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Audio Editing & Production

A guide to Audacity, GarageBand and FL Studio, three free Digital Audio Workstations.


GarageBand offers a powerful blend of simple and robust features. Unlike more complex programs, nearly all of the windows and features can be visible at once. Pictured below are the Toolbar (top menu), Instrument Library (left), Track List (middle), Media Arranger (right) and Built-in-Keyboard (lower). To find out more about each of these, scroll down. 


Display Toggle (left to right): 


The leftmost section houses four buttons that will open additional windows within the program. From left to right these options are:

  • Instrument Library [keyboard shortcut ( Y )]: Opens a browser of GarageBand's built-in software instruments. These are used  to produce sound in MIDI. Instruments include drums, keys, strings, synths and more.
  • Help Display [keyboard shortcut ( Command + / )]:  Toggles yellow text boxes that offer a name and description of every visible button, box, and item.
  • Smart Controls [keyboard shortcut ( )]: Displays applicable effects and features of a selected instrument. For example, if a guitar is selected from the Instrument Library, Smart Controls will offer effects such as a flanger or chorus than can modulate the sound of the guitar as desired by the user. 
  • Editor [keyboard shortcut ( E )]: Toggles a zoomed-in display of a selected media region, making editing audio or MIDI easier for the user.

Transport Section (left to right): 


  • Rewind: Moves playhead backward one measure.
  • Fast Forward: Moves playhead forward one measure. 
  • Full Rewind: Moves playhead to beginning of the project. 
  • Play: Begins playing project at current position.
  • Record: Begins recording.
  • Loop: Continuously plays looped section or media region. 

Project Parameter Display (left to right):


  • Playhead Position: Displays location of playhead in measure and beat.
  • Tempo: Displays the project's beats-per-minute (BPM). Aligns beats to grid in arranger region.
  • Key & Time Signature: Designates beats per measure and the key signature of the project. Key is useful for tuning plugins and MIDI quantization to the designated scale. 
  • Dropdown Arrow: Provides access to additional features and elements. 

Tuner & Metronome (left to right):


  • Tuner: Opens a digital meter that displays the pitch of input from any instrument connected to GarageBand. 
  • Count In: Toggles a one measure lead-in before recording begins.
  • Metronome: Toggles a click track that sounds on each beat of the project when playing or recording. 

Volume & Additional Features (left to right):


  • Master Volume: Slider adjusts the output volume of the project.
  • Notepad: Opens a notation section for writing reminders, notes, or observations for the user or a collaborator. 
  • Loop Library: Opens Apple Loop Library, which contains 21,000 pre-recorded samples that can be added to the project. 
  • Media Browser: Browses the device or computer for audio/video files to add to the project.