Using Garage Band with VoiceOver

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macOS & Mac Apps

Hi,
I've been trying to learn how to use Garage Band with VoiceOver, however, there was only so much I could learn myself by just looking around the application. I was wondering if there's any help available online for VO Garage Band users. Like tutorials or written guides?
Does anyone know of anything that could be helpful?
Cheers
Hubert

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Submitted by Bo Jingles on Saturday, April 27, 2019

Access Documentation for Many GarageBand Effects Plug-Ins

Have you ever wanted to use Amp Designer but didn't know what all the controls did? How about EQ, compressor, reverb? Documentation for all these effects and more is available.

GarageBand uses many of the same effects plug-ins as does Logic Pro X.

Go to the following Logic Pro X support page:

Logic Pro X - Official Apple Support
https://support.apple.com/logic-pro text

Locate the following heading:

heading level 2 User Guides

Logic Pro X Effects User Guide (EPUB book)
Logic Pro X Effects User Guide (web link)

Note: The other available user's guides are more specific to Logic. However, the effects user's guide is very relevant to GarageBand.

Submitted by hautbois on Saturday, April 27, 2019

I am running MIDI on my system; I've been using QWS sequencer for Windows, a Casio WK3700 keyboard, and an Alesis SR-16 drum machine. My iDevice is an iPhone 6 with 128 GB memory. Would Garage Band work with the hardware I have, or would I be better off staying with some kind of Windows-based sequencer? QWS works great except for the fact that is won't properly sync with my drum machine.

hautbois:

I assume that you are talking about GarageBand on the Mac.

When using GarageBand, GarageBand would replace your sequencer and your drum machine. Your keyboard should be fine. Newer keyboards have USB MIDI interfaces that connect directly to the Mac via an available USB port.

You may already know this but I'll mention it anyway. If you want a sequencer and a drum machine to operate in sync, One of them must be set as master and the other as slave. This is referring to MIDI clock/timing code, or however it is specified on your devices.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Friday, January 24, 2020

If I had a spoken audio track and wanted to go through and chop out sections where I misspoke, this would be an easy task for a sighted person. Open the editor window and use the mouse to visually select the audio waveform to delete, then join the two resulting regions.

How would I do this as a blind person?

I'm writing a series of GarageBand blogs for AppleVis and would like to cover this in a future blog, if it's possible.

Submitted by Pemberton on Thursday, April 9, 2020

Hello - I am new here and actually new to GB also. I have been trying to use GB with v/o on my I phone but am finding it a real struggle. The keyboards commands referenced on previous posts, whilst incredibly helpful, don’t work on an I phone with stand alone blue tooth key boards - are there any resources I could go to for help? Many thanks for your help

I don't personally use GarageBand on iOs but here some links that might help you:

GarageBand - Official Apple Support
https://support.apple.com/garageband
Under the heading User Guides, you will find:
link GarageBand for Mac
link GarageBand for iPad
link GarageBand for iPhone

These user guides are written for sighted users but you may still be able to glean some useful information from them.

Submitted by Bo Jingles on Sunday, June 28, 2020

Understanding Smart Controls and Plug-ins in GarageBand
Written by: Jeffrey R. Griffith, June, 2020
All rights reserved

The purpose of this article is to provide an understanding of plug-ins and how they are used in GarageBand. I will discuss the relationships between Smart Controls, plug-ins, tracks, and the Library. Understanding these relationships will make the inner workings of GarageBand less mysterious, and allow you to take advantage of advanced features.

For best results, you should have some working knowledge of VoiceOver and GarageBand. For example, if I instruct you to create an empty project, or if I instruct you to navigate to the Smart Controls Group and interact with it, you should know how to perform these tasks without requiring step-by-step instructions. As of this writing, the current version of GarageBand is 10.3.4.

Overview

Suppose you record a vocal track. You can then go to the Library and use the Library browser to select the Voice category. In the Voice submenu you will find the following presets:

Bright Vocal
Classic Vocal
Compressed Vocal
Dance Vocal
Edge Vocal
Fuzz Vocal
Narration Vocal
Natural Vocal
Telephone Vocal
Tracking Vocal
Tube Vocal
Experimental

How does your vocal track sound when Tracking Vocal is selected? How does it sound when Compressed Vocal is selected? You can audition all these presets to see how they affect your vocal track. The question is, why does one preset make your vocal track sound different than another preset? The answer is plug-ins. Different combinations of plug-ins and-or different parameter values in the same plug-ins. For beginners, presets are great because you don't have to know anything about plug-ins to use them. Even advanced users take advantage of presets, though they may make some fine adjustments. By the way, after modifying a preset, it can be saved to the Library as a user preset.

Note: I have been using the word "preset". These presets are called "patches". When you modify a preset and save it for future use, GarageBand saves them in a folder named User Patches. Another name that you will hear is "channel strip".

