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How to get started with GarageBand on Mac, iPad and iPhone

Everything you need to know to get started with Apple’s GarageBand software, including tutorials and other guides to create your own musical masterpieces in no time. Here’s our complete guide to GarageBand for Mac OS and iOS.

What is GarageBand?

GarageBand is Apple’s incredibly smart but also pleasingly intuitive music creation app, designed to help everyone from beginners to full-time musicians craft great-sounding tracks.

This isn’t just some simple tool which offers up a handful of loops and effects for you to make music with. It’s essentially a virtual studio which allows you to jam with incredibly realistic software instruments or even import your own real-life recordings, before editing each track to your heart’s content.

How to download GarageBand for iOS (iPhone and iPad)

If you’ve already got an iPad or an iPhone, chances are you know how to use the App Store. Some Apple devices may already have GarageBand installed, so it’s worth having a quick flit through your apps to see if it’s already there. If not, head over to the App Store.

You know the drill: head to search and type in GarageBand and since this is “the most popular music creation app in the world”, it should appear right at the top of the list. Select Install to get the app, but only when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network – this is definitely not a small app.

Failing all that, head over to Apple’s site using your iPhone or iPad. In the Garage Band section there is a link to download the app right to your iOS device.

How to download GarageBand for Mac OS

Again, if you have a newer Mac OS device it may already have GarageBand installed right there for you to start using. Otherwise head to the Mac’s App Store to get it downloaded.

Alternatively you can click the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of Mac OS and type in GarageBand and you’ll be given the option to download from the App Store. This’ll also search your computer beforehand, so if it’s already installed locally you’ll be informed.

Is there any difference between GarageBand for iOS and Mac, and can I swap between the two?

The most obvious difference between using GarageBand on iOS over Mac is the use of the touchscreen. This allows for simple controls that would otherwise have to be done using a mouse or trackpad. Beyond that, the use of 3D Touch on the iPad Pro and iPhone 7 is really nice as a way of simply adding “polyphonic aftertouch”, by holding down keys on the virtual keyboard.

Obviously the larger screen of the iPad Pro means you get a lot more on screen at once so there is less flitting about when compared to iPhone. But then if you jump to Mac, you could have a full-sized monitor (or more than one if needed), making this process even simpler.

Since all of your GarageBand music is stored in the iCloud, that means it’ll be accessible across multiple Apple devices seamlessly. Bear in mind that Mac OS offers more options and settings than the iOS version, so cross-platform sharing could be tricky. However, Apple has now made it easier than ever to edit your Logic X tracks on the go using GarageBand on your iPad, if you don’t mind delving into some more complicated software.

What are the main/best features of GarageBand?

One of the best things about GarageBand is how scalable the app is. Anyone can download it and take a virtual tour of the interface and, without any prior musical knowledge, begin creating tracks by building samples. Then, for the most seasoned sorts, there are instruments to actually play for original recordings too. It’s essentially a full scale music creation platform aimed at everyone. Maybe certain pros would disagree, but Apple reckons it’s good enough to create professional tracks and so do we.

GarageBand also lets you play with real instruments and import the audio created. So you can plug a guitar into the app, using the right adapter hardware, and record music directly – as if you were in your very own private studio. And if you want to improve your skills, there’s even a “Learn To Play” option where you can be taught how to play the real instrument via the app. In fact, it will even help you tune your guitar to perfection before you start playing.

Going back to the simple side of GarageBand, the Smart Instruments feature is Apple’s way of helping beginners to get involved. These allow you to arrange chords and structured beats by walking you through the process of arrangement. The result is harmonic music that can be created by pretty much anyone.

Creating musical loops is as simple as tapping certain sections of the screen. These can be built and layered for awesome and original musical creations, which make even a novice feel worthy of a grand stage in Ibiza.

When it comes to synths, Apple has over 150 patches setup on iOS. For beats there are 18 session players and 28 drummers in the Mac version, ready for whatever style of music you need.

That ease of use extends to GarageBand’s ability to start a project on one device and continue on another. Since your music is saved to the iCloud automatically, you can easily access across your iOS and Mac OS devices. So for instance you can start a basic track on iOS when you’re on the go, then share to Mac OS to finish on your laptop or desktop when you get home.

Another nice feature is the ability to share your finished projects easily, using your device’s apps; or by publishing it for fans to enjoy on Apple Music Connect.

Is GarageBand really used by professional music artists?

Yep. The likes of Rhianna, Kate Nash and…uhh…Limp Bizkit have all used GarageBand to lay down tracks (either the finished products or demo versions), and that’s just the tip of the musical iceberg.

Steve Lacy of the band The Internet recently recorded a new project entitled ’Steve Lacy’s Demo,’ using nothing more than an iPhone and a copy of GarageBand. The Grammy-nominated artist has helped to prove that prospective musicians don’t need to splash out for expensive studio time to cut an album. All you need is a moderately expensive smartphone, tablet or Macbook and Apple’s awesome software.

Steve Lacy’s Demo is available to listen to on Apple Music right now.

How do I find tutorials and guides to get started with GarageBand?

Apple has its own official guidance for GarageBand, with tips on how to create your own ringtones and more.

If you fancy really shelling out for the pro-level advice there are even courses on GarageBand like the Lynda tutorial service, for example. Alternatively to learn how to use the software for free, there is a dedicated site called TheGarageBandGuide with plenty of options to guide you whatever your level.

Of course, another great way to learn fast is to follow YouTube guide videos. There are lots of these if you search for your own specific needs, but some basics to start with are the tutorials by RealGeorge and Bai.

How do I upload my GarageBand creations for the world to enjoy?

Sharing your GarageBand creations is so easy, it’s actually one of the most appealing features of the software.

On both versions of GarageBand (iOS and Mac OS), it’s easy to publish music to Apple Music Connect. It’s also easy to share with friends, family and the world using platforms like Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube or just direct with Messages.

Simply select the Share option, choose the app and share away. There are plenty of options available, so you have no excuses for hiding your creations away from the world.

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