Skip to Main Content

Tutorials + Resources

Introduction to GarageBand

Esther Lu, Allen Brown, Bryan Tor, Thomas Sawano, Phoebe Rettberg | Last Updated: Fall 2023

Whether you want to record a podcast, music, or audio narration that requires editing afterwards, GarageBand can pretty much do it all. It comes pre-installed on all Mac OSX devices, and features cross-compatibility with other, more-robust sound and music editing platforms.


Setting Up Your Project

When you first open GarageBand, a gray window will pop up.

If you are recording a vocal narration choose to create an 'Empty Project' and then select the audio track with the photo of the microphone. Here you can also select your input device, though you’re also able to do that later. 

Once you have selected a project, on the far left top corner of the GarageBand Window you will see four icons.

  • Library (icon looks like a filing drawer)
  • Quick Help (icon is a question mark)
  • Smart Controls (icon looks like a clock)
  • Editor's Button (icon is a pair of scissors)


Click on the Library icon. On the far left-hand side, you will see a library of different 'Sounds,' organized into four categories: Voice, Acoustic Guitar, Effects, and Electric Guitar and Bass.

Click on the Voice category. Then you will see a popout list of different voice filter options. Click on 'Narration Vocal'.

You will notice at the top center of the screen a bar with the beats, tempo, and key signature of your track. If you’re recording vocal narration, click the arrow on the right side of this bar and select 'Time.' Additionally, you can toggle off the count-in (box that says '1234') and metronome (right next to the count-in).

Attach a Separate Microphone

Note: If you are using your computer's built-in microphone don't worry about this step

On the ToolBar click on the Garage Band tab and then click on Preferences (or Settings).

In the Preferences Box, click on the Audio/Midi icon.

There are two pop-down bars under 'Devices.' 'Output Device' allows you to select the set of speakers or headphones GarageBand plays sound on. By default, 'System Setting' will output audio on the computer's built-in speakers, or if you have a pair of speakers or headphones plugged into the station's audio jack, one of those devices. 'Input Device' allows you to select the microphone GarageBand uses to make new recordings. If you have already plugged-in a microphone, the program should have already detected this, and its name will selectable on the Input Device tab.



On the top of the GarageBand window, you will see playback/forward, stop or play buttons. The last button next to those options is a red dot (the record button). Click on the record button to start recording your vocal narration. The same button will allow you to stop recording.

Be ready to record by having your script or outline nearby. You will want to record in a quiet, enclosed, space without much echo. Keep your mouth close to the microphone, but not too close.

Once you have finished recording all of your audio click on File + Save As. Save it as version 1 of your project, that way you always have the original file in case you have any issues while editing. 


On your blue audio track, you will see a long vertical bar (the playhead). You can drag the playhead to any part of your track.

To make a cut drag the playhead to where you want to cut. Then, on the ToolBar, click on Edit and click on Split region at playhead, or hold ⌘T. This will cut that part of the track into its own piece that you can delete or move to a different section of your narration. 

If you regret splitting your tracks you can always go back to the ToolBar and click on Edit to Undo Split Regions (⌘Z). You can also readjust your cuts by dragging the edge of your track in and out (be sure your cursor has two arrows pointing in opposite directions and not one arrow going in a circle which will make your audio loop).

If you want to move tracks together after removing a section just click and hold on one of the tracks and drag it next to the other one to fill the gap. To select multiple clips hold shift while clicking on them, and then you are able to drag or delete them all at once.

Other Tools for Editing

If you want to edit the sound quality of your narration click on the Smart Controls Icon (clock-like icon in the top left). Navigate to the plug-in section in the grey box on the left-hand side. Here you can add up to four plug-ins to adjust the quality of your audio. Some that might be useful when recording narration vocals are:

  • Noise Gate: Reduces low-level noise that might occur when someone pauses while speaking. 
  • Channel EQ: Allows you to boost or reduce certain frequencies.
  • Compressor: Helps level audio, raising the volume of quiet parts and lowering the loudest. 


On the ToolBar, click on Share and then click on Export Song to Disk...

Then Save As your work and save to one of the areas on your computer: Documents, Desktop, etc.

There will be three file options (AAC, MP3, AIFF)  at the bottom of the Export Song to Disk window. Export your file as an MP3. Choose the quality of your MP3 and click Export. Once you have that done, open the file where you saved it to access your audio recording!