What is a Plug-in? From a computer science perspective, plug-ins are bits of software that can be added (plugged in) to existing software to extend or enhance capabilities. You may be familiar with adding extensions to Internet browsers to give them additional features. In music software, such as GarageBand, plug-ins are used to add reverb, EQ, compression, etc. In other words, there are reverb plug-ins, EQ plug-ins, compressor plug-ins, and dozens, if not hundreds, of other types of plug-ins. Plug-ins are modular. They can be added, removed. or rearranged.

Each track in a project can have multiple plug-ins added to it. each plug-in can be adjusted manually or have plug-in presets applied to it. Each project has a master track. The Master Track exerts global control over the project. For example, turning down the volume on the master track turns down the volume of the entire project. Plug-ins can also be added to the master track. In general, plug-ins added to the master track affect all the tracks in the project. There is an exception to this general rule that you will learn about later when we discuss master effects.

In GarageBand, the default is that all plug-ins are turned off on new audio tracks. Suppose that you record music to a new audio track. You then playback what you have recorded. What you hear during playback should sound the same as what was originally recorded because all plug-ins are initially turned off. But now, suppose you would like to add some reverb to your recording. GarageBand converts the original recording into an audio signal that is sent to a reverb plug-in for processing. So now, during playback, you hear your original recording with reverb added to it. In GarageBand, signal processing is non-destructive. In other words, at any time, you can remove all signal processing and get back to your original recording.

In this article, I will focus on audio tracks. While there are differences between audio tracks and software instrument tracks, these same concepts generally apply to both.

Let's get started. Open GarageBand and use the Empty Project template to create a new project. When prompted, select the Audio - Microphone & Line In option. The Tracks Header
Group should now contain a single track named:
Track 1 “Audio 1” group
Interact with the Audio 1 track. It should contain the following items:

Audio 1 text
Mute unchecked checkbox
Solo unchecked checkbox
Input Monitoring checked checkbox
+0.0 dB Volume slider
0 Pan circular slider

Audio 1 is the default name for the first audio track created. The next audio track created will be named Audio 2, and so on. The name of the track can be changed using the edit box in the Track Header. Let's keep the name Audio 1.

Lets's now go to the Smart Controls Group to examine the anatomy of a new audio track.

The Smart Controls Group

navigate to the Smart Controls Group and interact with it. The Smart Controls Group should contain the following three items:

Smart Controls toolbar
scroll area
Smart Controls layout area

Note: In older versions of GarageBand, the scroll area was hidden until the Show Inspector checkbox, located in the Smart Controls Toolbar, was checked. With the VoiceOver cursor on the scroll area, you can add a label to a screen item by pressing Control+Option+/. Type "Inspector" into the edit field and press Enter to close the dialog. Now, whenever the VoiceOver cursor lands on the scroll area, VoiceOver will say "Inspector scroll area".

The Smart Controls Inspector

Interacting with the Inspector, VoiceOver should say:
"In scroll area, 16 items, Recording Settings button".
The message tells us that the VoiceOver cursor is on the Recording Settings button.

From here, if you VO+Down Arrow, it is kind of like going down column one of a table. The items are as follows:

Recording Settings button
Record Level:
Input:
Monitoring:
Noise Gate:
Plug-ins button

As an example, if you VO+Down Arrow to"Noise Gate:" and then VO+Right Arrow, you will find the following two items related to the noise gate:

Noise Gate controls. Use the Noise Gate effect to minimize low-level noise. unchecked checkbox
0% dimmed slider

The noise gate is a type of signal processor, but notice that the Noise Gate checkbox is unchecked. This means that it is turned off by default.

Now, navigate down to the Plug-ins button and activate it by pressing VO+Spacebar. VO+Right Arrow to encounter the following items:

Plug-ins button
Use to change the sound processing.
insert pop up button
insert pop up button
Compressor group
Channel EQ group
pop up button
pop up button
Master Echo:
Master Echo checkbox. Turn the Master Echo effect on or off. checked checkbox
0% slider
Master Reverb:
Master Reverb checkbox. Turn the Master Reverb effect on or off. checked checkbox
0% slider
Click to edit echo and reverb settings.
Edit button

Looking at the list above, the following six items represent slots where plug-ins can be added to the currently selected track:

insert pop up button
insert pop up button
Compressor group
Channel EQ group
pop up button
pop up button

Notice in the above list that two plug-ins were automatically added by the Empty Project template, namely, Compressor and Channel EQ. The word Insert means that a slot is empty and a plug-in may be inserted at that location. Sometimes VoiceOver will just simply say "pop up button". This is the same as Insert pop up button.

Note: The order in which plug-ins appear in the list matters. The track's original recorded audio is converted into an audio signal that flows into the first plug-in where it is processed. The processed audio signal from the first plug-in flows into the second plug-in where it is further processed. And so on. In the plug-in list above, Compressor appears before Channel EQ so audio signal would first flow through the Compressor and then through the Channel EQ.

