Steps to Utilize an Arrangement Track in GarageBand

GarageBand is a one of a kind Digital Audio Workstation that lets you create amazing music from the comfort of your home studio. A music production software that can be used alike by beginners as well as professionals, it’s simple and easy to navigate user interface has made GarageBand all the more popular as compared to its counterparts. While there are innumerable functions that GarageBand offers its users, in this guide, we will be talking about the Arrangement Track feature and how it can be used to create beautiful renditions.

The Arrangement Track, as the name suggests, deals mostly with the arrangement of a song. It is a crucial part in the editing of a song. This tool makes life very easy for arrangers with respect to placing the track in a certain arrangement or even copying a track and pasting it across the timeline to make a kind of looper. For the purpose of this guide, we will be using the Arrangement Track over 12 bar blues. This is a common blues arrangement that goes over the sequence of one – four – five. The first four bars (4 counts in a 4/4-time signature) of the twelve-bar blues arrangement is the root note. Let us choose the root scale to be ‘A’.

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Steps to use the Arrangement Track-

  • Launch the GarageBand application on your application. As this guide deals with a new concept in GarageBand, it will be preferred to choose a new project. If you want to record a piece on your MIDI or plug in a guitar, select the type of track accordingly.

  • Otherwise, if you have an existing recording on 12 bar blues that you want to use, import it into the current GarageBand project and pull it up on the tracks section. Either way, you should have a minimum of two tracks to be able to get the advantage of the Arrangement Track option. We will also be using a Rhythm guitar recording as well as a lead section that has been recorded. As a tip, always use the metronome while recording different tracks for a composition. If the original recording is on the beat, it saves a lot of hassle while editing. Position the two tracks according to the time signature.

  • After you have positioned your track well and are ready to use the Arrangement track feature, click on the Track button on the top bar and select ‘Arrangement Track’ from the pull-down menu. You will be able to see a small arrangement area that will be opened up on the upper left-hand corner. There will also be a small ‘+’ symboled button that will let you create a new arrangement.

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  • Click on the first section and the new section will open up. By default, each new section will be made up of eight counts. It can thereafter be manipulated to stretch it out or shorten it. As we are starting with a simple track, we will stick to a verse and a chorus. Let the first section be called verse.

  • Following the 12-bar blues format, the first four bars will be the verse. Zoom into the track and squeeze the verse section to only cover the first four bars. Add another section and rename it to verse 2. This bar will only cover two bars as there is a chord transition after that. An easy way to demarcate sections is to listen for chord transitions. The next two bars will be the chorus followed by four bars of the outro. As we are following the 12-bar blues here, the sections are formed in such a way. If you want to arrange your track in any other way, you can do so by simply adjusting the section length.

  • Complete separating the entire track into different with the help of the ‘+’ symbol as before. With this, you will finish off the arrangement part of the song. What this track lacks currently is a percussion instrument. There are two options to do so. The first one is a lengthier process where you have to record a drums track and import it onto GarageBand. The second one is a simpler technique where you add a new virtual drummer track. We will also be using the virtual drummer. Set the time signature and the variation in the drum pattern you require. A new percussion track will be added below the two existing tracks. Interestingly, as the Arrangement Track is open, the drums track will be split according to the sections that you had made before.

  • As GarageBand offers several virtual drummers namely Darcy, Levi, Graham, and Mason to name a few, implement all of them to see which pattern is sounding best for your track. If you feel the drums are either lagging behind or going faster than the beat, use the ‘Swing’ knob down below to adjust the pace. Another knob called ‘Fills’ is also present right above Swings. This controls the drumming intensity. If you want prominent and powerful base kicks, pull up the intensity or vice-versa.

  • The Arrangement Track, as mentioned before, can be used as a looper by copying and pasting a part of a track on the timeline. The process is very simple. With respect to the current track, there are only two verses there. If you require a third verse, press and hold the ‘Options’ button on your keyboard and click and drag on the ‘verse 2’ title. A duplicate of that particular section will appear. You can drag and place it anywhere on the timeline. This option comes in very handy if you have the same pattern of strumming in every verse and you do not want to play it two or three times. What you can do instead is record it once and use this option to play duplicates for the next two verses. The same goes for the Chorus as well. While editing as well, you just need to master one chorus and one verse and the rest of the song will be taken care of.

  • The Arrangement Tracks feature has been developed in such a way that you will always find a smooth transition between different sections. There will not be any abrupt sound spikes.

  • What remains of the song that we were developing using the Arrangement track is only the ending. Add a final section to the end of the track and call it the Outro. Adjust the bar so as to cover the entire song. Elongate the drums track and add an ending roll to it.

  • Once the arrangement track is more or less ready, head over to the Smart Controls knobs and fine-tune your track. Use the knobs to adjust effects like Reverb, Gain, Ambience, and Harmony. Preview the track before finally exporting it.

  • Save the track on the ‘My Songs’ section and share it on your social media platforms.

For a visual guide, check this detailed video made by GarageBandandBeyond, if we left out on any doubts, he will make it a cakewalk for you: