Category Archives: Basic Tech Skills

iTunes 11 — The Return of the Sidebar!

Or, how to get iTunes looking back to “normal” after the latest upgrade.

By now, most Mac users have already been upgraded to the newest version of iTunes (11). And a lot of them are irritated, because the look and feel of the new version is very different from the old version.


“Updates, updates, updates!”
(hint: click the image to see gif animation)

But never fear!  There are ways to tweak iTunes 11 to make it look more like the “old version,” and the easiest way to start is to bring back the “Side Bar.”

1.  Switch to the “Songs” view.

switch to song view

2.  Find the “View” drop down menu and select “Show Sidebar.”

(On a Mac, this is in the top menu bar.  On a PC, you may need to make the menu bar visible first.)

show sidebar

3.  Enjoy the return of your playlists and sidebar.

sidebar is back

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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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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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