GarageBand (Mac)/Basic Editing

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In GarageBand there are several tools to edit a sound track and a sound sample.

A single track can have multiple loops or other samples on them in the line. Samples can be joined or they can be separated on the same track. Tracks can overlap one another and be played with different volumes and effects. Individual loops or samples can be split. Portions can be deleted, copied or moved. Every track can have its effects modified by options available under the Instrument Effects Panel Every Track can be individually controlled for playback, relative volume, for pan, echo, reverb, and more.

To Edit a Sound Sample—Split, Copy, Move, Delete, Join

There are a couple ways to split a sound sample so that it can be moved to another Track or deleted or copied.

First of all, turn on the Track Editor. The sound editor switch, remember, is found in the lower left corner. It’s icon looks like this. 40 px It is blue when it's turned on.

Track Editor

See how the track can be modulated here for pitch, tuning, and timing. These settings are primarily used for altering loops and samples that are musical.

At the bottom of the Track Editor is a slider to increase or decrease the “zoom” on the track. Increasing it means you can more readily see the details of the sound waves and edit them more closely.

Along the top of the Track Editor panel you will see the “playhead” (a little triangle) with a red line extending across the two stereo channels of the sound.

When you start “play”, the sound will play from the point of the “playhead.”

The playhead can be grabbed with the mouse pointed at it and held down (Left-Mouse Click), and if dragged as it is held down, the playhead will move. Note that the playhead turns blue when is selected.

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You can move the playhead this way or you can use the left/right arrows on your keyboard to move it. The intervals it moves with the arrows depends upon whether you have selected measure, beat, time or project intervals to show. You can choose which to display.

If you choose time, you can also fix the exact time location for the playhead by double-clicking on minutes or seconds and typing in the precise point of time for your playhead to be set. Hit Enter and the playhead moves to that point.

To Split, Cut, Copy and Paste a Sound Sample

Open your Track Editor Panel.

To split a sound sample—to cut it up into pieces that you can copy or delete—first place or move the playhead to point in the sound where you want the split to begin. Use the menu item EDIT→ SPLIT or the key stroke Command-T. The sound sample will be “split” at the point of the playhead. Make a second split if needed for you to obtain the sample you want.

Select the sample you want to delete, copy, or cut by clicking on and highlighting the section in the main panel. It is easier to select sections or samples in the main panel because of its size, although you can also select things samples in the Track Editor Panel.

  • To delete use the DELETE key, or the menu item EDIT→DELETE.
  • To cut use Command-X or the menu item EDIT→CUT.
  • To copy use Command-C or the menu item EDIT→COPY.
  • To paste an item that is copied or cut, use Command-V or the menu item EDIT→PASTE.
NOTE—VERY IMPORTANT! The sample will be pasted or placed to the ACTIVE Track. It will be put WHERE the PLAYHEAD is sitting. So look where you have it set, before you do your paste command. If you need to put it into a NEW Track, create the Track first.

Another Way to Cut a Piece out of a Sample

In the Track Editor Panel you can get more precise control of edits because you can zoom into a sample. The portion of the sample you want to listen to can be highlighted by moving the curser over the middle of the sample. You will see the cursor change into the “cross-hair” shape. Holding down your mouse-button as you drag the cross-hair will select a specific portion of the sample.

Having selected that portion you can play it to see if you have it correctly selected. You can then use edit instructions to delete or cut this sample as you like.

To Create, Duplicate, or Delete a Track.

  • Delete the track by selecting the Track at the Head of the panel (where it is named) and use the menu TRACK→DELETE. This will delete the track AND all of its contents. If you choose the Track head and click on the DELETE key, the track will remain but all the contents in it will be deleted.
  • To Duplicate a Track BUT NOT ITS CONTENTS, select Track and use the menu TRACK→DUPLICATE. This will create a new Track with the same settings.
  • To create a new Track with NO settings (effects), use the menu TRACK→NEW BASIC TRACK.
  • To copy ALL THE CONTENTS from one track to another, select the Track and use the menu EDIT→COPY from the menu. Put your playhead where you want it on the Track you want to paste the contents to, and use the menu EDIT→PASTE.

To Move a Sound Sample

Samples may also be dragged inside of a Track or from one track to another.

Be Careful! When you drag a sample, it will keep its measure of time and overlay the samples you are moving it on top off. Those overlaid samples will lose sound.

Joining Samples and Merging Samples

Two or more samples on a track that are selected (highlighted) can be JOINED by using the menu EDIT→JOIN or Command-J.

NOTE: any space between samples will be interpreted as empty sound.

Dragging a sample over the top of another one in the same track also merges their sounds, but the two pieces are not joined until you use the JOIN menu or command. Once two samples are JOINED they become a single sample.

Using Track Controls

Track Control
Drop-down Menu
At the head of each track, underneath the name of the track, is a Track Control. The Track Control looks something like a real-world instrument panel on a sound track board and contains some of those typical controls, including absolute volume, absolute pan (LEFT/RIGHT), and playback choices. You can also lock a track so it cannot be mistakenly changed. And there is a drop-down menu for more choices.


The drop down menu will give you the choice of additional controls over the track including Track Volume, Track Pan, and common effects like EQ, echo and reverb. Track Pan gives you the ability to set a pattern of panning the sound over the duration of the track, for example, so that the sound might move from left speaker to right speaker and back to center again. Track Volume can also be changed with a line tool to make the volume rise or drop at intervals over the duration of the track. Any way you wish.

Applying Effects Via the Instrument Panel

Each track will have a default “Instrument” with a preset effects, unless you choose to use a Basic Track which automatically has “no effects.”

Instrument Panel
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The preset effects can be changed. Existing effects can be modulated or deleted. New effects can be added. These effects are applied to the entire track.

Preset effects can also be changed by selecting them from off of the Instrument Panel.

Double-click on the “effect” or choose the Edit tab to display the effects that being used on the track. In the example to the left, the track shows that some Bass Reduction has been applied and some Speech Enhancer has been applied. You can see this by the blue indicator “light” on the controls.

  • The Noise Gate is turned off (grey).
  • The Visual EQ is turned off (grey).
  • Master Echo and Master Reverb are also turned off (grey).

The number of effects and the control you have over them is truly astonishing. Most of the common electric guitar effects are there, including “flange,” “wah,” “chorus,” “distortion,” “tremolo,” etc. And a goodly number of “post-production” effects are included as “Audio Unit Effects.” Like EQ, and Delay, and Filters, and Limiters. All of these Audio Unit Effects and GarageBand Track effects can also be applied to the “Master Track” or the controls which manage the sound for the “mixed” sound which you are producing.

Our Internal Help Pages for GarageBand Include

"GarageBand" has no sub pages.

Other Resources

On the Web a good resource for help and tutorials for GarageBand is to be found at The GarageDoor

The web-author (that, Webautur) has put up some really easy to use, really easy to understand topics. Go to his tutorials here