Navigate back up to the noise gate and check its checkbox. Then navigate back down to the plug-ins list. It should now appear something like his:

insert pop up button
insert pop up button
Noise Gate Group
insert pop up button
Compressor group
Channel EQ group
pop up button

From our previous discussion, you now know that the recorded audio signal will first flow through the Noise Gate, then through the Compressor, and then through the Channel EQ. The audio signal will then be routed to the master track.

Note: Since each subsequent plug-in is taking in the processed audio signal from the previous plug-in and then processing it further, the order in which the plug-ins appear in the list may affect the final sound of the track. The question is often asked, Should a certain plug-in be placed before or after another plug-in. This is not a simple question. There is both an art and a science to audio production. The beginner may want to trust the order in which GarageBand templates and presets arrange plug-ins. And, there is nothing wrong with experimenting. Try switching the order of various plug-ins and listening to the results.

Since the Noise Gate was initially turned off, let's turn it off again. We could do this by navigating back up to the Noise Gate checkbox, but, let's learn how to do it another way. Navigate to the Noise Gate Group in the plug-in list and interact with it. It contains three items:

bypass checked checkbox
setting button
list pop up button

We can turn off the Noise Gate here by unchecking the bypass checkbox. Or we can remove the Noise Gate plug-in from the plug-in list. Let's do the latter. Navigate to the list pop up button and press VO+Spacebar. The menu looks something like this:

✓ Noise Gate
No Plug-in
Recent dimmed
Amps and Pedals submenu
Delay submenu
Distortion submenu
- Dynamics submenu
EQ submenu
Filter submenu
Modulation submenu
Pitch submenu
Reverb submenu
Specialized submenu
Utility submenu
Audio Units submenu

When you want to add a plug-in to a track, this is where all available plug-ins are found. Notice that plug-ins are grouped by category. Notice also that the first item in the menu is Noise Gate with a checkmark in front of it. This indicates that the Noise Gate plug-in occupies the current plug-in slot. We can either replace the noise gate by selecting another plug-in, or we can remove it from the plug-in slot by choosing the second item in the menu, namely, "No Plug-in". Let's do the latter. Navigate to No Plug-in and then press the Enter key. We should be returned to the plug-ins list in the Smart Controls Inspector. The Noise Gate plug-in should now be gone but the Compressor and Channel EQ plug-ins should remain.

Note: To remove or replace a plug-in in the plug-ins list, interact with the plug-in and click on the List pop up button as described above. To add a new plug-in, click on an Insert pop up button. clicking on an Insert pop up button has the same effect as clicking on the List pop up button. In other words an Insert pop up button and a List pop up button open the same menu of all available plug-ins.

Now, navigate to the Compressor Group and interact with it. It contains three items:

bypass unchecked checkbox
setting button
list pop up button

We saw the same three items when we interacted with the Noise Gate Group. This is the standard plug-in interface. But this time, the bypass checkbox is unchecked. This means that the compressor plug-in is bypassed. In other words, since it is turned off, it will not affect the audio signal.

Stop interacting with the Compressor Group and interact with the Channel EQ Group. As before, we see the same standard interface:

bypass checked checkbox
setting button
list pop up button

Notice that this time, the checkbox is checked. This means that the Channel EQ is turned on. Does this mean that the Channel EQ is affecting audio signal? In this case, the answer is no. But we wouldn't know that unless we examine the various EQ parameters to see if they are set to do anything. Navigate to the setting button and press VO+Spacebar. This opens the plug-in dialogue which contains the following items:

Audio 1
toolbar button
Bypass checked checkbox
Manual pop up button
View:
View menu button

Note: the above controls are common to all Apple plug-ins. The following controls are specific to the Channel EQ.
Low Cut unchecked checkbox
Low Shelf checked checkbox
Peak 1 checked checkbox
Peak 2 checked checkbox
Peak 3 checked checkbox
Peak 4 checked checkbox
High Shelf checked checkbox
High Cut unchecked checkbox
Multi Band layout area
50% Gain vertical slider
Analyzer unchecked checkbox
close button

The Channel EQ plug-in is an eight band equalizer. Notice above that two of the bands, Low Cut and High Cut are turned off by default since their checkboxes are unchecked. Each band is separately adjustable. We select which band to adjust by interacting with the Multi Band layout area. The way this works is that only the bands that are checked will be displayed in the Multi Band layout area. So, when we interact with the Multi Band layout area, we find only the six bands that are checked:

Low Shelf layout item
Peak 1 layout item
Peak 2 layout item
Peak 3 layout item
Peak 4 layout item
High Shelf layout item

Place the VoiceOver cursor on the Low Shelf layout item to select it. Then stop interacting with the Multi Band layout area. VO+Right Arrow past the Analyzer checkbox to find the three new controls that have appeared:

100 Hz Frequency slider
0.0 dB Gain slider
1.10 Q slider

Generally speaking, EQ bands are used to specify a range of frequencies to cut or boost. Notice that the Gain slider is set to 0.0 dB. This means that neither cut nor boost will be applied to this band.

