How to edit audio in GarageBand: demo from a live webinar

From a live webinar with Dr. Beth Harris.

Beth Harris: [0:00] …of this webinar along with this keynote will be posted in the Commons and also in the Commons Facebook group.

[0:08] And so the main thing is not to worry if things feel like they’ve gone by fast today. You’ll have resources to turn to and you’ll be able to review those at your leisure, and watch and re-watch.

[0:22] My idea today is to make you feel really comfortable about using… editing audio. If maybe some of you were here for Steven Zucker talking about Photoshop a couple of weeks ago, even a little bit of Photoshop work on an image can do a lot.

[0:45] The same thing with an audio. If you’ve recorded an audio lecture or a part of a lecture, whatever, even just a little cleaning up of the audio can make it so much more enjoyable for people to listen to.

[1:00] There’s really only a few things I’m going to teach you today that are very straightforward. The idea of this next 20 minutes is just to make you feel like, “Oh, that doesn’t seem so hard, I can do that.” Then you can go back and review the resources and do it yourself.

[1:18] So, four reasons to use audio. Audio and still images can do a lot. Just like an audio guide or in a dark classroom, you can focus on the image, you can have your students look at the image while you’re talking and they’re listening. It’s a really effective way to learn and communicate.

[1:46] Editing audio, so much easier than editing a video. When you edit a video and you’ve got some “ums” you want to edit out, you’ve got problems with the video and you have to add B-roll to cover that up, none of that is necessary with editing audio.

[2:03] I should say before we go on that if you have questions, use the Q&A. We’ll be monitoring those and we can answer at the end.

[2:11] The other really good thing about audio, which I especially appreciate and don’t appreciate about Zoom, is not being on the camera. There’s something really relaxing about that that makes it easier to deal with.

[2:27] So, we’re going to do these four things to know about editing audio. One is making cuts. Being able to cut out an “um,” cutting out some silence, cutting out something you no longer want to keep into the audio, moving the existing pieces together.

[2:46] You’ve removed something that you’ve deleted and you’re going to move the pieces that continue to be there together. Then you’re going to join…I’m going to show you how to join those pieces back into a seamless whole, and then export the video.

[3:00] We’re going to…really GarageBand basics, but in a way, this is really all you need to know. Let’s just start with the most obvious thing.

[3:10] This is what GarageBand looks like when you open it. It can look a little intimidating, but we’re going to focus on really just the basics and not a lot of functionality because you don’t need a lot of functionality to do what we’re going to do today.

[3:24] The wiggly lines you see, those are all the sounds. That’s the sound signature. That’s just a visual representation of the recorded sounds. The flat lines are essentially silence or the sound of the room.

[3:39] Small little bumps like you see here are likely a breath or a quiet sound. And then the bigger wiggles or bumps are words, and that’s… with the basics of the sound signature.

[3:56] Let’s talk about getting set up. The way that we structure these conversations is I’m going to walk through this keynote, which we’re going to make available, and then I’m going to do a live demo. You’ll actually get to see this twice.

[4:13] Let’s focus on getting set up in opening GarageBand. Once you open GarageBand, it looks like this. From the New Project menu, you’re going to choose Empty Project.

[4:28] Then you’ll see this screen. You want to choose the icon that’s the microphone and that you can use for just recording in GarageBand or dragging in an audio file that you’ve recorded on a microphone or from somewhere else.

[4:46] The next thing to do is, because most people use GarageBand for music, is that we have to turn off that music functionality that we don’t need. The two purple icons, one that seems to reflect beats: one, two, three, four, and the other that looks like a metronome. You’re just going to turn those off. Just click those buttons and they’ll turn gray.

[5:07] Then, we don’t want to measure beats. We want to measure time because we want to keep track of how long our audio file is. Use that little pull-down menu here and choose Time.

[5:21] Then you’re close to all set. You want to open your Finder window and drag in an audio file, unless you’ve recorded an audio file already here in GarageBand. When you do that, you’ll see you’ve brought in the sound signature. It’s that brown bar. This is called a track here.

[5:44] You’ll see here that almost a quarter of the GarageBand screen is taken up with this thing called the Library. We’re not going to use the Library. We want to really use the whole screen here to edit. So you’re just going to click that and close the Library. Then you’ll have a nice full screen to work with.

