With GarageBand installed, an iPad is a powerful and portable tool for musicians. However, just like its desktop version, GarageBand for iPad can also be employed by non-musicians too, as I’ll highlight with a step by step guide to making a podcast on your iPad, complete with accompanying music.
This How-To will be aimed towards those who have a basic understanding of GarageBand, or at least the principles behind music software in general, but I will endeavour to keep each step as beginner friendly as possible. If you have any questions or problems, please let us know in the comments and I’ll attempt to help you through it.
It’s really quite simple to record a voice track by itself, but a good podcast needs some accompanying music and creating this music will take up most of the following tutorial. Though our music doesn’t need to be too complex, an intro tune is an audience’s introduction to the podcast, so it’s important to make a good first impression.
Ensuring that the music is suitable isn’t just a case of making sure it’s good, either. When one listens to podcasts, there’s usually a certain expectation on the part of the listener in what they imagine they should hear, so it’s usually wise to keep the music somewhat commercial and accessible.
We’re going to harness the power of GarageBand’s built-in selection of loops as a key part of our intro song later on, but before getting to that point I’d like to get started with some simple drum machine beats. Let’s create a new song in GarageBand and select “Smart Drums” from the instrument selection screen. I’ve left the tempo set at its default value – 110BPM and have also left the default “Hip Hop Drum Machine” option too.
Smart Drums enables intuitive beat making within GarageBand, simply drag and drop drum sections into the grid at varying positions to signify their complexity and volume. As you can see in the above screenshot, I’ve made use of Kick, Snare and more to weave together a nice rhythm. It’s not necessary to copy my exact positions, just have some fun with it!
It doesn’t matter if your beats still sound simplistic or uninspiring, the important thing is that they offer a good starting point. Now we need to commit this beat to a track, so hit the record button and, after the four-bar metronome beat, let the drums play for eight full bars before they automatically come to a stop.
Now our beat is recorded, let’s move into Track View by touching the small Track View graphic just to the left of the stop button at the top of our screen.
Pressing the question mark within GarageBand will bring up tags explaining what each button does.
Apple Loops: Rhythm
The Track View screen resembles a typical Digital Audio Workstation and each graphic represents music within the track. As you can see from the screenshot above, we’ve now got our “Smart Drums” track recorded. In addition to this and also in the above screenshot, I have brought up the Apple Loops menu by clicking on the small Apple Loops button.
When browsing the wealth of loop options, the “Genre” and “Description” search tools are valuable and aid loop discovery but don’t get too hung up on them, as unappealing sounding descriptors and genres can often belie surprisingly high quality music. For instance, I don’t generally find myself listening to Jazz but that doesn’t mean I won’t make use of loops identified as such.
I think our retro drum machine beats need some ‘real’ drums, so after browsing through the Apple Loops instrument selections and choosing drums, I listened to a few and, deciding on one I liked, I pressed and dragged my loop over to the left. GarageBand automatically makes a new track for it and will also make sure it’s the same length as our existing drum beat. I decided to add a shaker loop too and when both heard together, they definitely bring a new life to the rhythm.
Press play and have a listen to everything you’ve got so far. I think that this is starting to sound pretty good now, but my two new loops are a little too loud in the mix compared to the original drum machine beats. In order to adjust volume to suit, click on the question mark help button and, pressing where it says “Swipe to open the track controls”, then swipe to the right.
Remember that audio in the track view can be cut, trimmed, copied and pasted to suit your needs.
Apple Loops: Guitar
Our song is beginning to take shape so now lets set down some guitar. Bring up the “Apple Loops” browser once again and choose a guitar loop which suits the style of the track. Now follow the same drag-and-drop routine outlined in the previous step to import a loop into the song. Your song should now look very much like the screenshot above.
Laying Down the Voice Track
We’ve finished our intro music, so make a copy of the song and leave it untouched, ready for the next podcast episode – we don’t want to have to make a new intro for each podcast, after all.
With this done, let’s lay down our voice track!
Before beginning, make sure ‘Automatic’ is selected on the section length adjustment, so that GarageBand doesn’t cut you off after a few bars. This is located by touching the small jigsaw puzzle like icon on the top left of GarageBand’s screen, directly beneath ‘My Songs’.
To begin recording a voice track, first create a new instrument and choose “Audio Recorder” from the instrument selection screen. You’ll hear a four-bar intro beat and then your intro music should begin. Make sure to speak directly into the iPad and in a clear and calm manner. If you’ve never recorded yourself speaking before, you may be surprised at how difficult it can be to retain an ear-pleasing tone and speed without ending up breathless, but it gets easier with practice.
Once finished, you’ll have a few effects to play with and these also help to add some extra sheen to the recording, especially with some light compression. If you’d like outro music too, either compose something new using the same techniques or copy/paste the intro music by pressing the graphical representation within each track twice and selecting “Copy” then moving to the end of the project and pasting in place.
Export to iTunes
All that’s left to do now is export your finished podcast!
I’m going to export to a Mac, but I believe the process is very similar on Windows. Plug your iPad into your Mac and then press “My Songs” within the GarageBand window on your iPad. Now click the export button located on the left of the screen and then select “Send to iTunes”. Once prompted, choose the “AAC” file format.
Launch iTunes on your Mac, then navigate to your iPad’s “Apps” window and scroll to the bottom, where the “File Sharing” options are found. Now click GarageBand and you should see your song in the window, as shown in the above screenshot. Just drag and drop the song to your Desktop.
Finally, read Apple’s guide on submitting a podcast to iTunes.
Hopefully the above guide will set you well on your way to creating podcasts, audiobooks or lectures on your iPad. Since GarageBand for iPad doesn’t yet support some features like fade-in/out, you need to be somewhat creative with the music choice, but when compared with the great music and spoken-word material created with the home recording four track cassette recorders in the 1980s, an iPad is more than capable of great results.
Remember that you’re not just limited to loops and you can add yet another level of complexity and depth by creating a virtual piano or smart instrument track, then ‘jamming’ over the loops and adding your own parts – techniques to be covered in upcoming How-To’s.