Navigate back to the Multi Band layout area and interact with it. This time, select Peak 1 layout item. Stop interacting with the Multi Band layout area and VO+Right Arrow past the Analyzer checkbox. Now the three controls for Peak 1 look like this:

100 Hz Frequency slider
0.0 dB Gain slider
2.20 Q slider

Notice that the Gain slider for the Peak 1 band is also set to 0.0 dB. If you wish, you can repeat the above process for the remaining four bands. You will find that their Gain sliders are all set to 0.0 dB. In conclusion, even though the Channel EQ is turned on, by default, none of its eight bands are set to affect the audio signal.

Since we are still in the Channel EQ dialogue, let's take a detour to learn something more about plug-ins.

VO+Right Arrow past the Analyzer checkbox, past the three band controls, past the Close button, until the VoiceOver cursor lands on the Manual pop up button. This is the plug-in presets menu. GarageBand provides a number of Channel EQ presets that are customized for a variety of EQ tasks. Let's check them out by pressing VO+Spacebar on the Manual pop up button. The presets menu contains the following standard items and items specific to Channel EQ:

Setting dimmed
Save As …
More submenu
User Default
No EQ
01 Drums submenu
02 Keyboards submenu
03 Guitar submenu
04 Horns submenu
05 Voice submenu
06 Mastering submenu
07 EQ Tools submenu

Suppose that we recorded vocals on the Audio 1 track and now we want to apply some EQ to it. Let's navigate down to the Voice submenu and press VO+Right Arrow to access the available voice presets. It is quite a long list so I won't show them here. However, navigate down to Warm Vocal and press the Enter key. This will close the menu. Recall that the presets menu pop up button was formerly labeled Manual pop up button. Notice that it has changed to Warm Vocal pop up button.

You have already learned how to determine which of the eight EQ bands is active and how to select them in the Multi Band layout area to reveal their settings. On your own, examine the values that the Warm Vocal preset gave to the settings of the various bands.

When done, navigate to the Warm Vocal pop up button and press VO+Spacebar to open the presets menu. Navigate down to "No EQ" and press the Enter key. The Channel EQ is now restored back to its default condition whereby audio signal will not be affected. Navigate to the Close button and press VO+Spacebar. This will close the Channel EQ dialogue and return us to the Channel EQ standard interface containing the three items:

bypass checked checkbox
setting button
list pop up button

Stop interacting with the Channel EQ Group. We should be returned to the plug-ins list. The VoiceOver cursor should be on the Channel EQ plug-in.

To summarize to this point: You have seen how to determine which plug-ins have been added to a track, namely, by examining the plug-ins list in the Smart Controls Inspector; You have seen how to tell if a plug-in is turned on or off (whether a plug-in is bypassed or not); You have seen how to add a plug-in to the plug-ins list and how to remove one; In the case of the Channel EQ, you have seen how to examine its parameters and change them; You have also seen how to apply a plug-in preset and how to set a plug-in back to its default state.

The Smart Controls Inspector contains additional items related to the master track.

Master Effects

VO+Right Arrow past the Compressor Group and the Channel EQ Group until the VoiceOver cursor lands on "Master Echo:". The items in the master effects section are as follows:

Master Echo:
Master Echo checkbox. Turn the Master Echo effect on or off. checked checkbox
0% slider
Master Reverb:
Master Reverb checkbox. Turn the Master Reverb effect on or off. checked checkbox
0% slider
Click to edit echo and reverb settings.
Edit button

The Edit button opens the master effects dialogue. The Master Echo and Master Reverb controls shown above are also included in the master effects dialogue. This duplicate set of controls is located outside the master effects dialogue for convenience.

Master effects can be applied to individual tracks. As an analogy, think of a kitchen sink that has separate hot and cold knobs. Turn on the hot water. Then turn on the cold water. Adjust the amount of cold water mixed in with the hot water until the temperature is just right. Let's take Master Echo as an example.

Master Reverb checkbox. Turn the Master Reverb effect on or off. checked checkbox
0% slider

To use the effect, make sure that the checkbox is checked.
The slider control isn't labeled as such but I call it the mix slider. Possible values range from zero percent to one hundred percent. Zero percent means that the individual track receives no master effect at all. Increase the percentage to mix in the amount of master effect until it sounds just right.

Individual tracks can take advantage of up to four different master effects simultaneously. The controls for all four master effects are found in the master effects dialogue. Move the VoiceOver cursor to the Edit button and press VO+Spacebar to open the master effects dialogue. The initial dialogue page contains the following items:

Master Echo pop up button [This opens the master effects menu where the four different master effects can be selected.]
Bypass button. Deactivate the effect. Bypassed effects don’t drain system resources. button
Setting pop up button
audio track image
Audio 1
Master Echo:
Master Effect checkbox. Turn the selected effect on or off for the track. checked checkbox
0% slider
Drag the slider to adjust how much Master Echo the track MasterAudio 1 gets.
Back to Track button

The Setting pop up button is used to select different echo times. As an example, here are the first six options:

1\2 Note Dotted Feedback
1\2 Note Dotted
1\2 Note Flutter
1\4 Note Dotted
1\4 Note Feedback
1\4 Note Flutter

You've probably yelled hello into an echoey place and heard, hello...hello...hello echoed back. The echo values adjust the rate in which echos repeat. The idea is to choose an echo value that matches the timing of your music.

