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Choose Loops for GarageBand Projects on Your MacBook

When you have a new, empty GarageBand track, you can add something that you can hear. You do that by adding loops to your track from the Loop Browser — Apple provides you with thousands of loops to choose from — and photos from your media browser. Click the Loop Browser button (which bears the loop symbol, somewhat like a roller coaster) to display your collection.

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If your browser looks different from what you see here, that’s because of the view mode you’re using, just like the different view modes available for a Finder window. The three-icon button in the upper-left corner of the Loop Browser toggles the browser display between column, musical button, and podcast sounds view. Click the middle of the three buttons to switch to musical button mode.

The track in this example uses a Rock drum kit, but you haven’t added a loop yet. Follow these steps to search through your loop library for just the right rhythm:

  1. Click the button that corresponds to the instrument you’re using.

    In this example, this is the Kits button in the Loop Browser. Click it, and a list of different beats appears in the pane at the bottom of the Loop Browser window.

  2. Click one of the loops with a green musical-note icon.

    Go ahead; this is where things get fun! GarageBand begins playing the loop nonstop, allowing you to get a feel for how that particular loop sounds.

  3. Click another entry in the list, and the application switches immediately to that loop.

    Now you’re beginning to understand why GarageBand is so cool for both musicians and the note-impaired. It’s like having your own band, with members who never get tired, never miss a beat and play whatever you want while you’re composing. (Mozart would’ve loved this.)

    If you want to search for a particular instrument, click in the Search box and type the text you want to match. GarageBand returns the search results in the list.

  4. Scroll down the list and continue to sample the different loops until you find one that fits like a glove.

  5. Drag the entry to your Rock Kit track and drop it at the very beginning of the Timeline (as indicated by the playhead).

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If you want that same beat throughout the song, you don’t need to add any more loops to that track. (More on extending that beat in the next section.) However, if you want the drum’s beat to change later in the song, you add a second loop after the first one in the same track. For now, leave this track as is.

Whoops! Did you do something that you regret? Don’t forget that you can undo most actions in GarageBand by pressing the old standby Command+Z immediately afterward.

When you compose, you can add tracks for each instrument that you want in your song:

  • Each track can have more than one loop.

  • Loops don't have to start at the beginning; you can drop a loop anywhere in the Timeline.

For example, you can see that the drum kit kicks in first, but the bass line doesn’t begin until some time later (for a funkier opening).

You put loops on separate tracks so that they can play simultaneously on different instruments. If all your loops in a song are added on the same track, you hear only one loop at any one time, and all the loops use the same software instrument.

By creating multiple tracks, you give yourself the elbow room to bring in the entire band at the same time. It’s very convenient to compose your song when you can see each instrument’s loops and where they fall in the song.

Click the Reset button in the Loop Browser to choose another instrument or genre category.

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