How to Recreate Songs in Garageband

You just heard your favorite song on the radio. You think you would like to record yourself singing that song, however, you don’t want to buy the karaoke version. What to do? Instead of illegally downloading it off the internet, try making it in Garageband.

First step: Open Garageband. This is under Applications, or, if you want to be all fancy, command-space-garage-enter. This saves you a little time and looks way cooler. Choose “New Project” and click “Piano”. Save with the title of the song you want to record. Create it.

After creating the project, the first thing you have to figure out is the BPM, or beats per minute. Songs that sound fast normally have a higher BPM and songs that sound slower normally have, you guessed it, a lower BPM. Your BPM selector is under “Master Track, Browse” on the upper righthand side of your screen (if you don’t see it, click the little “i” symbol on the bottom right). Making sure Metronome is on (if it isn’t, hit command-U), start playing it by hitting the space bar. As you adjust your BPM, keep pausing and restarting the play.

Once you have a BPM that sounds right, look up online and find which key the song is in. Select that next to the BPM.

Delete all tracks by highlighting the bottom track and hit command-delete until they’re all gone. Open a new track by hitting the little plus in the bottom left corner. Select “software instrument”. Open “Musical Typing” in the “Window” drop down menu. Familiarize yourself with the typing (hit random keys and see what notes they correlate to). Make sure you’re at the beginning of your project by hitting the return/enter key. Press the record button at the bottom of the screen. Hit a note. It doesn’t matter which one. Stop the recording. Now comes the fun part.

To start with, extend the section by clicking the edge and drag it out to the right until you complete either 4 or 8 measures - although some songs need longer. Now, click the little scissors icon at the bottom. This is the Track Editor. You can open this and adjust your notes to what you need. You can drag them around to make them longer, shorter, or change the note. You can also copy and paste notes in and adjust those as well. Every main lick is different. If you have a source for notes/sheet music, consider yourself lucky. I did all mine by ear. This section could take anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour. I can’t really help you much more with this.

Once the lick is done, add the chords in. You can add/adjust notes the same way you did for the lick. I would suggest opening a new track and recording the chord on the Musical Typing, then adjusting it for timing and length of the chord. Mostly songs have repeating chord progressions, so you can simply copy and paste them over and over. Some have alternating progressions. If yourself don’t know how the progression goes, would be a good place to look.

Drums are an inexact science. The drums in the software instruments follow no good pattern. One option is a pre-recorded loop. Open the loop section (to the left of the “i”), select “All Drums”, and see if any catch you ear. If so, great. Loop it through. If not, you’ll have to build using software instruments. Good luck - I hate this step.

One thing you can do with your software instruments is add effects. You can do this by selecting “Edit” in the Software Instrument menu. There’ll be at least one already listed, which you can either turn on or turn off. I suggest using Compressor in all your instruments. Other than that, have fun. You can adjust different things in all the effects, making things louder, softer, stronger, weaker, etc.

Once you’re satisfied with your background, it’s time for vocals. You’ll use a “Real Instrument”, found under that same “Add Track” menu. If you have one, use a different microphone instead of your computer’s mic. It’ll sound way better. Record your singing. You can layer your voice, duel-tone, anything. You can use some of the effects in the same way as your software instrument.

Once you have a good, solid song, go ahead and use the “Share” option in the menu at the top of your screen. I always send mine to iTunes, but you can have your choice of where to send it. Use “High Quality”. Your song should start playing in iTunes after it uploads.

One thing to think about: You won’t be able to share this publicly. Copyright laws protect all popular songs, so the only way people will be able to hear this is if you send it privately.

Congratulations! You have finished your song. Now you can listen to yourself sing over and over. Have fun with it. Not everyone has done this… yet.

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