Since Master Echo is currently selected in the master effects menu, all the items on the current dialog page pertain to Master Echo. Choose a different master effect and a new dialogue page will appear pertaining to that effect. Move the VoiceOver cursor to Master Echo pop up button and press VO+Spacebar to open the master effects menu.The master effects menu contains the following four options:

Master Echo
Master Reverb
Ambiance → ambiance
Reverb → Small Hall

Let's not bother selecting Master Reverb. Its dialogue page looks exactly like the Master Echo page except that its items pertain to Master Reverb. When you click on the Master Reverb's Setting pop up button, you can choose different types of reverbs. As an example, here are the available reverbs:

Ambiance
Big Room
Bright Long Verb
Church
Live Club
Low Soft Reverb
Multiple Room
Reflective Room
Small Hall
Wooden Verb

Now, select Ambiance → ambiance from the master effects menu. The dialogue page looks like this:

Ambience → Ambience pop up button
Bypass button. Deactivate the effect. Bypassed effects don’t drain system resources. dimmed button
Setting dimmed pop up button
audio track image
Audio 1
Ambience:
Master Effect checkbox. Turn the selected effect on or off for the track. checked checkbox
0% slider
Drag the slider to adjust how much Ambience the track Audio 1 gets.
Back to Track button

Notice that the Bypass button is dimmed and so is the Setting pop up button. The same is true for the Reverb → Small Hall dialogue page. Their Setting pop up buttons are dimmed because they don't have selectable options like Master Echo andMaster Reverb.

Did you notice that Ambiance was one of the options for Master Reverb? Yet, there is also a separate Ambiance option. Does this mean that you can apply Ambiance twice to a track? (Once by selecting Ambiance as the Master Reverb option and by also using the separate Ambiance master effect.) The answer is yes, if you can think of some reason why you would want to do so. The same is true for Small Hall. Notice that Small Hall is also one of the reverbs that can be selected for Master Reverb. Yet there is a separate Small Hall option in the master effects menu. I think that this duplication merely represents flexibility. Consider that, because you have a dedicated Small Hall reverb, Master Reverb can be set to a different reverb. This is nice because some of your tracks may sound better with one type of reverb while other tracks may sound better with a different reverb. This is quite flexible. It means that you can apply up to three different reverbs to any of your individual tracks (Ambiance, Small Hall, and Master Reverb set to a third reverb type).

Note: You do not have to use master effects on your individual tracks. You are free to add echo and-or reverb plug-ins to each individual track. However, the more plug-ins your project uses, the more system resources are consumed. Depending on your computer's CPU and RAM, you could exceed your system's ability to process your project. You may be fine with smaller projects. But the larger the project and the more plug-ins used, you could exceed your system's capacity. I occasionally experienced this problem until I increased my older laptop's RAM to 16Gb. The nice thing about using master effects is that they are a resource efficient. In other words, the are resources that all tracks can share without increasing the number of plug-ins used.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that plug-ins added to the master track will affect the entire project. Master effects are the exception. Master effects don't have to be used at all. Master effects may be applied to a single track. Or, master effects can be applied to all tracks. Again, this is very flexible and resource efficient.

We have seen how to open a plug-ins dialogue to access its controls. GarageBand offers an alternative method for controlling plug-ins. When we first interacted with the Smart Controls Group, we saw that it contains three items:

SmartControls Toolbar
scroll area
Smart Controls layout area

The Smart Controls Layout Area

Let's explore the Smart Controls layout area. Navigate to the Back to Track button at the bottom of the master effects dialogue and press VO+Spacebar to close the dialogue. Stop interacting with the Smart Controls Inspector. VoiceOver should say:
"Out of scroll area". The Smart Controls layout area currently contains the following three items:

Compressor Group
EQ Group
Sends Group

Recall that in the plug-ins list in the Inspector, we saw that it included the compressor plug-in and the Channel EQ plug-in. When we first created the new audio track, we could have skipped the Inspector and come straight to the Smart Control layout area to access Compressor and EQ controls. Interact with the Compressor Group. It contains the following two items:

35% Amount circular slider
Bypass Compressor unchecked checkbox

Wow, how simple can you get--just a bypass button and a single slider control.

