MacMost Now 654: Automation Curves In GarageBand

Automation curves are what let you control volume over time for an individual track or an entire song in GarageBand. In addition to volume, you can also control panning and sound effects. Master Track automation curves let you control pitch and tempo as well.

Video Transcript
Hi this is gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's take a look at automation curves in garageband. So automation curves are way to control an aspect of a track in garageband over time. So friends this here i have, a regular audio track. I click on this button here to show the automation curve. Now, its just a straight line here and this is for volume. The volume is gonna remain consistent over time. But i can change that by simply clicking in the automation curve at any point and adding another dot. Now i can take that dot and then drag it down for lower volume or up for more volume. And you can see how it will increase from one dot to the next, from one key frame to the next gradually. So, if I wanted to have several dots, I can do all sort of things like friends since i create three dots here, take the middle dot and drag it down like that. If I wanted to have something change up the proper way to do it would be to simply drag this over here like that just to the point just before it makes the other dot disappear and you can see the line would drop quickly there and gradually increase over time to this point. So I can play around with these dots as much as i want to actually have things so that this volume will be consistent, suddenly drop down and then rise up. So I could use this to create things like fade in and fade outs. You can select any dot you can see how when you select one like that just click on it, it will highlight and then you could delete it like that. By default you have one dot there at the very left you could drag that up or down to change everything and drag it right back to the middle. So if I wanted to have a fade in i could say put a dot there, take this first dot and have it be there so that would fade in over time. I mean similarly I could add a fade out somewhere else. Now you can have automation for other things. So in addition to track volume i can go to the pan and actually have it panned between left and right speakers. So at zero its equal between both speakers but i could have it pan over to the left and over to the right and now it will start in the center panning all the way over to the left and all the way over to the right and remain on right for this particular track here. I could also very easily, just grab the entire thing until I wanna have this entire track play in the left speaker so i can drag this up and it will all play on the left and I can add another track and play on the right. Now you can create automation tracks for other things as well. You can add it here and you can see you can do equalizers and you can do echo and reverb. So I can have say the echo change over time, go from nothing to hundred and then get back down to zero here and then that will change while the track is playing. That's why its called automation curve coz it kinda automates the changing of the echoes instead of being set to a specific amount it automatically goes up and then automatically goes down as the track plays. Now that's what you could do with an individual track but for the master track you can do a lot more. So let's go to show master track. So this gives me at the bottom here the master volume that can be used for all tracks. So say if I want to have the entire song fade out at some point I could add a point there add a point here drag this point down and there I get a fade out for the entire thing. Now when you have a midi track, a track that is made up of notes rather than recorded sounds, there are other things that you get out as well. So when I add automation to one of these types of tracks you can see how there is a lot of different things that i could do to change the track over time. In addition the master track when I have one of these note based tracks, I can add master pitch and even master tempo changes. So master pitch will allow me to raise the pitch up and you can see it actually doesn't do a gradual one that's a quick one. So i can do something like this for the pitch to go up and then down and when i play it back even though this is the same loop you can see its going to change as you listen to it. Now you can also change the master tempo which is kind of interesting so here I have just a steady base speed here but I can have it speed up and then slow back down over time. So definitely it could be handy especially at the end of some songs when you want it to actually slow down and fade out. Now the skill of being able to use the automation curves is not only for garageband. You can also use it for lots of other programs. Its available in some parts of imovie when you are manipulating audio. It's also available in things like final cut pro and other applications. So hope you fine this useful. Till next time. This is gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 12 Responses to “MacMost Now 654: Automation Curves In GarageBand”

    Ian Steele
    1/6/12 @ 3:58 pm

    Gary, you may be aware of this but all the Master Track sections are below the visible area of this video so it is not possible to see what you are doing.

    Kyle E
    1/7/12 @ 2:47 am


    I am curious as to why the process you demonstrate in your video is referred to as ‘automation curves’.

    There is no automation, as the process is entirely manuel and requires the user to move all the lines and nodes individually.

    Also, there is no actual curves that can be applied as all the lines displayed are linear rather than parabolic in nature.

      1/7/12 @ 9:47 am

      Here’s the wikipedia entry:
      My guess is that automation refers to the fact that it is automatic: You set two points, say 50% volume and 75% volume and the volume automatically changes from 50% to 75% in the space in between. You don’t have to set it to 51, 52, etc.
      As for curves, I’ve always heard animation tweening referred to as curves, even if the curve is flat. And this is similar to that.

    Nicola Bloom
    4/14/12 @ 2:42 am

    hi, can you automate on ipad garageband???

      4/14/12 @ 8:02 am

      Do you mean can you use Automation curves in GarageBand for iPad? DOn’t know off the top of my head. Try it and see.

    5/1/12 @ 8:37 am

    I need to know how to stop the master tempo from making a noise every time the tempo changes. The master tempo track makes a thumping noise when the tempo changes, and it doesn’t go away when the music is exported. How can I stop the master tempo from making a noise?

      5/1/12 @ 9:42 am

      Odd. I didn’t experience any sort of noise when trying this.

        5/3/12 @ 4:46 am

        What do you think I should try? I have to make the noise stop or else I cannot compose my music.

        5/3/12 @ 4:56 am

        I’ve found out that it has something to do with Negril Sweep. Whenever the tempo changes and Negril Sweep is playing then the tempo makes a thudding noise. I don’t know if this might help you find an answer. I’ve been struggling for weeks to try to make this stop.

          5/3/12 @ 6:37 am

          Not sure. Maybe try to accomplish what you want without tempo changes? Or compose it in parts? Or, try to not use Negril Sweep?

    Terry Griffin
    5/26/12 @ 3:47 pm

    Mezame9, I know this is a late post. But did you ever figure out why Negril Sweep was causing problems? It may be one of the effects applied to Negril Sweep that’s the culprit. Sometimes Reverb can do some unpredictable things…

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