MacMost Now 351: Editing Audio Files in GarageBand

You can use GarageBand as a simple audio file editor. Just drag and drop a sound file into GarageBand to edit it. You can adjust the volume, cut out parts of the sound and apply filters. You can then export as a standard sound file or a compressed file.

Video Transcript
On today's episode let's use GarageBand to edit some audio.
Some I am often asked how to edit a piece of audio on the Mac. Is their a program someone can use? Well GarageBand is a great audio editor. You don't have to use all the music stuff in the special features. You can just use it to edit an audio file. Let's do that right now.
So here I have created a basic GarageBand file. I just chose the piano default project. Now I am going to delete the only file that is there the Grand Piano by selecting by clicking Here and hitting Command Delete. So it gives me a completely empty GarageBand project. I've got an audio file here that I am going to drag into it. Now it can almost be any format in this case it is AIF format could be wav could be an mp3.I'm going to drag it and drop it into this area and it will import the audio right there.
I can playback the sound by pressing the play button at the bottom. I can position in the sound by dragging the marker up here and I can see the red line going as well so I can go to any point in the sound. Like here and can start playing. Now I can view the wav form closer by double clicking on it and it will open the Audio Region editor down here. You can see as I drag the cursor here at the top I can see the red line here and I can also se it down here. Here I can see a much better view of the audio wave form. Now if I want to split the track in some location say the edit out some sound at the beginning. Let's say I want to edit out this first piece of sound here. So I want to edit that first bit out right there. So I want to cut it there. So what I want going to do is to go to Edit and Split and this will split it into to regions. You can see I can select the first region or the second region representing the rest. I can simply select this and I can also look over here and in the Audio Region editor and can see the two different sections right there. I can select this right here and I can simply press delete and I can move this over to the left just by dragging it. And now I have edited out that first bit of audio. I can also do that down below here. I can select this area here and simply press Delete and that will delete the region. I can then move it over. I can also do that in the middle as well and you see how it splits the track here.
Now you can also play with the volume of a track. So if you select the track click this little button here and it gives you the Track Volume. You can then click to create points and adjust the volume like I can gradually lower the volume here. Have it lower for a while gradually increase it hear here things like that. I could boost an area like that. Do all sorts of things and you can always preview your changes.
Now if I want to modify how it sounds I got to Track Info like so and I have a whole bunch of filters here on the left. So I can select one say Vocals and I can take one and say use Helium and then try to play it with that filter applied.
You can edit a filter as much as you want. Go to the editing tab here see all the effects that are applied to make that filter. You can select any one of them go ahead and change all sorts of things about it. So you can experiment to your heart's delight making special affect for the sound.
Now after you're done editing the sound and you get it just the way you want you can get it out of GarageBand by choosing Share and then Export Song to Disc. Here we've got some options if you don't you select compress you get a AFI which is a raw audio file of the highest quality. If you select compress you can choose many things including Mp3 Encoder and select Quality and then hit Export and Name your file and save it anywhere that you want.
So I hope you like that quick look at editing audio in GarageBand till next time this Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost.

Comments: 64 Responses to “MacMost Now 351: Editing Audio Files in GarageBand”

    1/29/10 @ 6:02 pm

    You couldn’t have posted this at a better time! I just imported a music CD into iTunes and the the CD is from a live concert and is only one track; the individual songs are not split into separate tracks.

    I did find some instructions on the Internet on how to use iTunes to create individual tracks, but I think I’ll try it in Garage Band instead.

    Thanks Gary!

      Ravi Chand
      8/29/12 @ 11:41 am

      Thanks a ton Gary, you saved my day. In just a few minutes, I went from being totally clueless to actually having accomplished editing a song that my daughter is to use for a dance demo tomorrow. Many thanks again.

    1/30/10 @ 2:07 am

    Thank you Gary!
    You really helped me with a project for my son with this one.

    S. Jobber
    1/30/10 @ 8:41 pm

    I hate the popup ad.

    1/31/10 @ 10:20 am

    Your little tutorials are invaluable. It’s amazing what you can do with the software that you actually have in your system, without having to go third party. Thanks, MacMost is great ,not too difficult to follow, and well illustrated.
    2/5/10 @ 5:29 am

    Thank you! so handy for editing our mixtape!

    6/27/10 @ 6:58 pm

    I just imported a music CD to my IMac, this files are MUSIC.AIFF

    This CD is from a live concert and is only one BIG track; the individual songs are not split into separate tracks.

    I did not find some instructions on the Internet on how to use GARAGEBAND to create individual tracks without silent between them.