Earlier, when we interacted with the Compressor Group in the plug-ins list, we only looked to see if the compressor was bypassed or not. Since it was bypassed, we went on to the Channel EQ. If we had clicked on the compressor's Setting button to open the Compressor dialogue, and then interacted with its scroll area, we would have seen the following controls:

Compressor Threshold: -14.0 dB slider 72% slider
Ratio: 1.8 :1 slider 16.5% slider
Attack: 23.0 ms slider 41% slider
Gain: 0.5 dB slider 37.3% slider

Notice that each of the four parameters has two controls. The parameter values can be changed using either slider. Recall from above, that the Compressor Group in the Smart Controls layout area only has two controls and that the Amount slider has an initial value of 35%. What we have here in the Smart Controls layout area is a greatly simplified interface to the compressor. This single percentage control changes all four compressor parameters simultaneously. For example, if we change the Amount slider to 50%, and then go back to the Compressor dialogue in the Inspector, we will see the following new parameter values:

Compressor Threshold: -20.0 dB slider 60% slider
Ratio: 1.8 :1 slider 16.5% slider
Attack: 23.0 ms slider 41% slider
Gain: 1.0 dB slider 38.2% slider

This single amount slider is a "by ear" control. Simply adjust the percentage until the compression effect sounds good to you. Of course, you need to turn the compressor on first.

Stop interacting with the Compressor Group and interact with the EQ Group. It contains the following controls:

50% Low circular slider
50% Mid circular slider
50% High circular slider
Bypass Channel EQ checked checkbox
32% Mid Freq circular slider

This sure doesn't look like the controls we saw in the Channel EQ dialogue in the Inspector. Recall that there were eight EQ bands. Is this a different EQ? No. It is only a simplified interface to the Channel EQ. Just as with the compressor, adjust any of these parameters and you will see that some of the eight band parameters in the Channel EQ have changed as a result.

Stop interacting with the EQ Group and interact with the Sends Group. It contains that following two items:

0% Ambience circular slider
0% Reverb circular slider

Now, where have we seen Ambiance and Small Hall before? Recall that there are four master effects:

Master Echo
Master Reverb
Ambiance
Small Hall reverb

The Ambiance control in the Sends Group controls the third item in the master effects menu. The Reverb control controls the fourth item in the master effects menu. These two controls are convenient because it saves having to go to the Inspector to click on the Edit button to open the master effects menu.

Note: I will confess that the Smart Controls layout area is somewhat of a mystery. We have just looked at a pretty straight forward example, namely, a new audio track. But, in more complex configurations, there may not always be a corresponding layout item for every plug-in. And sometimes there is a layout item that isn't obvious as to which plug-in it pertains. In any case, you now have a basic idea as to how the Smart Controls layout area works.

But wait! There's more.

The Smart Controls Toolbar

Stop interacting with the Smart Controls layout area and interact with the Smart Controls Toolbar. It contains the following items:

Track selected radio button, 1 of 2
Master radio button, 2 of 2
Compare button
Controls selected radio button, 1 of 2
EQ radio button, 2 of 2
Open Tuner unchecked checkbox

We have been working with an audio track, so the Track radio button is selected. Let's skip the Master radio button for now and look at the other set of radio buttons. Notice that the Controls radio button is selected. Select the EQ radio button. Now stop interacting with the Smart Controls Toolbar. Notice that the Smart Controls layout area has been replace with the EQ scroll area. Interact with the EQ scroll area. Check it out! Here we have access to the controls for the eight band Channel EQ without having to go into the Inspector. Notice that the Smart Controls layout area can be accessed from within the EQ scroll area as well.

Not only was the Smart Controls layout area replaced by the EQ scroll area, but the contents of the Inspector scroll area changed as well. The Inspector now contains the following two buttons:

Bypass button. Deactivate the effect. Bypassed effects don’t drain system resources. button
Setting pop up button

The Setting pop up button opens the EQ presets menu.The menu contains presets for a variety of EQ tasks. We accessed this same menu when we first explored the Channel EQ plug-in in the Inspector. By the way, if you make changes to the EQ parameters, you can save your own user preset using related controls in this menu.

Interact with the Smart Controls Toolbar again. Notice the Open Tuner unchecked checkbox at the bottom. Since we are working with an audio track, we can access the Tuner here. This is because the Tuner is also a plug-in.

The Compare button is a bit more complicated to explain. Notice that it is currently dimmed. This is because the EQ radio button is check. Select the Controls radio button and the Compare button becomes active.
Compare provides the ability to do A/B comparisons between the default state of plug-in parameters and their changed state. As a simple example, in the Smart Controls layout area, Ambiance in the Sends Group is set to zero percent. Change it to one hundred percent. Then go back to the Compare button and press VO+Spacebar. Going back to Ambiance, it is set to zero percent again. This means that the parameters in the layout area reflect their default state. Click the Compare button again and Ambiance is set back to one hundred percent.

The Master Track

I mentioned that every project has a Master Track. It is hidden by default. Press VO+M to jump the VoiceOver cursor to the GarageBand application menu bar. Press the letter T to jump the VoiceOver cursor to the Track dropdown menu. VO+Down Arrow to the second to last item: Show Master Track Command Shift M.
Press the Enter key.

