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GarageBand Basics & Glossary

1. What is GarageBand?
2. What are Tracks?
3. What are Regions?
4. What are Key Commands?
5. New to Keyboard Navigation?


Designed to be a simple yet powerful “entry level Digital Audio Workstation” or DAW, to be included on all Macs for free, GarageBand was created by apple after acquiring Emagic – the creators of Logic – in 2002. , GarageBand changed the rules of the free entry level game by including a lot of high quality loops, effects, and even fully finished musical beds to be used royalty free in all manner of audio and video productions. A DAW allows you to record, edit, import and manipulate audio in an almost endless array of ways. One of the most widely used parts of A DAW is the multi track recorder. This allows you to have a track for each type of instrument or voice in the recording or production, and to edit each instrument or voice individually. For example, if you are working on a karaoke piece, you can have your instrumental on one track and record your voice onto another while the instrumental plays back. Once you are done with recording the vocals you can add effects to it without altering or adding to the sound of the backing track. Alternatively if you have a band all the guitars, bass, keyboards, and even each part of the drum kit, (kick, snare, hi hats, etc) can all be recorded to their own individual track; and edited, effected and otherwise manipulated independent of the other instruments or parts.

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Tracks are the containers or lanes that hold all the audio in a project. Think of tracks as each being a single instance of iTunes or WinAmp playing a separate audio file each. One instance is playing back the drums so you can hear it while you record your guitar part with the other. A couple instances then can play back the guitars and drums so you can record the vocals on a separate one. This is indeed where the very essence of the term Multi-Track Recording stems from. GarageBand or a DAW in general allows you to record as many tracks at once as you have inputs into the computer for. These days the total number of recorded tracks you can have in a project at once is limited only by your computers processing power.

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Regions are the pieces or clips of audio or midi data that the track holds. Each time you press record and then stop you have created a new region on that track. Each time you split audio you just turned that one region into two regions. Sonar and Pro Tools refers to regions as clips. Reaper refers to them as items.

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Key Commands

Key Command is the term GarageBand gives to anything performed within the program that can be done with a press of a button or combination of buttons on the keyboard. Copy, Cut, Paste, Muting, Soloing, Recording etc are all examples of things that can be done with Key Commands. All “actions” that can be issued by a Key Commands can be found in the Key Commands’ list. To view the Key Commands’ list navigate to the help menu in GarageBand and select “GarageBand Help”. Select all topics and then choose “Preferences and Keyboard Commands” to see the different options. You can also browse the KeyCommands for GarageBand using this online Apple help page. Unlike Logic, you are not able to add your own KeyCommands to GarageBand.

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A Note on Keyboard Navigation

VoiceOver users can navigate GarageBand the same way you do any other accessible app, VO+Arrows (or just arrows with QuickNav on), Item Chooser, etc. However , one should be aware that the arrow keys are Key Commands assigned to “actions” both on their own and with modifier keys (Shift, Command, etc). So if you are having difficulty executing a Key Command that uses the arrows, ensure that QuickNav is toggled off by pressing left & right arrows at the same time. On the mac, CMD+TAB will cycle between all open applications, and CMD+, (accent - the key above the tab key), will cycle you through all open windows within an application. So for example if in GarageBand you have an FX window open and the mixer in addition to the main GarageBand window, you can cycle between all these windows using CMD+. .

If you are a VoiceOver user on the mac, VO+Left/Right Arrows can be use for most of the instructions that say navigate or move to in these guides. VO+Space can be used to Activate a button. In rare cases you may need to resort to the VO+Shift+Space (mouse click) command. Be careful using return however in GarageBand, as it’s the HotKey for go to start of project. Also you may need to interact with certain elements at times like the Key Commands list. To right click VO+Shift+M seems to work for context menus, but you can also do this with a single button mice or trackpad while holding down control when you click.
Navigating to any track in the track header will select that track and as a result all regions on that track. You can select adjacent tracks by using shift+up or down arrows. This however won’t speak. You can navigate between the regions on a track in two ways. From the track header use left or right arrows to move between the regions on the selected track. This won’t speak but you can use Control+Home or Control+End to move the playhead to the start or end of any selected region, and the position the playhead moves too will be spoken by VoiceOver. You can alternatively interact with the track control area and interact with the track background area for the track you want to work with regions on. Once there you can use VO+Left&Right Arrows to navigate between all the regions on the track. You can use VO+Space to select any region and use VO+Shift+H to hear the start and end point of the selected regions. Whether you select regions from the track header or by interacting with the track background area you can select multiple adjacent regions with Shift+Left/Right Arrows. You can select multiple non adjacent tracks or regions the same way you select multiple non adjacent files in finder. VO+Command+Return on the first one you would like to select, use VO+ArrowKeys to navigate to the next thing you would like to select and Press VO+Command+Return on each item you would like to add to the list of selections. VoiceOver will speak every time you add something new to the list of selections. Once all is selected you can cut, copy, paste, group etc. See the “Navigating Projects section on the Getting Started With GarageBand page for more info on moving through projects.
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