Editing audio with GarageBand: cutting and exporting

Watch this video version of this lesson, or see the same content presented through text and images below.

What’s in this lesson:

  • The editing process
  • Listening for edits
  • Using your cursor
  • Selecting, cutting, and moving audio
  • Using the undo function
  • Adjusting audio levels
  • Exporting your edited file

Before you begin

Make sure to save your file and give it a name.

Our editing process

At Smarthistory, we dive right in and edit as we listen to our audio the first time through. We usually do three rounds of editing.

On round 1, we…

  • edit for general content by cutting out fragments of sentences or places where we misspoke
  • cut out extraneous words—“um,” “uh,” or words like “actually” or “in fact—as well as breaths and pauses

On round 2, we…

  • tighten things up more, catching places where we missed small words or breaths on the first round
  • create a coherent story by deleting larger sections—we may decide, for instance, that a particular tangent or detail is not worth including
  • in rare cases, we may move something around so that it makes more sense

Tip: Because Smarthistory is based on a conversational approach, we try to keep the edited audio as true as we can to the flow of the original conversation. We only move big pieces around if absolutely necessary.

On round 3, we…

  • make last, small adjustments and then export the file

Getting started: listening for edits

Begin by using the rewind button to return the playhead to the beginning of the audio. Then hit “play” (we recommend you use the spacebar, which both starts and stops the playhead).

Listen for your first edit.

When you find something that you want to cut out, stop and listen to that section again, and notice how that section looks in the waveform display so that you can select it.

Using your cursor

When you move the cursor into the lower half of the lower audio pane, it turns into a crosshair shape. You use the crosshairs to select the parts of the audio you want to edit.


When you move cursor into the upper half of the lower audio pane, it turns into an arrow (the standard shape of your cursor). You will use the arrow to separate and move the parts of the audio you have selected.

Selecting, cutting, and moving audio

Using the crosshairs, select the portion of the audio that you want to delete or move.

Tip: if you hit “play” (the spacebar) after you’ve made a selection, Garageband will play only the portion of audio that you’ve selected. This is an easy way to check that you have selected the right thing.


You can turn your selection into its own “region” (an independent, movable section of audio) by clicking once on the selection with the arrow cursor.

Tip: if you know you want to delete your selection, you don’t have to make it a separate region first. You can simply hit “delete” on your keyboard, and that portion of the audio will disappear.


You can now use your arrow cursor to drag the audio you want to keep so that it is contiguous with the preceding audio. If you want, you can simply drag it over the section of audio that you want to get rid of—dragging one region over another will overwrite what’s there.

Tip: selecting Edit→Alignment Guides turns on the “snap” function that will help you make your regions contiguous as you edit.


Selecting and cutting out parts of an audio region can only be done on the lower pane. But you can move regions around on either pane. The upper (“macro”) audio pane is useful for moving larger regions around—for instance, if you decide to move one section of the discussion to a different place in the audio (but remember to do this sparingly).

Using the undo function

If you make a mistake, you can easily undo it with command + Z (or by selecting Edit→Undo). GarageBand allows multiple undos, unless you have recently saved the file. Saving the file takes away your ability to undo the last action.

Tip: GarageBand autosaves frequently, and this does not interfere with the undo function. You may want to only save the file manually at strategic moments when you know you don’t need to undo any mistakes.

Adjusting audio levels

Before you export your edited audio file, you may want to boost the volume, or “level,” of your audio. You can do this by moving the slider to the left of the track, and you can also adjust the universal output level at the top of the window.

Tip: as you watch the audio meters (the moving color bars) that are nested within these sliders, a good rule of thumb is to try to have the loudest parts of the recording reach into the orange-colored areas, or, every once in awhile, into the red.

Exporting your edited file

When you are done editing, select Share→Export Song to Disk. You’ll be given the option to choose where and under what name to save the resulting file. Exporting creates a whole new audio file that reflects your edits. You can use this exported file in your video.

If you want to change something about your edit, you can always do so in this saved GarageBand project, and then re-export a new file.

Learn a few more tips and tricks for audio editing in our final lesson.

Cite this page as: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Naraelle Hohensee, "Editing audio with GarageBand: cutting and exporting," in Smarthistory, July 28, 2017, accessed August 17, 2017, https://smarthistory.org/editing-audio-with-garageband-cutting-and-exporting/.