    I want to Re-EQUALIZED (put more Bass, Treeble, remove vocal, etc..), put track marks without silent between them and save as CD to listen in my personal CD player (without silence betwenn tracks)

    Can you help-me!!!
    Thanks Gary!

      6/27/10 @ 7:11 pm

      Cutting it into tracks is a matter of bringing the whole thing into GarageBand, splitting the track at the start and end of a song, and then deleting all the stuff before it and after it. Then move it to the start of the timeline and set the end marker to right at the end of the song. Then export.
      Repeat for each song.

    10/7/10 @ 3:31 am

    Hi Gary
    Great Stuff! As a first project I have been able to make a music mix for a dance blending two songs together.. I’m wondering.. next thing I need to learn is how to add an ‘underlying bass’ so that the blended tracks seem more of an integrated whole.. it might involve slowing the tempo a little, and gradually altering the key by a minor third or so.. any tips appreciated, your videos are fanatastic well done :-)

    11/20/10 @ 2:39 pm


    How do you sync GB tempo with an imported wav file?

    mike clelland
    1/14/11 @ 8:54 pm


    I want to hug you. You showed me how to adjust the volume in a way that will save me HOURS when I edit my podcasts!

    THank you!
    Mike C

    1/19/11 @ 11:55 am

    Hi Gary,
    I imported a song from CD into Garage Band for editing. Nothing fancy; just deleting regions of the song to make it the song shorter for a dance competition. It sounded great! i was so impressed with Garage band until….that is…. I imported the song into Itunes (as a wav file) My smooth editing was gone and it sounded like someone had taken a machete to my track. What happened?


    P.S. I am new to Garage Band and music editing in general.

      1/19/11 @ 12:14 pm

      Not sure which of the many functions of GarageBand you were using when you said “imported the song into Itunes” — try exporting using Share, Export Song to Disk. Then see how the file you create sounds.

        1/21/11 @ 1:41 pm

        Hi Gary,

        I used Share, Send Song to iTunes. Tried it twice. On your advice, I burned the song directly to Disk and… voila! I was then able to import it back into iTunes with all editing in tact. Thanks!

    3/18/11 @ 7:11 pm

    What do I need to connect a handheld mic and eventually my amp to my MacBook Pro when using Garageband? Is it as simple as finding an adapter to fit the plug on my Mac or do i need to buy an interface of some kind?

      3/18/11 @ 7:31 pm

      To attach a mic you either need a USB mic, or USB mic adapter. iMic is the cheapest, but you get get slightly more expensive ones that offer more quality. Often these will come with audio out too, so you can do both. But you can use the audio out for that.

    3/21/11 @ 10:09 pm

    Do you have a video that shows how to join two regions together after you are happy with your changes? “Edit>undo split region” sometimes works but when I copy a region to use as an introduction to a song it won’t seem to join the pasted region to the remainder of the song.

      3/21/11 @ 10:29 pm

      Right next to the Split command in the Edit menu is the Join command.

        3/22/11 @ 5:23 pm

        Good grief!!! I must be blind!! Thank you

    5/11/11 @ 2:29 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I stumbled onto this site an hour ago and it has been invaluable!

    One question I can’t seem to find an answer for involves the iLife audio clips that come with iMovie – I’d like to edit them precisely in GarageBand and put them into an iMovie project, but am unable to find them in order to import them.

    I’d be really grateful if you could point me in the right direction.

    All Best –

      5/11/11 @ 2:37 pm

      In GarageBand go to the Loops browser. At the top you will see three buttons: column view, musical button view and podcast sounds view. Switch to the third one. Then choose Jingles.

    5/12/11 @ 6:50 am

    I’d have never noticed that – Thank you!


    Geoff Hill
    5/20/11 @ 10:49 pm

    When I export (share) a .wav file to Itunes it causes some distortion in the audio that is not present in the .wav. I have tried to adjust quality but have to make a huge file to eliminate the distortion. Do you have amy suggestions?

      5/21/11 @ 9:09 am

      A .wav file could be lots of things. That’s a file wrapper that could contain different types of formats inside. Those formats are related, but they can vary.
      So what, exactly, are you doing, You say you are exporting a wav file from GarageBand? Do you mean that you import a wav file into GarageBand (in which case it isn’t a wav file anymore, it is internal audio in a GarageBand file). Then you export to iTunes? What sort of distortion do you get, exactly?

    12/6/11 @ 9:14 pm

    I have made a 30 second file with my GarageBand and want to send it to my iPhone for a ringtone. I click on send to iTunes, but it only sends 1 second of it for some reason. The song is already on my iTunes, but I edited down to 30 seconds. How do I save it as a ringtone properly? Thank you, great site.

