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Audio Editing & Production

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

Instrument Library


One of GarageBand's strongest features is the quality and diversity if the virtual instrument library. These virtual or software-based instruments can read MIDI regions to create high fidelity audio. Selecting an instrument from the library browser creates a software instrument track where MIDI information can be input and manipulated. 



Opening the Editor displays a larger view of the selected audio or MIDI region. This is useful for identifying parts of a region the user may wish to edit. Pictured above is an audio region displayed in the arranger window. Below is an audio region displayed in the editor window. The editing procedure is similar in both views. 

Track List

GarageBand does not have a mixer window; all mixing controls are located in the track list. The elements of this section are pictured and described below.



  1. Add New Track: Create an additional audio, MIDI, or drummer track in the current project. GarageBand projects are limited to 32 total tracks per project.
  2. Automation: Mixing elements such as volume, EQ and more can be applied to the track as a whole. Automation allows these elements to be applied only at certain times during a track, and the user may adjust the amount of change over time. An example would be a fade-in or fade-out, which both control volume automation over time at a specific point in a track. 
  3. Playhead Catch: When toggled on, the arranger window will scroll to the right as the playhead advances through the project. When off, the playhead may advance out of sight while the arranger does not scroll.
  4. Track Icon: A quick display that represents which type of media is contained within a track. 
  5. Mute Track: Silences all audio from the track.
  6. Solo Track: Plays audio from the selected track only, silences all others. 
  7. Track Name: Describes or categorizes the contents of a track. A name is created when a new track is added, and may be modified by the user.
  8. Input Monitoring: When toggled on, an audio source such as a microphone or guitar can be heard as it is being played in real time. The playback will include any effects or modeling from the Smart Controls window. 
  9. Track Volume: Allows user to adjust slider to change the volume of a single track.
  10. Track Pan: Allows user to adjust the left/right balance of a track in the stereo field.

Smart Controls


Different types of tracks will yield different options and effects that the user may adjust when Smart Controls is opened.  Pictured above, a Software Instrument Piano track has been created, and the Smart Controls window offers two tabs with adjustable features. The first has dials to change the tone of the piano on the left as well as modulation controls for echo, tremolo and more on the right. 

The second is the EQ tab, which will offer a graphic equalization display allowing the user to boost or cut the bass/treble content of the piano track at specific frequencies. 



  1. Arranger Window: All media regions appear in this window. They can be looped, cut, copied, trimmed, split, and modified in a number of ways and pasted into this window. 
  2. Drummer Track Media: Appearing in orange, drummer tracks are a quick and easy method of adding rhythm to a project. The beat conforms to the designated BPM, and the intensity and style can be adjusted at any time. 
  3. MIDI Region: Appearing in green, MIDI is digital information channeled through a software instrument. The display reflects the pitch, length, placement and volume of each note individually as colored lines or boxes. 
  4. Audio Region: Appearing in blue, audio from a analog source such as a microphone or guitar is displayed as a waveform. The amplitude of the white wave represents the volume of the audio. 
  5. Playhead Ticker: Clicking on a point of this strip will move the playhead to that point of the project. 
  6. Measure Meter: A visual display of the measure number of the project.
  7. Zoom Slider: Use this slider to expand or condense the visual display of media regions in the arranger. 
  8. Arranger Scroll Bar: Click and drag to scroll the view of the arranger left or right.  If not visible, scroll bars can be displayed in the System Preferences of an iMac. 

Musical Typing Keyboard


In lieu of an external instrument or MIDI controller, GarageBand's Musical Typing Keyboard converts any iMac keyboard into a musical instrument. To open this feature, select Musical Typing from the Window menu, or use the keyboard shortcut ( Command + K ). This feature requires a software instrument to be created and selected from the track list section.