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How to Navigate the GarageBand Main Window in iLife ’11

The GarageBand in iLife '11 offers users the unique experience of creating and mixing their own music. The GarageBand window in iLife '11 has controls that look like they belong in an expensive sound studio — round knobs, tiny sliders, and horizontal tracks with waveforms representing music.

Open your project in GarageBand and choose a take.
Open your project in GarageBand and choose a take.

Each instrument or vocal performance is recorded in a separate track in GarageBand. A track stores the audio information in a way that makes it easy to isolate and change that audio information without affecting other instrument or vocal tracks. You can add tracks and change the instrument and effects for each track.

The GarageBand window is a recording studio and mixing console all in one window:

  • Track headers: A track contains the music from a single instrument or set of instruments. Each track has a header that shows the instrument icon and name, and several buttons:

    • Mute (with the speaker icon): Mutes the track.

    • Solo (with the headphone icon): Lets you hear only that track.

    • Curves (triangle): Opens automation curves for Track Volume, Track Pan, and automated mixing settings.

    • Pan (wheel): Adjusts the left-right placement of the track in the stereo field. Drag counter-clockwise to pan to the left channel, and drag clockwise to pan to the right. The wheel’s white dot indicates the position.

    • Volume (slider): Adjusts the track’s volume.

    • Level meter (slider): Shows the track’s volume level as you record and play.

  • Timeline and beat ruler: The timeline area of the GarageBand window contains the track information.

  • Playhead: The playhead shows the point where playback starts if you click the Play button, or the playback point in the song after clicking Play.

  • Track region: The track’s audio information appears as a region within a track, with its duration measured by the timeline beat ruler.

  • Zoom slider: Use this slider to zoom into the timeline for a closer view of the regions at a particular time in the song.

  • Add Track and Editor buttons: You can add a new track below the selected track by clicking the Add Track button (the + icon) or click the Editor button (the scissors cutting an audio wave icon) to show or hide the Track Editor.

  • Loops, Track Info, and Media buttons: Click the Loop Browser button (the Open Eye icon) to show or hide the Loop Browser, the Track Info button (the i icon) to show or hide track information, or the Media button (Filmstrip, Photo, and Audio icon) to show or hide the Media Browser.

  • Transport controls: Control recording and playback by using these buttons:

    • Fast-rewind and Fast-forward: Moves the playhead quickly backward or forward in the song.

    • Rewind: Moves the playhead back to the beginning of the song.

    • Play: Starts playing at the point of the playhead.

    • Record (red dot): Starts or stops recording.

    • Cycle: Plays the entire song or a cycle region repeatedly as a loop.

    • Metronome: Whether on or off, its audible clicks aren’t recorded.

  • LCD: This indicator tells you the playhead position, and the MIDI indicator (a tiny green light) flashes when you’re playing a MIDI instrument. Click the Mode icon on the left side of the LCD to switch to one of these modes:

    • Measures: Shows the playhead position in musical time (using musical measures, beats, and ticks)

    • Time: Shows the playhead position in absolute time (hours, minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second)

    • Chord: Shows chord symbols when you play a software instrument.

    • Tuner: Shows a tuner you can use to tune a guitar on either an Electric Guitar or Real Instrument track.

    • Project: Lets you choose a different key and time signature for the project, and change the project tempo.

  • Master volume slider and level meter: The master volume slider controls the overall volume of all tracks. The level meter shows you whether clipping is occurring.

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