      12/6/11 @ 9:36 pm

      Did you create it as a Ringtone project in GarageBand? Did you set the looping region to the whole 30 seconds of the audio? Did you send it to iTunes as a Ringtone, as opposed to just a song?

        12/7/11 @ 12:53 am

        Sorted out the timeline issues and made the same ringtone of different lengths from 38 seconds down to 27 seconds thinking the time length was the issue. It isn’t. I made .m4r files through ACC and also sent it straight from Garageband to ringtones in iTunes. None of them show up on my iPhone4. I show all versions in Tones on iTunes, but it doesn’t show up regardless of what I try…so far. Thanks for responding, Gary.

          12/7/11 @ 8:01 am

          Not sure what you mean by “made .m4r files though acc.”
          The way it works in you start a new GarageBand “ringtone” project — not a project of any other sort. Make the audio. Set the loop area. Then Share, Send Ringtone to iTunes.
          Then, select your iPhone in iTunes. Go to the Ringtones section. Turn on syncing of Ringtones. Make sure the rest of the settings are such that that particular ringtone gets synced.

    12/7/11 @ 12:55 am

    I also tried powering down each one and syncing it several times to no avail.

    12/8/11 @ 2:34 pm

    thank you for posting this! Really appreciate the info! Just accelerated my learning curve by 50%.

    Jason D. Smith
    12/23/11 @ 12:48 pm

    This was a great tutorial. Even though basic, it opened up the doors for my projects. Thank you!

    12/28/11 @ 3:19 pm

    Is it possible to add effects like fade in and fade out to the music? The tutorial was great, it helped me to cut my skating music.

      12/28/11 @ 3:33 pm

      Yes. Just edit the volume line (automation curve) of a track. Drop it to 0 to start, up to normal, then curve it down again to 0 at the end. See the page “Show track automation curves” in the GarageBand help.

    12/29/11 @ 9:26 pm

    Also, is it possible that if your song has lyrics and you just want the instrumental part, to cut out the lyrics?

      12/29/11 @ 10:10 pm

      That’s not really possible. Maybe with some pro equipment and a pro audio engineer.

    1/13/12 @ 1:59 am

    Thank you for your tutorial. I did everything you said, and dragged in a piece. But when I click “split,” I can see the split in the music, but I can’t click on either section and when I delete the entire track deletes! What am I doing wrong?!

    1/13/12 @ 2:01 am

    Oh, wait. For some reason it suddenly worked. Thank you!

    barbara paulsen
    1/16/12 @ 7:50 am

    Is there anyway to use Garageband to get rid of a buzzing sound?

      1/16/12 @ 8:24 am

      All you can do is to try to apply a filter to it, like NoiseGate or AUFilter or an equalizer. See episode 639 for the basics ( But of course even if you narrow the buzz down to a certain range in your audio, you will be removing other things in that range as well. You’ll need to experiment and try things and put some time in for best results, and even then the best results might just be a small improvement.

        barbara paulsen
        1/16/12 @ 12:53 pm

        Thanks Gary. I used the Automatic Filter and it helped quite a bit!

    2/1/12 @ 1:40 pm

    Thank you for posting this – it’s a great tool. The only thing I struggled with was that I split and cut 18 minutes of dead air at the beginning. I would export, or save then export, or any number of combinations, but the end result was an MP3 that would still play the dead air at the beginning. I finally tried cutting and pasting the section that was starting at 18:00, moved it to the beginning then cut it at the end. Now it works. Was there a step I missed somewhere?

      2/1/12 @ 2:09 pm

      You simply forgot to drag the drag from the 18:00 start time over to the left to 0:00.

    3/1/12 @ 7:39 pm

    Hi Gary,

    I am using garage band to make some mp3’s of our band practice sessions. I use a sony zoom to record the whole practice. I then import the 2 hours of continuous practice as a wav file. I would like to be able to export small portions of the file where the individual songs are. Is there a way to select part of the file and then save just that part as an mp3 without exporting the whole file? I would like to just keep saving the individual songs with out cutting and pasting into another garage band project. Is this possible. Thanks, Mark

      3/1/12 @ 10:48 pm

      Sure. Just select the portion before the song. Delete. Select the portion after. Delete. Move the song to the 0:00 time. Export. Then undo undo undo and repeat for the next section.

      Lou Pastina
      6/2/12 @ 6:20 pm

      I am try to import zoom files and they look like they are importing but when it is finished there is no file to work with – what am I doing wrong, please help !!

