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GarageBand For Vocalists Part II

Vocalists must not be shy about adding tasteful effects to their recordings – says Chris Kennedy.

We’ve already explored the basics of recording and creating a new project in GarageBand.

This week we look at putting the finishing touches to your music as well as some of the extra features bundled with the software.

As a vocalist, rather than an engineer, you may be shy about adding effects – but do not fear – adding effects on GarageBand band is user friendly; you’re never in danger of losing your original tracks.

Main Effects

Once your track has started to take shape you’ll probably want to add some effects to it.

To make things easy, GarageBand includes a useful list of effect presets to get you started covering most styles and instruments.

Vocalists with limited studio expertise will particularly appreciate the range of effect presets for vocals, which cover a good range of common singing styles and musical genres.

The included effects work in real time and can be easily tweaked to your liking by clicking the effect icon.

If, however, you want to create your effects chain from scratch, you can simply add your own combination of effects by clicking on the empty slots and selecting one from the drop-down list.

Once you have finished your track, GarageBand even has a range of basic effects for mastering your song such as compression and EQ.

The World Of Exporting

When you’re happy with the way your track sounds you’ll want to get your music out of your computer and out to the world.

Within GarageBand there are several ways in which you can export your track such as saving it as a completed track to your iTunes library as an MP3 or AAC file.

You can then use this file for digital distribution or create a playlist within iTunes of your tracks and write them to a CD (it’s best to keep the quality settings at their highest if you are exporting a track to be written to a CD).

GarageBand also offers other options such as exporting your song as an iPhone ringtone or turning it into a podcast for iWeb.

Speaking of which, also included are several podcast specific functions such as adding links, pictures and sections, which can all be easily done by selecting the podcast template from the main menu.

Learn To Play

For singer-songwriters looking to improve their instrumental playing, included in GarageBand is a useful tool called Learn to Play.

Currently only for piano and guitar, this is designed to help teach people how to play through a series of video lessons.

This is primarily designed for beginners who are new to the instrument; however you can also download (at a price) master-classes from artists such as Norah Jones and Sting who will guide you through how to play some of their songs, which more advanced players may also find of interest.

The included lessons are well thought out and often include a piece for you to play along with at the end.

All the notes played are highlighted on an on-screen graphic (you can even change the orientation of the fret-board for left-handed guitarists) enabling you to easily follow along.

You can also slow down any passages you are finding tricky and keep practicing them until you have learned the piece.

For keyboard players with MIDI capabilities, the latest version of GarageBand includes a Guitar-Hero style analysis of your performance giving you feedback on the accuracy of your playing of any of the included exercises and pieces.

If you are a singer who fancies adding some piano or guitar skills to their repertoire, the Learn to Play feature will no doubt be a useful addition to the software.

Just Want To Jam?

If you just want to have a jam and you can’t find the musicians to back your vocals, GarageBand offers an interesting solution in the form of Magic GarageBand.

Simply select the style you wish to play in and a virtual band will appear onscreen ready to play a backing track in that style.

There is a selection of nine different genres and you can even change the instruments around and the tempo the track.


For its price-tag (free in many cases), GarageBand offers many great features which are sure to appeal to singers who want to record demos and try our their ideas.

It also makes making music fun and easy, which puts the focus on creativity rather than technical ability.

As GarageBand is Mac only, PC users will unfortunately have to look elsewhere for low-cost multi-track recording.

For under $100, there are several entry-level products such as Steinberg Sequel, Cakewalk Music Creator, and Sony Acid Music Studio, which offer similar multi-track abilities albeit without the extras such as Learn to Play and Magic GarageBand.

Chris Kennedy is a singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist from Canterbury, UK. His music fuses intimate lyrics with a rich sound-palate telling tales of lovers, wanderers and misfits, set against the backdrop of 21st century Britain. Chris mostly performs his songs with his group The New Inventions. His 6th solo album, Until the Stars Start Falling is due for release in December.

Useful Links

Garage Band for Vocalists Part I

Chris Kennedy’s Gig Bag Essentials

More about Chris Kennedy