loops
    • guess the time signature from the sound.
    • improvise either with instruments, body percussion, or vocals to various time signatures


  • The green/midi loops generally represent time signatures more faithfully than the blue/”real” loops.
  • Some of the more obscure time signatures do not have pre-created loops.  You can create your own loops in any time signature by recording and selecting a short phrase to be looped and selecting “Add to Loop Library” from the Edit Menu.
  • Not all default loops are accurate representations of their time signature.  You may want to explore loops ahead of time, marking those you want to use as “Favorites.”

2.  Record students performing previously-learned or simple new songs in one or more time signatures.

You can use background loops as an accompaniment or just use the Metronome to keep in tempo.

3.  Include “measures” in your discussion by looking at the measure markings ruler at the top of the screen.

(Hint:  Make sure the viewing icon is set on “Project,” “Chord,” or “Measures” — if it is set to display “Time,” you will not be able to see the measure markings at the top of the timeline area.)  Notice how there is a larger line for the downbeat and smaller lines for the other beats.

4.  Add loops of various time signatures to the Loop Library.

Create a loop or ostinato for every time signature (or at least the ones you want to focus on in class) and add it to your Loop Library by selecting “Add to Loop Library” from the Edit Menu.

5.  Have students draw their own visual representation of Time Signatures.

Students can create their own Time Signature Cheat Sheet by drawing their own Time Signature Ruler (like that at the top of the song window) on a sheet of paper or poster board for one or more time signatures.  (Option:  these could be created using a computer draw program)

6.  Turn a marker or chalkboard into a real-life GarageBand window.

Divide the window into beats with a “beat ruler” and then use construction paper to create loops or phrases in various time signatures to create a visual and tactile representation of the concept.


Software used:  GarageBand ’09, Version 5.1

Amanda Louise Miller is pursuing an MM in Music Composition at Oklahoma City University.
She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and extensive experience working in online learning and faculty development.

Contact her at 

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Rhythm Raps in GarageBand

Raps are fun ways to work on musical concepts such as song form, rhythm notation, and lyric writing.  They are also a good way to begin working with GarageBand, because you are not dealing with the additional concept of melody or melodic instrumentation and notation.

Part One:  Write the Rap Lyrics

  • Generate a simple rap.  An easy way to do this is by compiling a list of words or phrases on a specific topic (for example:  favorite foods, emotions, summer activities, sports in the Olympics, what does “back to school” mean to you?, etc.).

    The start of an “Emotions” rap — the brainstormed list is divided into “happy” and “sad” emotions and rhythmic values are added.

  • Then make your list “rhythmic,” so that you can read it in rhythm.  You may need to rearrange words on the list to make it fit into a 4/4 rhythm.
    • Optional:  make the rap rhyme by ending each line with a rhyming word.
    • Optional:  write out the rhythm for the rap in music notation, either by hand or using notation software.

      The actual “script” for our rap.

  • If you want to use this rap to teach song structure, you can create segments for verses, choruses, bridges, etc.  A lot of contemporary rap music has a sung chorus – this could be something you have prepared ahead of time, an applicable folk song or nursery rhyme, or it could be something students create as well.

Here are some examples:

    • Practice and edit your rap acapella until you are satisfied with the results.    Here is an example of a very simple rap, based on the “Emotions” pictures above.

Part Two:  Create Your Audio Track

Now it is time to create a backing track for your rap using GarageBand.  Before you begin working in the software, though, you need to make some decisions about what your final project will sound like.  (GarageBand has SO many options for accompaniment and instrumentation; it will speed up your process immensely if you have a clear vision of what you want before you begin on the computer.)

  • Decide on an overall mood or theme for your rap before you begin.  Do you want your rap to be happy?  Sad?  Playful?  Angry?  You will be choosing loops and backing instrumentation that match this criteria.
  • Determine an approximate tempo for your rap.  By default, GarageBand sets tempos at 120, but you can change this easily.  (see image in the next section)
  • Determine what instrumentation you want to use with your rap – drums only?  Drums and bass?  Drums and Keyboard loop?  (Hint:  instructors can have pre-made these decisions or can let students make them.  Much of this decision will be determined by how much time is available for the project.  It is wise to familiarize yourself with the loop and instrumentation content within GarageBand ahead of time, particularly if you are going to be letting students decide on the fly what they want for accompaniments.)

Now, you can create your rap accompaniment track in GarageBand.

  1. Make sure the tempo of your track is the same tempo you decided on in the previous section.

    Switch playback window to “Project;” then click on the tempo to change it.

  2. Make sure the metronome is turned on.

    When “Metronome” is checked, the metronome will sound when recording only.