Navigate to the Tracks Group and interact with the Tracks Header Group. It should now contain the following two items:

Track 1 “Audio 1” group
Track 2 “Master Track” group

Note: No matter how many tracks your project has, the Master Track will always appear as the last track.

VO+Down Arrow and select the Master Track. Then navigate back to the Smart Controls Group and interact with the Inspector scroll area. It should look like this:

Plug-ins
insert pop up button
insert pop up button
Channel EQ
insert pop up button
Compressor Group
insert pop up button
Exciter Group
insert pop up button
Compressor Group
insert pop up button
Limiter group
Use to add more sound processing.

Notice two familiar plug-ins in the plug-ins list: Channel EQ and Compressor.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that plug-ins can be added to the Master Track. In the plug-ins list above, we see the plug-ins that the GarageBand developers chose as the default mastering configuration. Just as we saw with a new audio track, all these plug-ins are turned off by default.

GarageBand often provides more than one way to accomplish tasks. For example, we can access Master Track parameters without having to first make the Master Track appear in the Tracks Header Group.

Use the Show Master Track shortcut, Command+Shift+M, to hide the Master Track again. The Tracks Header Group should now only contain the Audio 1 track. It is selected because it is now the only track in the Tracks Header Group. Notice that the contents of the Inspector scroll area have changed and once again show the parameters for the Audio 1 track.

Navigate to the Smart Controls Toolbar and interact with it. The first control is:

Track selected radio button, 1 of 2
Master radio button, 2 of 2

Clicking on the Master radio button changes the Smart Controls Group to show Master Track controls instead of individual track controls. In the Smart Controls Toolbar, notice the new set of radio buttons:

Effects radio button, 1 of 3
Output selected radio button, 2 of 3
EQ radio button, 3 of 3

These radio buttons determine what is displayed in the Inspector scroll area and the Smart Controls layout area.

Output is the default option. When the Output radio button is selected, the Inspector scroll area contains the Master Track's plug-ins list. Here, Master Track plug-ins can be added, deleted, replaced, and rearranged. Each individual plug-in's dialogue can be opened to select presets or manually adjust parameters. The Smart Controls layout area contains abbreviated controls for adjusting plug-in parameters.

When the Effects radio button is selected, the Smart controls layout area initially contains the Master Echo Group which includes abbreviated controls for Master Echo.

Recall that the master effects menu contains the following four items:

Master Echo
Master Reverb
Ambiance
Small Hall

The Inspector scroll area contains the master effects dialogue. The master effect selected in the master effects dialogue determines what appears in the Smart Controls layout area. So, when Master Echo is selected, the Master Echo Group appears in the layout area. When Master Reverb is selected, the Master Reverb Group appears in the layout area. However, when either Ambiance or Small Hall is selected from the master effects menu, the layout area contains three items:

Reverb Group
Chorus Group
Tonal Balance Group

When the EQ radio button is selected, the Smart Controls layout area is replaced with the EQ Group. The EQ Group contains controls for the eight band EQ. The Inspector scroll area contains the EQ plug-in dialogue where presets can be selected or parameters can be manually adjusted.

Smart Controls Exercise

Let's do an exercise to reenforce some of the things learned in this article.

Press Command+N to create a new project. The Save dialogue should open and you will be asked if you want to save the current project. Choose Don't Save.

Create an Empty Project with one audio track.

Let's bring an Apple Loop into the project so that we have something to hear as we change various plug-in parameters. Press the letter O to open the Loops browser. VoiceOver should say something like:
Show/Hide Loops browser. Loops table
The message tells us that the VoiceOver cursor is on the Loops table.

Press VO+Left Arrow one time. You should hear:
Search Loops search text field blank
In the search field, type "Vera Improv 02". VO+Right Arrow back to the Loops table and interact with it. VoiceOver should say:
In Loops table Row 1 of 1

Press Command+C to copy the loop to the clipboard. Stop interacting with the Loops table and stop interacting with the Loops browser. Navigate to the Tracks Header Group and interact with it.

Press Command+V to paste the loop into the project. Use the VO+Arrow keys to select:
Track 2 “Vera Improv 02” group

The loop is eight beats long. Let's copy and paste it so that it will play for sixteen beats (four bars). Press VO+J to jump the VoiceOver cursor into the Tracks Contents Group. The VoiceOver cursor should be on:
Track 1 “Audio 1” Track Background
VO+Down Arrow to select:
Track 2 “Vera Improv 02” Track Background
interact with it. VoiceOver should say:
In Track 2 “Vera Improv 02” Track Background Vera Improv 02.1 Region
The VoiceOver cursor should be on:
Vera Improv 02.1 Region
Press Command+X to cut the region and put it in the clipboard.

Note: Sometimes, when adding a loop, the loop doesn't get inserted at the beginning of the track. So cutting and pasting the region will take care of this possibility. And it won't hurt anything even if the region was inserted at the beginning.