    3/8/12 @ 7:46 pm

    Thats a good fix around, thanks. Wish I could just highlight the portion I wanted and then export but this will do.

    4/1/12 @ 4:50 pm

    I need to edit an audio file. Started with “Piano” as you suggested, but can’t find a way to delete it. I have Garage Band 11. I select piano but nothing happens. The “cut” feature is grey out. How do I cut the Piano?

      4/1/12 @ 8:25 pm

      The Delete key (the key on your keyboard). To delete a section of audio or a software instrument simply select it and press Delete. To delete an entire track, select the track itself and use Command+Delete.

    4/27/12 @ 8:33 am

    Super clear instructions, super valuable. Thanks Gary!

    Gordon Taylor
    4/27/12 @ 10:31 am

    When I drag a mp3 file into garage band it does not copy it. What am I doing wrong?

      4/27/12 @ 2:49 pm

      Hard for me to tell. If you drag it into the tracks area, it should create a new track with that file.

    5/8/12 @ 9:35 am

    Hi Mark,

    I am recording text to speech from files I can’t rearrange beforehand through garage band. Can you please help me figure out the best way to edit the questions and answers at the end of each segment? The questions are recorded sequentially (Q.1-20) and then the answers (Q.1-20) I have tired to cut and name each region, but naming them effects the names of the other regions and it was futile and confusing. I have tried stair stepping them on 5 different tracks, naming them and then attempting to drag either the answer or the question to the corresponding place and it just turned into a confusing cluster of mess. The best solution would be if i could keep it all on the same track and divide each question into a region and then cut and paste each answer behind the corresponding question. Can you please help me figure out how to do this? Thank you!!


      5/8/12 @ 9:50 am

      What you wrote (“keep it all on the same track and divide each question into a region and then cut and paste each answer behind the corresponding question”) is the way to go. So why not do just that? What’s stopping you?

        5/8/12 @ 12:52 pm

        I thought I had done that….and it didn’t work as it should. I must have done it wrong.. I’m going to retry. Thanks!

    5/26/12 @ 5:06 pm

    When I try to select a portion of the audio in the “audio region” a pop up comes up and tells me in order to make timing edits I have to enable “Follow Tempo & Pitch” Then it doesn’t let me select a portion like you did, but instead highlights the audio and kind of compresses it. How do I get this to turn off?

      5/26/12 @ 8:15 pm

      Did you enable Follow Tempo & Pitch? Play around with it. You’ll get it.

    Matt Clark
    9/16/12 @ 10:27 pm

    Hi Gary,
    Im having trouble trying to edit regions within an audio wave. (vocal recordings). Is it possible to apply vocal effects on certain regions within a wave once it has been cut up? Because I have tried to highlight individual regions within the wave and apply an echo effect, but it ends up automatically applying that effect to the whole track,not just the highlighted region….HELP!!!!

      9/17/12 @ 6:45 am

      I think that is right. It applies to the whole track. So move different portions to different tracks.

    Adam Smyth
    9/28/12 @ 6:10 pm

    Gary – Stumbled on your site. Big problem. I do AB voiceovers and having just finished an audio book I realized that I recorded a couple chapters out of order in an effort to meet deadline. Here’s the problem for a fairly new Apple fan. They are long chapters. As of now, let’s say I have an ABC order but what I need is an ACB order. I dread thinking that the only way to make this happen is to highlight many pages of text and cut and drag and then paste. Is there no way to simply highlight C, lift it out of place and simply insert it between A & B – without dragging B out of the way, which entails a lot of highlighting (even to drop it to another track meanwhile). A simple insert edit where the program shifts A and B to accommodate C being dropped between them would solve my problem simply.

    Is that doable on a MAC (I know it is on some PC editing software)?

    I have tried the “join” and “split” function – get nowhere.

      9/28/12 @ 7:43 pm

      So I assume you mean in GarageBand, right? I can’t think of any way to do it other than what you suggest. In iMovie and Final Cut the timeline is “magnetic” like you suggest. But it isn’t in GarageBand — must be some reason for that, but I’m not sure.

    10/10/12 @ 10:47 pm

    Is there anyway on GarageBand that I can delete a verse and chorus from the middle of a song and still have the song flow together? I need to make a track shorter for a dance.

      10/11/12 @ 6:33 am

      Yes. Just split the track at the right spots and remove the sections you don.t want. But it doesn’t do it automatically because it doesn’t know where you want to make the cuts — so you have to work at it to get it to sound right. Takes time.

Comments Closed.