Working with the Track Mixer

The first step to mixing a song in GarageBand is a basic understanding of the Track Mixer.

The Track Mixer is located between the track header and the Timeline. You can hide or show the Track Mixer by clicking the disclosure triangle next to the word "Tracks" at the top of the window.


Click the disclosure triangle next to the word "Tracks" at the top of the window to show the Track Mixer. (The Track Mixer has been showing in all of the previous lessons.)

The Track Mixer appears between the track headers and the Timeline.

The Track Mixer contains three separate tools: the Volume slider, the Pan wheel, and the Level meters.

Let's start with the Volume slider.

Adjusting Levels with the Volume Slider

You can adjust the volume levels for an individual track with the Volume slider. The overall goal is to blend the different levels of all the tracks so that all the instruments can be heard, but the right tracks are emphasized.

By default, the Volume slider is set to 0 dB (decibels) for all tracks. 0 dB doesn't mean the volume of the track is 0 decibels. It actually means that there has been no change applied to the track's volume level. This applies whether the track contains recorded regions or loops. To change the track's volume level, you can drag the slider to the right to raise the volume level and to the left to lower the volume level. You can adjust the volume for an individual track while the playhead is static or while you are playing the song.

There are 11 different trackswhich levels should you adjust first? Great question. Generally, you prioritize your tracks and start with the lead vocals or lead instruments. Since this song doesn't contain vocals, the two acoustic guitar tracks containing the melody are the lead instruments, and therefore they take priority. Once the levels of the lead tracks are good, you then move on to the rhythm tracks.

Let's start by adjusting the volume level on the Acoustic Guitar 1 track (near the middle of the track list). Before you adjust the volume, you'll need to solo the track so you can hear the level change without the other tracks.


Click the Acoustic Guitar 1 track header to select the track in the Timeline.

The track turns brighter blue to indicate it has been selected.


Press S, or click the Solo button, to solo the track.

The soloed track becomes the only audible track in the Timeline.


Drag the Volume slider all the way to the left.

The slider turns blue when you click it to indicate it has been selected. The lowest volume level is 144.0 dB (silence). That means the level has been lowered by 144.0 dB from the original volume level.

Next, you'll raise the volume while the track is playing.


Press Return, and then play the soloed track from the beginning of the song.


Drag the Volume slider to the right to raise the volume level while the track is playing.


Release the slider when you think you've reached a good volume level.

How do you know if your volume level is good? You can look at the Level meters.

Reading the Level Meters

The Level meters use colored bars to visually represent the volume level for the track.

The lower the volume, the shorter the solid colored bars. If the color is green, the level is within a safe range and isn't too loud. If the color turns from green to yellow, that means cautionyour sound is bordering on being too loud. If it turns red, you need to stop and turn the volume down immediately. The two circles at the end of the Level meters are the clipping indicators. Clipping means your music is not only too loud, but it could be distorted.

The Level meters in GarageBand are "sticky," which means a single line of the colored bar will stick to the highest position on the meter while the average levels continue to change. The average volume level is marked by the solid colored bar, and the peaks are marked with the vertical line.

Let's create a cycle region and take a look at the Level meters in action.


Move your playhead back to the beginning of the Timeline.


Press C to open the cycle region.


Drag the ends of the yellow cycle region bar to resize the cycle region until it is approximately the length of the first region in the selected track.


Press the spacebar to play the Acoustic Picking region in the soloed track.


As the region plays, watch the average levels and the peak levels in the meter.

If any of the levels in the meter turn yellow or red, lower the volume for the track. You'll know your level is acceptable when the average stays within the green "safe" region of the meter, and the peaks remain within the green and yellow regions.

Keep in mind that you can use the Level meters to see the levels, but the only way to make sure the levels are right for the song is to hear the track with the rest of the song.


Press C to hide the cycle region.

Project Tasks

Now that you've set the volume level of the Acoustic Guitar 1 track, let's take a moment to find a good level for the Acoustic Guitar 2 track. You'll start by unsoloing the Acoustic Guitar 1 track, soloing the Acoustic Guitar 2 track, and finding a good level. Then solo the Acoustic Guitar 1 track again so you can hear both guitar tracks and make sure the combined levels are good. Instead of using the cycle region, play the entire song with the guitar tracks soloed, and watch their Level meters. I used a volume level of 3.1 dB on both acoustic guitar tracks.

Using the Pan Wheel

The Pan wheel controls the left-to-right placement of a track within the stereo field. The "Pan" in Pan wheel stands for "panoramic." A panoramic photograph is an image that includes your full visual spectrum from the far left to the far right. In other words, it's everything you can see without turning your head. A stereo field is everything you can hear from the far left to the far right, without turning your head.

Imagine a panoramic photograph of the Rocky Mountains with a train cutting through the far-left side of the image. Visually, you place the train on the left side of your field of view. You would also place the sound of the train on the far-left side of the stereo field.

By default, all of the tracks in GarageBand start with the pan position set to the center. With center pan position, the sound is heard equally out of both speakersit sounds like it is directly in front of you in the center of the audio space.

To adjust the pan position of a track, click the small white dots around the Pan wheel. Let's adjust the pan position of the selected track.

This exercise works best if you are listening through headphones, so take a minute and put on your headset before you start. Make sure your headphones have the right speaker (R) on the right ear and the left speaker (L) on the left ear.


Unsolo the Acoustic Guitar 2 track.


On the Acoustic Guitar 1 track, click the dot next to the L on the lower-left side of the Pan wheel to change the pan position to the far left of the stereo field.


Press C to show the cycle region. Press the spacebar to listen to the cycle region.

Notice that the guitar part sounds like it is coming from the far left.


If you hear the guitar coming from the far right, you probably have your headphones on backwards.


Click the dot next to the R on the lower-right side of the Pan wheel to change the pan position to the far right of the stereo field.

Notice that the sound of the guitar jumps to the far-right side.


Click the dot on the middle-right side between the center position and the far-right position.

If the Pan wheel were a clock, the dot would be at 2:00.

Notice that the guitar still sounds like it is on the right, but closer to the middle of the stereo field. Now let's add the other guitar and make it sound like it is playing on the opposite position from the center of the stage (10:00 on the Pan wheel).


Solo the Acoustic Guitar 2 track so that both acoustic guitar tracks are soloed.


Press C to hide the cycle region.


On the Acoustic Guitar 2 track, click the dot on the middle-left position between the center position and the far-left position (10:00).


Listen to the panned guitar tracks.

Notice how it sounds like two different guitar players sitting on the right-center and left-center of the stage.


Press the spacebar to stop playback.


To quickly reset the Volume and Pan controls to the default settings, Option-click the controls. The default volume level is 0 dB, and the default pan position is Center.

Now that you have a better understanding of the Track Mixer and how to use it, let's start mixing the song.

Apple Training Series GarageBand 3
Apple Training Series: GarageBand 3
ISBN: 0321421655
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 134
Authors: Mary Plummer
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