[6:07] With GarageBand, you actually get two views of the audio. We’ll talk in a minute about why. You want to go from seeing on the bottom here these equalizer controls…you actually want to use the bottom area to edit.

[6:24] So in order to make this track appear down here in the editor, you just double-click on the sound signature and it will appear down here at the bottom. This is really the main area you’ll be using.

[6:42] If we learn our way around GarageBand a little bit more, we have this macro view. That’s a big view. That’s if you want to move big pieces around. Really what we’re going to be doing today, all you need to focus on is this bottom panel, which is where you actually do the editing.

[7:04] Here, it’s looking really tiny and narrow and hard to see. You can actually grab this bar here and move it up. You’ve enlarged the area where you’re doing the editing, making things easier to see.

[7:20] A couple of more things to know. On both the top and the bottom, you’ll see sliders in the upper right corner. These allow you to zoom in and zoom out.

[7:33] If we’re just thinking about the bottom editing area, you’ll want to zoom in when you are doing fine editing, zoom out a little bit when you’re doing less fine editing. It’s a very important tool to use. I use it pretty constantly when I’m doing editing.

[7:56] The easiest thing to do to play the audio is to just press the space bar. If you press the space bar once on your computer, it’ll start to play. If you hit the space bar again, it’ll pause, so it’s pretty easy.

[8:10] Where is it playing from? It’s playing from where your playhead is. The playhead is this vertical bar here. Your audio will always play from that location.

[8:25] You can also use buttons that you might be more comfortable with up here to play, to go back to the beginning, to go to the end, and things like that.

[8:36] I made a little video here of how to move the playhead. There’s only one little tricky piece to this, which is that you have to move the playhead along this beige top area, not in the bottom brown area.

[8:51] Put your cursor along the beige-colored bar at the top, and you can slide the playhead or you can jump around.

[8:59] There I am sliding the playhead back and forth. And here I am jumping around with the playhead. As long as your cursor is in that top area, you’re fine. We’re going to also use the playhead to mark where we want to edit.

[9:21] So now let’s actually edit or walk through the steps of editing. Then I’ll do an actual demo where you can see me editing. The first thing to do is to make sure you’ve actually clicked on…you’ve selected the area that you’re going to work on. Let me play this little short video and I’ll narrate through it.

[9:40] You see when I selected it, that top bar turned to that light brown. Let’s edit out this piece of silence here between the words. What you do is you put your playhead at the beginning and the end.

[9:55] First I did it here at the end, and I clicked Command + T to make a cut. Then I did it at the beginning and clicked Command + T to make a cut. In order to get rid of that part that I want to cut, I went up to the edit menu and selected Delete and Move.

[10:13] Now, that all happened really fast, so I did it again in slow motion so you can see. And I’ll demonstrate it. Basically we put the playhead at the beginning of where I wanted to cut, the end of where I wanted to cut, and in the Edit menu, Delete and Move, and it joined those two pieces and got rid of that middle piece that I wanted to get rid of.

[10:33] Again, I’ll demonstrate this. Really, really important, this is a very common beginner mistake. Before you move on, once you’ve made the edit, move your playhead back a little bit and listen to the edit that you’ve made. It’s really easy for beginners to miss a little bit of a word or cut into a little bit of a word.

[11:01] You can always undo your edit, but it’s much harder to undo something that you’ve done 20 steps before. Always listen, and then you can fix it immediately. It’s just Command + Z. Edit, Undo, Command + Z, and there it is. Edit, Undo.

[11:23] Then you want to join…You’ve made all these edits, you’ve removed “ums” and all these other things that you don’t want, and you end up with — and you can see it on the top and bottom here — lots of pieces of audio where in between those pieces you’ve removed some audio.

[11:42] If you wanted to go back through this and do a finer edit, just make sure there’s nothing that you want to edit out more, you don’t want to go and deal with these pieces, it just makes it very hard to work with, so you’ll want to join these pieces into one seamless audio.

[12:00] To do that, you click on the track up in the upper left here. It selects everything, and then you go to the Edit menu. You choose Join, say OK, and then it joins it and those little pieces are gone, and you can edit the audio easily again.

