Learn GarageBand basics – tutorial

The following video provides an introduction to GarageBand, covering the features we will be using in this course. The video runs for 26 minutes and is Deaf-friendly, with no audio other than the sound created when playing a song in GarageBand.

Did you know that most instructional videos are not Deaf friendly, even when there are subtitles? That is because the teacher explains the actions while demonstrating. For Deaf people it is hard to read the subtitles while simultaneously absorbing the action. In this tutorial, all the instructions are given first, via text, then you can watch the demonstration without needing to read subtitles at the same time.

In case you would like to refer back to this tutorial to remind yourself how to use specific features, I’ve written timecodes below showing where various topics are covered.

Unfortunately for some reason the top of the screen ended up chopped off and I’m not sure why! It means you can’t see the menu bar. But I’ll always tell you in the instructions which menu I am clicking.

I suggest you run the tutorial and pause it regularly to try out the features yourself in GarageBand. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the features and what they are for. We will be covering them in the course. The purpose of this tutorial is to show you around GarageBand and get you started. Then you can come back here to refresh your memory about specific features as you need.

Video with Deaf-friendly tutorial about how to use GarageBand.

In case you would like to come back to this tutorial to refresh your memory about how to use specific features, I have included time codes below showing where they are presented in the video.

  • 0:00 Create first project and software instrument tracks.
  • 1:17 Set time signature, add region.
  • 2:10 Manually enter notes, copy and paste, drag and drop them.
  • 5:14 Set key in GarageBand and use the notepad.
  • 6:26 Play the song, move notes up and down, use zoom slider.
  • 9:09 Look at score and print it.
  • 11:51 Add a bass track, move a region, turn off metronome.
  • 14:12 Adjust track volumes, split a region into two, drag to repeat regions.
  • 17:42 Use the arrangement track.
  • 18:59 Copy, paste and join regions. Change region name.
  • 21:08 Drag to resize edit and track panes.
  • 21:24 Use the Musical Typing keyboard and record yourself playing. Edit the results.
  • 23:51 Add a track from an audio file, such as vocals.
  • 24:33 Export song, save project, close it and reopen it.
  • 26:30 Open a new project and add a MIDI file.

A few more features that were not covered in the video

Mute and solo tracks

In the track header area, you can select to mute or solo tracks. Think of mute as ‘sound off’, and solo as ‘sound on’. In the above image, the Steinway Grand Piano track is muted (blue), and the Upright Studio Bass is soloed (yellow).

To mute a track, press the icon showing a speaker with a line through it, and it will become blue. When you play the song, you will not hear that track. Notice on the right hand side, that the muted piano track has turned from green to grey.

To solo a track, press the icon with a picture of headphones in the track header area, and it will become yellow. This means that when you press play, you will only hear the tracks that have the headphone icon selected. Try it, and you’ll see that the other tracks are flashing blue to show that they are now muted.

You can mute or solo multiple tracks.


In GarageBand, you can set the tempo for a song by clicking on the number inside the red circle and typing in a new number. You can also click and drag upwards to make the tempo faster, or downwards to make it slower. Try it while a song is already playing and see what you notice.

The tempo refers to the speed of the music. A low number means the song will play slower and a high number means the song will play faster. The tempo is measured in BPM – beats per minute.

Think of counting seconds on a clock – this is 60 beats per minute. In music that’s slow. If you count twice as fast, (two beats for every second), then the music would be 120 beats per minute, which is a moderate speed.

The best way to learn to understand tempo is to open a song in GarageBand and listen to it. Change the tempo and listen to it again. Try it at several different speeds. An interesting thing to try is what is known as ‘half-time’ or ‘double-time’: if the song is 100bpm, half-time would slow it down to 50bpm. Double-time would speed 100bpm up to 200, which is really, really fast!

Sometimes the tempo is written on the score:

  • Allegro = fast. 168-200 beats per minute.
  • Moderato = medium. 108-120 beats per minute.
  • Andante = slow. 76-108 beats per minute.
  • Adagio = very slow. 66-76 beats per minute.

Play part of your song in a loop

Set the song to loop by dragging your mouse over the area with the bar numbers in the tracks pane or in the edit pane. It will turn yellow.

The yellow section of the song will repeat in a loop when you press play. When you want to cancel the repeat, click the button (yellow with circular arrows) above it to turn it off. Looping part of a song is a really useful way to focus on a small section of the music.

Is there anything else you want to learn about GarageBand? Did anything in the above lesson confuse you? Let me know so I can improve this course. Thanks! – Asphyxia.

Continue to next lesson – understanding a score.

Back to course page.

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