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Repost: How to Make Your Own Music

Note:  This is a repeat of a previous post.  Why?  Because I’m on a sub-tropical island and may not have the time to make any posts.  With any luck, I’ll bring back some stories and pictures for the future.

Last Friday, a lot of people bought a new iPad 2. I wasn’t one of them. However, I was happy to upgrade to the next version of iOS and to download GarageBand for the iPad. It’s a pretty clever interface and somewhat different from GarageBand on the Mac. However, it also reminded me just how useful GarageBand can be, even if you’re not a musician.

Daytona Bike Week

The previous week and a half was Bike Week a little north of me in Daytona Beach.  I’ve been going to this event since I was a kid. My father used to race motorcycles when the Daytona race was half on the beach and half on A1A, so it was a family trip to the racetrack each year; Dad with our family and his old mechanic with his. In turn, they’d catch up with people from the local area who had gone on to bigger things, like Dick O’Brien – he was the race director for Harley-Davidson. It’s a shame I was too young to be into photography back then, because you saw a little bit of everything in the Daytona infield and the race pits.

Getting into Video

Over the years, I’ve gone on to visit Bike Week with friends and continued to do so this year. Mostly, its been a matter of taking snapshots while I was there, since I was going more as a participant than a photographer. This year, I started playing with capturing some video. When I started thinking of how to put it together, I quickly realized that I needed a soundtrack.

Now this is where it gets tricky. You can’t rightfully plop down any of the music that you have, unless you have a license to use that music. Basically, that means most of the recognizable music you hear on the radio is out the window. So where do you find music that you can use?

There are some vendors that sell royalty-free music for photographers and video productions. I can’t say that I’m impressed with much of it. Either the production values aren’t as strong as I’d like (e.g., sounds cheesy) or it’s for a different type of video (e.g., weddings). You can visit iStockPhoto for audio and find a collection of music that’s ready to purchase for your license.  However, I found it’s pretty tedious to search for and listen to the various clips. They don’t seem to be tagged with keywords as well as the photographs.  You may find something tagged well that doesn’t suit you, or miss out on something great for your use because it’s not tagged with the same keys you expected.

Roll Your Own with GarageBand

After playing with GarageBand for the iPad, it dawned on me that there was another tool in the Mac version that could suit my needs – Magic GarageBand. Essentially, you can create your own song by changing the genre, and then the instruments within that genre. Without having to do any performance of your own, you can quickly roll something that may fit the mood of your project.

GarageBand '11 Magic GarageBand

Magic GarageBand Genre’s

As you can see in the image above, GarageBand ’11 has enough genres to give you some flexibility for a number of projects. Pick the style that suits you and then you get to “audition” the band.

Magic GarageBand

Magic GarageBand Audition

For each of the positions in the band, you get to choose which instrument fills the role. For example, the Melody position currently has a Vibraphone selected for this song. However, you can see the replacement options in the bar below the stage giving alternative voices for the melody. You get the same song in each genre, but you can modify it with a lot of combinations by changing up the instruments used in the performance.

Within Magic GarageBand, you can adjust the volume of each instrument, bringing it up or down to suit your taste. Once you’re done, you can open the project into GarageBand and continue to tweak it with additional loops, or just export it as you created it. Once you’re done, you have a song that you can use in your own projects. I’ve also discovered that I can change some of the instruments in GarageBand beyond the variety offered in the Magic GarageBand interface, so that expands your flexibility to create something unique.

Things You See at Daytona Bike Week

I haven’t even downloaded all of my video yet, much less processed it. Still, I was anxious to see how this worked in practice. I created a slideshow in Aperture 3, dragged my soundtrack from GarageBand and this is the result.  Happy motoring.

About William

Author, Photographer and IT Manager. I have a fondness for chocolate. I also own Suburbia Press and Aperture vs Lightroom. Follow me on Twitter at @wbeem.

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