[12:25] Then exporting. Again, very straightforward, go up to the Share menu at the top, choose Export Song to Disk, and you can export it as a WAV file or an MP3 file. Really, that’s it. It’s just like copying and pasting in Microsoft Word. You’re just deleting and joining.

[12:48] So, a really common thing that happens is that you accidentally click this little loop functionality here. It’s really easy to click by accident. The first five times I did it, took me like 20 minutes to figure out how to turn it off. That’s the loop button. In case you click it, just click it again to unclick it.

[13:18] Editing principles. These are things that we’ve learned over the years here at Smarthistory. My dog just walked into the room. This is the main thing. Be ruthless. Edit out “ums,” pauses, breaths. There goes an “um.”

[13:40] It’s just so much nicer to listen to, and when learners are listening, you’re competing against a lot of other things that are on their laptops that they want to pay attention to. The more snappy, the tighter you can make it, the better. If it’s not relevant to telling the story, just delete it.

[14:01] Sometimes I’ll be editing audio and there’ll be this passage where I feel like I was, oh, I just said that so well and I just really want to keep it in, but it’s not helpful. It doesn’t help me tell the story that I’m telling about the work of art. You just have to bite the bullet and delete it.

[14:20] I think of audio, video length is four to six minutes is ideal. Of course, you can do more, but if you can break things up into four to six minutes, that always works best.

[14:34] And so that’s my talk, my keynote, but now I want to go into — just a reminder to visit the Smarthistory Commons — I’m actually going to open up GarageBand now and actually do a real demo for you, a live demo.

[14:56] I should say that editing audio is one of my favorite things to do. It’s just incredibly fun, I think. I’m going to just make a new audio file so it looks exactly like the steps that we followed in my keynote.

[15:18] Here’s GarageBand when you open it, Empty Project, in the New Project menu. I’m going to hit Choose. I’m going to make sure the microphone is checked here, and I’m going to click Create. Now you notice that all those things that we talked about, I’m going to turn off the metronome, turn off the beat counter, and go up here and set this to Time.

[15:48] Now you can see I’ve got a little time bar up here that’s showing seconds so I can see how much time has passed when I’m working on my audio. I want to get rid of this big Library pane here as well. See Library here, I’m just going to click this box that looks like a little cabinet or something, that’s gone.

[16:08] Then I want to make this area at the bottom bigger because I know I’m going to be editing down there. Now I’m going to go into my Finder and I’m going to go to my desktop and grab the audio file that I want to edit. I’m just going to drag it in here. If you wanted to, you could also just press the record button here and record right in GarageBand and skip this step.

[16:31] Now, in order to make this appear down here, I’m going to double click here. Oh, made it small again, so let’s make it bigger. I can see the sound signature really clearly. Let’s show you what happens with the zooms here. Oh, that’s volume, sorry.

[16:51] Here’s the zoom bar. It’s hiding behind the other Zoom photos, so here. I’m zooming all the way in. and then I’m zooming out. Same thing here, zooming in really tight, zooming out. I tend to keep it about halfway down here so I can see the sound signature.

[17:17] I’m going to zoom in here too. You can see I’m looking at the same thing on the bottom as on the top. Here’s this group of words, same thing over here.

[17:30] Let’s actually listen and I’ll do some editing. I’m going to press the space bar to start.

[17:38] [playback starts]

[17:38] [background sounds only]

Beth: [17:47] We’re in one of the first galleries in the Uffizi in Florence, looking at…in a room filled with enormous images of the Madonna and Child.

[18:00] [playback ends]

Beth: [18:01] All right, so a couple things immediately that I know I want to edit out. You can see the playhead moved as I was listening. I’m going to go back to the beginning, so I’m actually going to hit this button up here at the top, or I could drag my playhead.

[18:19] Obviously, I want to get rid of this whole beginning area of just room sound at the Uffizi. To do that, I’m going to put my playhead…remember, the playhead, when you want to move the playhead to be in this beige area at the top, make sure it’s selected. Here it is unselected.

[18:35] I’ve just clicked and selected it, put the playhead here, that’s where I want to pick up. I’m going to hit Command + T, and that made a cut. If I move the playhead, you can see the cut there. Made the cut right where the playhead is. I’m actually, in this case, just going to drag it to the left because there is nothing before that I want to keep.