Press the Enter key to jump the playhead to the beginning of the track. Press Command+V to paste the region at 1 Bar, 1 Beat, 1 Division, 1 Tick. The playhead will automatically move to 3 Bars, 1 Beat, 1 Division, 1 Tick. Press Command+V to paste a second copy of the region at the new playhead position.

Now, the two copies of the Vera Improv 02 loop will play for a total of four bars, the exact length of the default cycle region. Press the letter C to turn on the Cycle function. Press Spacebar to begin playback of the cycle region. Vera Improv 02 should now play for four bars and then repeat over and over until the Spacebar is pressed again. Press Spacebar to stop cycle playback. Press the letter O to close the Loops browser.

With Vera loops, none of the GarageBand plug-ins are turned on. This will allow us to hear changes to plug-in parameters as we make them.

Now that we have done the setup for this exercise, navigate to the Smart Controls Group and interact with it. Interact with the Smart Controls Toolbar. Select the Master radio button. The Smart Controls Group will now show controls for the Master Track. Notice that the Output radio button is selected. Stop interacting with the Smart Controls Toolbar.

Interact with the Smart Controls layout area. Using the VO+Arrow keys, navigate through the parameters to turn on all the plug-ins (check all the unchecked bypass checkboxes).Notice that the Bypass Channel EQ checkbox is already checked. Press Spacebar to begin cycle playback. Can you hear any difference? Maybe not. It may be easier to hear a difference if we compare the default parameter settings with the modified ones.

Leave cycle playback playing and navigate back to the Smart Controls Toolbar. Interact with the Smart Controls Toolbar and navigate down to the Compare button. Press VO+Spacebar on the Compare button. You should now hear the default settings with all the master track plug-ins turned off. Click the Compare button again to hear playback with all the master track plug-ins turned on. Can you hear the difference now?

Recall that the Channel EQ bypass checkbox was already checked. Recall also that the default for EQ is that none of its EQ bands are initially set to have any effect. Let's apply a preset to the EQ. Toggle the Compare button until you can hear that the plug-ins are turned on. Press Spacebar to stop cycle playback. Navigate down to the EQ radio button and select it. Stop interacting with the Smart Controls Toolbar.

Interact with the Inspector scroll area. Navigate to the Setting pop up button and press VO+Spacebar. Navigate down through the presets categories to:
06 Mastering submenu
Press VO+Right Arrow to open the submenu. Navigate down to:
Final Mix - Ballad
Press the Enter key to select it. This will close the presets menu. Stop interacting with the Inspector scroll area.

Interact with the Smart Controls Toolbar again. Navigate down to the Output radio button and select it. Stop interacting with the Smart Controls Toolbar.

Interact with the Smart Controls Layout area. The three EQ bands were all previously set to 50% (no cut, no boost). Now check them out:

50% Low circular slider
67% Mid circular slider
75% High circular slider

The Mid and High bands now have boost. Press Spacebar to begin cycle playback. Toggle the EQ on or off with the Bypass Channel EQ checked checkbox. Can you hear the difference? When the EQ is on, the upper frequencies are emphasized. Press Spacebar to turn off cycle playback.

Now, let's add a little reverb. Since there is only one track in the project, it wouldn't really matter whether reverb was added at the master track level or at the individual track level. Let's add reverb to the individual track. Navigate back to the Smart Controls Toolbar and check the Track radio button. The Smart Controls Group now displays the controls for the individual track instead of the master track. Stop interacting with the Smart Controls Toolbar and interact with the Smart Controls layout area.

Navigate to the Sends Group and interact with it. Press Spacebar to turn on cycle playback. Interact with the Ambiance slider and set it to one hundred percent. Obviously, this is too much ambiance. Reduce the percentage until it sounds good to you. Then set it back to zero percent. Now, interact with the Reverb slider. Set it to one hundred percent. Again, too much reverb. (Recall that this controls the Small Hall reverb). Reduce the percentage until the amount of reverb sounds good to you. Press Spacebar to turn off cycle playback.

next steps:

There are lots of plug-ins and plug-ins have lots of parameters. What do all these parameters do? For example, what does a squeeze parameter do? Unfortunately, the GarageBand User Guide doesn't get into this level of detail.

GarageBand - Official Apple Support
https://support.apple.com/garageband
Under the heading User Guides, you will find:
link GarageBand for Mac
link GarageBand for iPad
link GarageBand for iPhone

But fortunately, more extensive documentation exists for Logic Pro X. Many of the plug-ins found in GarageBand are also found in Logic. the Logic documentation describes many of these shared effects plug-ins.

Logic Pro X - Official Apple Support
https://support.apple.com/logic-pro

Under the heading User Guides, you will find:
link Logic Pro X Effects User Guide (EPUB book)

Recording, mixing, and mastering are very deep subjects. There are lots of web sites and videos for home studios and professionals. For example, you can search on "mastering in GarageBand" and find videos that explain how plug-ins on the master track work.

Understanding Smart Controls and Plug-ins in GarageBand
Written by: Jeffrey R. Griffith, June, 2020
All rights reserved

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