A Beginner’s Guide to Making Music With GarageBand Live Loops

You dreamed of composing amazing symphonies, but gave up because you didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on hardware and software. Well, Live Loops in GarageBand makes it easy to create, record and publish professional sound jams without spending tons of money. Here’s how to get started.

GarageBand has always been a useful tool for beginners and professional musicians, but the new Apple Live Loops update has made music creation so easy that almost anyone can do it. Apple Loops has amazing depth, and we’re only scratching the surface of it , but by the end of this guide, you should already have the tools to do something great. GarageBand is compatible with any iOS device running iOS 9.1 or later, but the Live Loops update is only available for iPhone 5 / 5c, iPad (4th generation) and later. You can download GarageBand from the iOS app store for $ 4.99 .

How to create a Live Loops session

After updating and opening GarageBand on your iPad or iPhone, tap the plus sign in the upper-left corner of the screen. Then click “Live Loops” at the top of the screen and choose the type of song you want to create. Apple brings you nine pre-made decks including EDM, Hip Hop, Dubstep, RnB, House, Chill (my favorite of them all), Rock, Electro Funk, and Beat Masher. Pick your favorite scent and you’ll be presented with a soundboard filled with great pre-made sounds and beats from Apple.

Before you poke fun at the idea of ​​using pre-made sounds, try them! This is a great way to experiment and get a feel for how Live Loops work. Here’s an example of a song I wrote in just a few minutes, all of Apple’s premade loops:

Of course, if you want a blank slate, you can also hit New and bake a cake from scratch.

How to play loop

When you select one of the pre-made decks, it looks like a grid of colored squares. These squares represent audio tracks or loops. On the left side of the screen, you will see a column of tools, and each tool will have its own row filled with several different loops. Tap a loop and it starts playing in real time. There are a few things to keep in mind when reading loops:

  • You can only have one loop for each line playing at the same time, but you can have one loop from each line playing all at the same time.
  • Loops with a circular waveform will play continuously until you press them again.
  • Loops with a waveform on a straight line will stop as soon as they finish playing at least once.

If you drag the tool with your finger to the right, you can adjust the volume of the entire line or mute the sound entirely. You can also tap the headphone symbol to make that instrument string play solo and mute all other strings and loops. After a few taps, you will start to feel like a musical superhero who can make amazing sounds with your fingertips.

Organize your loops into columns for easy replay

You can play an entire column of loops at once by clicking the corresponding arrow at the bottom of the screen below the column you want to play. When you find several loops that sound great together, a little organization will save you a lot of work when it comes time to record your track.

If you plan carefully, you can lay out your entire composition so that you simply touch the columns from left to right as you record. The first column might have drums, the second column might have drums and bass, the third column might have the main riff, and so on. Here’s an example:

This is important because when you record your track you are doing it live, so hitting one wrong loop means you have to start over from the beginning.

Importing Apple Loops and Custom Audio Tracks

You don’t get hung up on the hinges that Apple gives you in every finished deck. You can import more of over 1,300 Apple pre-made loops by clicking on the loop symbol (looks like a roller coaster loop) in the top right toolbar. From there, you can search for other loops by keyword (such as “electric guitar”) or browse by instrument, genre, or descriptors (such as “acoustic” or “dark”). While watching, you can touch the loop to see how it sounds and it will also tell you how many stripes (or how long) it has. Once you find the one you like, press and hold it with your finger and then drag it to an empty square on the deck’s grid. You can add it to a new line, or you can add it to an existing line to concatenate the screen space. Just remember that only one cycle in each row can be played at a time, no matter how different they are. You can have drum and guitar loops in the same row, but you cannot play them at the same time.

You can also add your own audio tracks and unprotected (also called DRM-free) songs. Tap the loop symbol, tap the Music tab and you can browse the available tracks on your device. This can come in handy if you are remixing, sampling a portion of another song, or want to use something that you have personally recorded in the past.

Now create your own loops

If you want to create a song made up of all your own loops, Live Loops makes it easy too:

  1. Tap the plus symbol in the tool column and select a tool. Or, if you already have an instrument in the deck grid, double-tap an empty square in its row. Then select Write to Cell.
  2. Adjust the loop length you want by touching the number under the question mark symbol in the upper right corner (usually 4 stripes are sufficient). You can also select “Automatic” so that your loop recording can be easily synchronized with the rest of the loops.
  3. Press the red record button at the top of the screen and record your loop. If you’ve used GarageBand in the past, this section should be familiar to you.
  4. When you’re happy with that, tap the grid symbol in the upper left corner to return to the deck grid.

You should see that your custom loop is ready to be clicked and played along with the rest.

Customize the deck grid to your liking

If you’re not digging into your deck’s grid layout, you can customize pretty much anything you see. Tap the symbol in the lower left corner (looks like a pencil above the grid) to enter edit mode and you can:

  • Pinch with your finger to zoom in and out of your deck’s grid (you can also do this by holding down only the instrument column).
  • Duplicate or rename tools or columns by clicking on them.
  • Move the rows or columns of the tools by clicking, holding and dragging.
  • Copy, cut, paste and edit individual loops by selecting them with one tap and then pressing them again a moment later (not double-tapping).
  • Adjust the loop settings by double tapping (quick clicks). From this menu, you can turn looping on or off, change the tempo, and adjust the length.

While I recommend tweaking the layout as much as possible, it’s probably best not to tweak too many low-level loop settings first (unless you know what you are doing). By all means, experiment, but know that you can change something, and do not know what you did or how to fix it. You can click the undo button at the top center of the toolbar to fix errors, but it will only go back one step.

Create unique beats with virtual session drummers

Apple’s library has tons of great pre-made beats to choose from, but perhaps you want a beat that feels a little more lively . Maybe someone you can command a little with. Virtual Session Drummers let you do this:

  1. Add an instrumental string as if you were going to record your own loop.
  2. Scroll until you find Drummer and select it.
  3. From there, you can select your virtual drummer by clicking on the creepy faceless face. There are drummers like Kyle, who loves to play beats influenced by rock, and Magnus, who mixes the beats, as the headliner of the EDM festival. Find the one that matches the sound you want.

Once you have a drummer, you can choose a beat style for him (to the right of your drummer image) and experiment with different settings until they play the rhythm you like.

Use FX to customize your track in real time

I know what you’re thinking: what about all the cool live DJ effects? Well, there are a lot of them and they are very funny. While your loops are playing (or while recording), click the FX button in the upper left corner. The FX toolbar appears at the bottom of the screen. You’ve got classics like a filter and repeater, as well as a few others like a vinyl scratch. Here’s an example of how you can change the sound on the fly:

For the most part, you just swipe your finger across the FX board, but you can also use your device’s accelerometer. I would explain what each effect does, but it’s much more fun if you play around and experiment yourself. Go crazy.

How to record and share your track

When you’re ready to record your track, simply press and tap the red button at the top of the screen. Press the record button again to stop and that’s it. You just recorded your first track! When you’re happy with what you have, click My Songs in the upper-left corner and GarageBand will save your track. If you want to share your track, here’s how:

  1. Click “Select” in the upper right corner.
  2. Tap on the song you just recorded to select it (you can also tap and hold a song to do the same).
  3. Then click on the leftmost symbol in the upper left corner.
  4. From there, you can export your song to Notes app, iTunes, or even make a ringtone out of it. You can also share it on Facebook or post to your YouTube or SoundCloud account.

Will your first few Live Loops be the next deadmau5 or Calvin Harris? Probably not, but the Live Loops Toolkit has everything you need to get started making music, and it’s a great and affordable gateway for music producers looking to emulate.


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