[19:01] Now to drag, just make sure your cursor is in the form of an arrow. One of the tricky things about GarageBand is when you’re up here the cursor is an arrow, when you’re down here it’s a crosshairs. Make sure it’s an arrow, click and drag.

[19:17] All right, let’s go back to the beginning again. I’m going to click this button up here and take my playhead back to the beginning and hit the space bar.

[19:26] [playback starts]

Beth: [19:26] We’re in one of the first galleries in the Uffizi in Florence, looking at…in a room filled…

[19:36] [playback ends]

Beth: [19:36] I want to get rid of “looking at,” so that the audio says, “We’re here at the Uffizi in Florence, in a room filled with…”

[19:44] Let’s see where…I’m going to zoom in a little bit. I’m going to use my little slider here, zoom in a little bit more, go back to the beginning and try to locate where I want to make the cut, where I say, “looking at.”

[19:56] [playback starts]

Beth: [19:56] We’re in one of the first galleries in the Uffizi in Florence, looking at…

[20:01] [playback ends]

Beth: [20:02] OK. “Looking at” is right here. In case I’m not sure, I can just hit the space bar.

[20:08] [playback starts]

Beth: [20:09] …looking at…

[20:09] [playback ends]

Beth: [20:09] Because it always plays from the space bar, and indeed, that is where…

[20:13] [playback starts]

Beth: [20:13] …looking at…

[20:14] [playback ends]

Beth: [20:14] That is where “looking at” is. So now I am going to hit Command + T, and I want to pick up here with…

[20:23] [playback starts]

Beth: [20:23] …in a room filled…

[20:24] [playback ends]

Beth: [20:24] “In a room filled.” I’m going to put the cursor here. Remember, make sure that the area that you’re working on is selected with the beige top. I’m going to hit Command +T. Let me move the main playhead out of the way, and you can see I’ve cut this section. There’s a cut at the beginning and the end of it.

[20:45] I’m going to select it by clicking on it, and then I’m going to go up here. This is what I showed you in the keynote twice. This happens really fast where you go up to edit and choose Delete and Move. It’s going to really quickly delete that central area and bring the other two pieces together, so watch closely.

[21:07] There, it happens really fast. [laughs] If I wanted to undo it, Command + Z would undo it. I could do it again, Delete and Move.

[21:18] So now, my audio is two pieces. If I continued working, I would end up with an audio in lots and lots of pieces, and just quickly to show you how to really join them so you have a seamless audio file in case you want to go back through it.

[21:34] Make sure the track is chosen. Do that up here. Do that up here. Click the track so it’s all beige like this. In the Edit menu, it’s Join Regions, Command + J. Create a new audio file.

[22:00] You’ll notice when you look at the audio, when you look at the sound signature, there are two parallel sound signatures. That’s because the recording is in stereo.

[22:10] Our joining is done, and now we’ve got one seamless file. So that’s audio editing, really straightforward. When you’re done, Share, Export Song to Disk, and you can save it as an MP3 or as a WAV file. An MP3 is condensed, a WAV file is raw.

[22:38] Those are the basics, and just doing a little bit of that will help your audios a lot. Now, I’m happy to take any questions if anybody has any. Any questions today?

[22:58] [silence]

Beth: [22:58] Stop the audio, stop the recording.

Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank: [23:12] Let’s see it…I’m popping in to help with the Q&A.

Beth: [23:16] Thank you.

Lauren: [23:17] For anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank. It looks like we just got a couple of questions in these last two minutes. It says, “Is it possible to clean up the audio speaking part from the echoing noise?” It’s a good question.

Beth: [23:34] Ah, really good question. This was not something I mentioned. There is a noise reducer and an echo reducer in GarageBand. I have found them over the years to be very difficult to use, and also I find that they add a kind of distortion to the audio.

[23:59] With Smarthistory, I use a plug-in in GarageBand called CrumplePop. I think it’s pretty inexpensive. There are two CrumplePops, one to reduce noise that works really well, and another that reduces echo really well. I would recommend using CrumplePop, but there is that same functionality in GarageBand also, if you want to give that a try.

Lauren: [24:27] Looks like we have another question about PC users.

Beth: [24:31] Oh, yeah. OK.

