How to edit audio with GarageBand: basics

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

You can download the raw audio file used in this tutorial, as well as our final, edited version.

If you do not have access to GarageBand, see our tutorial on editing audio with Audacity.

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Before you begin

You will need to be using an Apple computer with GarageBand installed.

Make sure you’re using the latest version of GarageBand. You can update it for free through the Apple App Store.

Setting up a new project

From the GarageBand start pane, choose “Empty Project.”


GarageBand will ask you to choose a track type. Choose the option with the picture of a microphone.

Importing an audio file

First, close the Library by clicking the button on the upper left. (You can import files using the Library, but it’s much easier with the Finder.)


Then, simply drag and drop your raw audio file from the Finder into GarageBand.

The edit panes

Now you will see your audio file displayed as a bar along the top pane of GarageBand. Double-click this, and your track will also appear in the bottom pane.

Tip: you can adjust the size of these panes by grabbing and moving the divider.


The top pane displays a macro, or zoomed-out, view of the audio file. The bottom pane displays a micro, or zoomed-in, view. You will be able to cut and move pieces of the audio in either pane. We use the bottom pane to make most of our edits, but you can also use the top pane to make larger-scale edits and move bigger pieces around.


You can adjust either of these views with the zoom sliders on the upper right hand side of each pane.

Tip: adjust the bottom pane so that you can easily see details in the sound signature. You’ll use this pane to make the precise edits needed for these audio files. 

Turning off the music settings

GarageBand’s default settings are for music, so you need to change the display settings so that they are right for editing a conversation.

Change these by turning off the metronome (top image), and changing the display measurement from tempo to time (bottom image).

Using the playhead

Along with the upper and lower panes and the zoom sliders, the playhead is the main way you’ll navigate around your audio file. Grab it by the upside-down triangle at the top to move it around. You can move the playhead in either pane at any time.


Sometimes while you’re playing through a file, your playhead may move off of the screen on one or both of the panes. If this happens, use the “catch playhead” button on the left to bring it back into view.

Now you’re ready to start cutting your audio, which is covered in the next lesson.

Cite this page as: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Naraelle Hohensee, "How to edit audio with GarageBand: basics," in Smarthistory, June 14, 2018, accessed September 30, 2023,