GarageBand is Apple's stripped-down version of the professional-level audio editor Logic Pro. The music creation software comes with a simple interface that makes it easy to produce sound, from designing a song to recording, editing, and mixing. Exporting is easy too, as you can send files directly to Soundcloud or your iTunes library.

The latest version, v10.4.7, adds over 480 new Apple Loops music samples to the already extensive collection, while also improving stability and fixing bugs.

Apple GarageBand: prices and plans

  • Completely free to use with optional free and paid plugins
  • Apple GarageBand on Amazon for €14.39 (opens in a new tab)

Apple GarageBand is free for iPhone and iPad owners and comes with all new Mac devices.

GarageBand's simplicity could eventually lead to a financial outlay on plugins that add more tools and functionality. There are still key features in Logic that GarageBand doesn't have, but really needs due to its impressive size and capabilities. For example, that might work with a mixer suitable for the massive 255 tracks available for each song.

If that sounds daunting, don't worry, there are plenty of free plugins that work with GarageBand. Don't forget that you'll need to visit the settings menu to make sure "Open plugins in default control view" is disabled to see the actual plugin on screen instead of a dry infobox that's more difficult to work with.

Apple GarageBand: Interface

Screenshot of Apple GarageBand free audio editor

(Image credit: Apple)

  • Flexible, multifunctional, cross-platform

For a free audio editor, GarageBand pays impressive attention to detail, with options for every stage of music production, including AI-powered drummers. These can be standalone tracks, but can also be set to follow the tempo.

Alternatively, designating your drum track (or any other track) as a “rhythm track”, means that all the others will follow it. There are 33 virtual drummers to choose from, each capable of over a million unique beat and fill combinations to inspire you.

Smart controls let you create original sounds from preset instruments in the sound library, and there's a good selection of electric guitar amps, cabinets, and pedals. A simplified Flex Time control alters the timing of the audio, and it's also easy to transpose tracks, regions, or notes using a number of different methods to add depth and complexity to your music.

You can control and play any instrument in GarageBand on Mac wirelessly using your iPhone or iPad using the Logic Remote app. There's even a rudimentary mixer, with basic pan and volume versions of Logic Pro's more developed features.

Some features appear in both Logic Pro and GarageBand for iOS, like the incredibly flexible view of Live Loops, which unfortunately isn't in GarageBand for Mac.

There are plenty of learning tools in the app, including Artist Lessons, where artists show you how to play their famous songs, though some are only available for iOS. The audio editing software also allows you to record multiple takes and export them to your music library on iTunes or share them directly to SoundCloud.

Apple GarageBand: Recording

Screenshot of Apple GarageBand free audio editor

(Image credit: Apple)

  • Lots of useful recording tools including cycles and simple one-click shortcuts

Once you've installed or updated the app, you'll need to go to the GarageBand menu, choose Sound Library, and click "Download all available sounds." If the packages don't appear after downloading all available sounds, reindexing all Apple Loops should fix the problem.

The region cycle function is really useful for recording. After the first two passes, the top left corner of the track will show the number of takes you have taken. You can then listen to them individually and choose the best one, which makes it even easier to get a good vocal track.

Smart commands can be useful here because C turns the loop region on and off, while you can override it by selecting a region and pressing shift and space when the track will start playing from the start of that region, whether enabled or disabled.

Other easy-to-remember one-click shortcuts ease your workflow and free your hands to play instruments. Track headers can be customized with icons and names, and tracks can be easily color-coded for visual impact, helping you organize and streamline the editing process.

Although it may take some time to get familiar with the interface, the menus are easy to find. And features like plugins appearing in the order they're applied help you create great sound from scratch in an intuitive way.

Apple GarageBand: latest fixes

Screenshot of Apple GarageBand free audio editor

(Image credit: Apple)

  • Some interesting updates and fixes in v10.4.7

The latest version of Garageband fixes several issues with DAW controls, such as the pitch slider for the metronome and the track header volume slider, which now remains visible and works for all track header widths.

MIDI functionality has also been improved. Fortunately, the issue of overwrite mode removing audio from tracks you're not using as well as the one you're actually working on has been resolved. You also can't hear the revolutionary sound of the track you're recording on.

When using Voiceover, the Mono/Stereo selector in the Smart Controls Inspector now reliably displays the correct value, allowing you easier production.

One disappointing feature is that file transfer only works one way. You can send GarageBand projects from your phone or tablet directly to your Mac, and the project will open showing all the tracks. However, if you submit in another way, your project will appear as a single mixed track on your device.

The disappointment in this, however, is somewhat offset by the new (and incredibly useful) feature of dragging a file directly from Voice Memos onto a new GarageBand track. It's a much friendlier and more efficient way to work here.

Apple GarageBand: Royalty Free Music Samples

Screenshot of Apple GarageBand free audio editor

(Image credit: Apple)

  • Some good options for creators who stray from copyrighted music

While it's very easy to create music using preset loops and packs, and with top artists sharing their riffs and tricks, you should know that you won't have a problem with copyright spiders like YouTube. Apple's agreement states that all loops are royalty-free, with the exception of Remix Sessions. However, some creators have reported receiving copyright notices that must then be challenged.

The best way to avoid problems is to do one of the things GarageBand is best at: cut up preset loops and turn them into something unique with all the tools at your disposal. You can easily change the entire preset instrument sound by opening a new track with a different instrument. Drag the loop to the new track (drag option to keep original). The notes will be the same, but they will sound different and you can change them from there.

Elsewhere, you'll find the ability to click and drag to make copies and move them exactly where you want them, for one or more regions. And, helpfully, the Intel Audio Unit plugins now load and work as expected.

  • Royalty Free Music Samples: 4/5

Apple GarageBand: Dashboard

Swipe to scroll horizontally Row 0 – Cell 0 Row 0 – Cell 1 Row 0 – Cell 2 Pricing and Plans Free with optional add-ons 5 Interface Clean, simple, easy to navigate 4.5 Recording Many useful built-in tools 4 Latest fixes Great update that fixes issues with the audio editor 4 Royalty-free music samples free loops available to content creators4

Should I give it a try?

Screenshot of Apple GarageBand free audio editor

(Image credit: Apple)

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