Lauren: [24:33] Is there other options and do we have any experience, or do you have any experience with that?

Beth: [24:37] Yes. I started editing audio on a PC, and I used Audacity. Audacity is a free program that you can use. It looks and works very similarly to GarageBand, and some people prefer it. There are tutorials online. It’s basically the same idea, cutting and then joining.

[25:03] Any other questions?

Lauren: [25:03] It looks like those are all the questions, for now.

Beth: [25:12] Let me just show CrumplePop quickly. Maybe I can do that just so you can see where it is.

Lauren: [25:18] Good idea.

Beth: [25:20] I clicked on this thing that looks like a little time clock, maybe. I never know what these icons are. Down here under Plugins, I’m going to add a plugin. Let’s see if CrumplePop is showing.

[25:35] Here it is. I’ve installed Crumple Pop in GarageBand. I can De-noise, or I can Remove Echo. If I do Audio De-noise, it defaults to 80 percent, which is generally too much. You can hear it now.

[25:57] [playback starts]

Beth: [25:57] …ahead of us when you enter the room, is by the great artist…the Great Florentine artist, Giotto. This is called the “Ognissanti Madonna.” Ognissanti…

[26:07] [playback ends]

Beth: [26:07] You can turn it on and off and play with it. I generally keep it about 20 percent when I need it, or else it also starts to distort the audio. Other plugins for GarageBand, like reducing noise, can be found down here, in this menu here.

[26:31] Any other questions?

Lauren: [26:34] We do. We have a great question, and it will be very easy to answer. It’s, “Can you cut a section of the audio and paste it into another area of the audio?”

Beth: [26:44] Yes. I didn’t demonstrate that today, but I can do it really fast now if you want. I’m going to cut…close that, double click up here so we’re looking at it again.

[26:55] [playback starts]

Beth: [26:55] We’re in one of the first galleries in the Uffizi in Florence.

[26:59] [playback ends]

Beth: [27:00] Say I want to put that later somewhere. I’ve got my playhead here. The track is selected, right? Now I’m not brown anymore. I’m blue and light blue, but I know it’s selected when that light blue comes up here.

[27:14] I’m going to do Command + T. Now, what I usually do is I go up to Track and do New Track with Duplicate Settings. Click up here, so we’re up here again. Then I’ll take this piece. I’m going to zoom in up here. This is where it’s good to use the macro view.

[27:37] I’ll take this piece, and I’ll just hide it down here briefly. Then I’ll scooch this over, back to the beginning. Because I don’t want to listen to this, I’m going to turn off the audio. Then I’m going to go back to the beginning to the piece I’m listening to, which is blue, and select the two.

[27:58] [playback starts]

Beth: [27:58] …in a room filled with enormous images of the Madonna and Child.

[28:01] [playback ends]

Beth: [28:02] Say I want to put it right there, Command + T. Here’s where it’s good to use this top macro view, just drag it and bring it up, join it, and bring those pieces together.

[28:22] [playback start]

Beth: [28:22] …in a room filled with enormous images of the Madonna and Child. We’re in one of the first galleries at the Uffizi in…

[28:32] [playback ends]

Beth: [28:32] There you go. That would be lesson two, if we were going to proceed on to lesson two.

[28:37] [laughs]

Lauren: [28:38] We have one final question, and I think it’s a great way to cap today’s webinar, and that is, “Will we address adding the audio to images in our next seminar?”

Beth: [28:47] Yes, and that’s you, Lauren. You’re doing…

Lauren: [28:51] That’s me. [laughs]

Beth: [28:53] The next step in making a Smarthistory-style video is to take this audio, export it, and bring it into a program called ScreenFlow, and add images and annotations and zoom and pan. Lauren will show you how to do that next week. We’re good?

Lauren: [29:10] Yeah. Thank you, everyone.

Beth: [29:12] Thank you…

[29:13] [crosstalk]

Lauren: [29:12] If you have questions please post them to Facebook or shoot us an email.

Beth: [29:17] We’re happy to answer any questions about audio editing. Thanks, everybody.

Cite this page as: Dr. Beth Harris, "How to edit audio in GarageBand: demo from a live webinar," in Smarthistory, December 15, 2020, accessed May 23, 2024,