  3. Record a “starter” audio file of one or more students performing the rap in tempo with the metronome.  This may or may not be the audio track you use for your final product, but it will help keep the accompaniment creation process focused.
  4. Add desired accompaniment tracks one-by-one to compliment the recorded vocal track, beginning with the percussion/rhythm track.  Use the description words you came up with the previous section to guide your choice of accompaniment loops and instruments.  (Hints:  select “All Drums” as a search filter in the loops area.  “Club Dance Beats” are good choices for raps, but there are many percussion loops to choose from.)
    • If you have different “sections” in your rap, you may want to use different accompaniment loops for each section.
    • The “Electronic” filter includes many loops that could be added to your rap.
    • Accompaniments can also be recorded live using GarageBand’s recording capabilities, either via midi or “real audio” microphone tools.  (Hint:  you may want to use headphones if you are recording audio accompaniment snippets live, as metronome or vocal sound will bleed onto the accompaniment track when you record.)
    • You can create an intro or outro with extra loops before and after the vocals.
  1. Optional:  rerecord the vocal track after the accompaniment is created.
  2. Optional:  use the track editors to manipulate the sounds in your rap.  Editing the vocal tracks can be very effective.  Some of my favorite settings are “Live Performance” under the “Vocals” section (for a very clean, prominent, resonant sound), and “Telephone Lines” under the “Effects” section (for a fun, filtered sound).  GarageBand has advanced sound editing capabilities that can be utilized if you are comfortable with them.

Here is an example of a finished product – both what it looks like in GarageBand and what it sounds like:

Finally, you need to export your rap to iTunes so it can be shared and performed.

  • Hint:  If you want to export a “karaoke” track, click the “mute” button on the track(s) with the vocals before Sharing.

    Mute or unmute tracks by clicking the “sound” icon.

  • Select “Send Song to iTunes” from the Sharing menu and follow the onscreen prompts to export and share your audio file.
  • Optional:  use a website like to upload the audio file into a format that can be shared with a simple email link (or embed it in a blog like I did in this post!)

Software Used:  GarageBand ’09, Version 5.1

Cross-Subject Correlation:  ANYTHING!  Pick a subject-specific topic for your rap (such as a historical event, a mathematical concept, or a piece of literature) and create your rap about it.

Amanda Louise Miller is pursuing an MM in Music Composition at Oklahoma City University.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education and extensive experience working in online learning and faculty development.
Contact her at 

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Teaching Ostinatos with GarageBand

According to the Grove Dictionary, “ostinato” means “a persistent musical phrase or rhythm.”

Fun fact:  The word “ostinato” is linguistically related to the word “obstinate.” 

GarageBand – and a lot of popular music, for that matter – has another name for these “persistent phrases” – it calls them “loops.”  And these loops are the building blocks used by GarageBand – and popular music—to build everything from hip hop tracks to alternative music.

Here are some great examples of fun songs that use prominent ostinatos:

Animated gif files are great visual representations of ostinatos, since they repeat the same motion over and over.  Here are some fun gifs (click them to view the animation):

You can use GarageBand to create and manipulate and emphasize the concept of ostinatos in many ways:

Example of a “looped” file.  (Note the sausage-link-like divisions in the track — each “link” is one incarnation of the ostinato):

  • Get to know the loops provided by GarageBand.  Drag the loops into a playing track, use the looping tool (upper right hand corner of the loop–your mouse will change into a circular arrow) to drag the end of the loop to the right to create the loop/ostinato effect.  Students can then perform songs they already know or improvise over these ostinatos.  (Hint:  start with percussion loops if you want students to perform other songs over your ostinato.)
  • Create an ostinato out of existing music (that is not an ostinato).  Select an audio file (preferably mp3) that contains a portion you want to make into an ostinato.  Drag the file into a playing track.  Split the portion of the file you want to “ostinato-ize” apart from the rest of the track by highlighting the track, placing the cursor where you want to split, and pressing command-T.  Then delete the extra portion of the track.  You can fine tune the length of your segment by dragging the right and left sides.  (Hint:  “zoom in” on your track by using the “view slider”).  Then, loop your segment the same way you’d loop a GB loop to create your ostinato.
  • Record your own non-musical ostinato.  Record some sound effect or spoken word using Garageband recording tools.  Then loop that sound to create an ostinato.  (Hint:  play with the exact length of the piece you are looping by dragging the right and left sides)
  • Record a musical ostinato.  Create a short rhythm, melody, or phrase.  Record it using Garageband Recording tools, and loop it.
  • Save your ostinato as a GarageBand loop.  Click on your new loop to highlight it.  Then select “Add to Loop Library” from the Edit menu so your loop can be used over and over again.
  • Layer Ostinatos.  Use the multi-track feature to experiment with multiple ostinatos at once.   Some will work well together, and others will fight.  (Ex:  Bb experiment page:
  • Ostinatos Live.  Create an ostinato you can perform live.  These could be rhythm, instrumental, vocal, etc.   Try setting parameters on the ostinatos (ex:  all have to be in 4/4 rhythm or in the key of C) so that they can be layered together.

Created with:  GarageBand ’09, Version 5.1

Amanda Louise Miller is currently pursuing a Master’s in Music Composition at Oklahoma City University.  She has a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and extensive experience working in online teaching and faculty development.
Contact her at
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Welcome to Mac Music Magic

This blog will contain project ideas that incorporate music, creativity, and technology, sometimes with other disciplines as well.  They could be used by classroom teachers, private instructors, parents, tutors, kids — basically anyone who wants to give them a try!