GarageBand, Logic, Ableton Live, Cubase, LMMS, Studio One, Pro Tools, FL Studio, and reaper, are examples of widely used Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). Most DAWs share similar features, such as in-built loop libraries and virtual instruments. Loop libraries and virtual instruments have great educational value, effectively allowing a teacher to develop great learning experiences. In this blog post, I will highlight some of the great features in GarageBand that can be excellently incorporated into a music classroom for composition tasks.

GarageBand comes packaged with every new Apple Mac, so it is a great DAW to jump into without having to purchase any 3rd party software. If users like GarageBand, they may be interested in upgrading to its “big brother” Logic Pro X (with a price tag of $319.99AUD). GarageBand can be pretty basic if you are used to professional-level software, however, its simplicity makes it a great option to use in a music classroom.

Official Screenshot

Loop Database and Using Loops
Garageband has quite a large amount of loops bundled with it, although, some have to be downloaded as extra content (they are for free too, no need to worry). I recommend downloading the extra content if you are able to, otherwise, there will be a bunch of loops that are greyed out with a download symbol next to it. Here’s a tutorial made by DIYGARAGEBAND to show you how to use Apple Loops to create some music!

Why is working with loops good for classroom composition? It teaches structure, texture, and even timbre. Looking at the literature by Ethan Hein, working with loops is like working at a morpheme level, rather than a phoneme. This means that, according to the research, that it is more suited for young musicians starting a music education. It also addresses that some loops are also complex, so it may be worth it for teachers to specify the types of loops students are allowed to use. Teachers may also even create their own loops, by simply clicking and dragging MIDI clips into the loop browser (Or by going File>Add Regions to Loop Library) and packaging a folder for students to use in class (the metadata will be embedded). Another great thing about the loops library is that there are a mixture of MIDI and audio loops. The MIDI loops are editable and can be played on any software instrument, whereas audio files are recorded samples. If using audio loops, students should look at the key and tempo information, as it won’t fit in any key like MIDI loops do.

Here is an example pack of loops I made, with an additional MIDI folder to use in other DAWs as well

Software Instruments
Sometimes composers want to compose music for instruments they can’t play. While they can have other people play their music, or record them playing it, there are ways to virtually play the instrument as well. GarageBand has many built-in instruments that make use of sampling and synthesis, allowing anyone to get the sound of the instruments quickly, without having to record them. While the instruments are nowhere near as high quality as professional sample libraries such as VSL, they are still great for students to play with.  To use a virtual instrument, all you have to do is select software instrument when creating a new track.  Playing the instrument can be done a few ways.  Using an external keyboard such as a MIDI controller or using the musical typing (Window>Show Musical Typing, or Command K). When working in a classroom, musical typing may be the most useful way for students to play and record notes using the software instruments. The instruments can be changed by exploring the library (Window>Show Library) and selecting a sound you want.

I had a little play in the GarageBand using the software instruments. If you want to see what I whipped up, check it out below. The file will be small because there are no audio files contained in the document. You can download the file here.

Further Reading

Hein, E. (2013). Designing the Drum Loop: A constructivist iOS rhythm tutorial system for beginners (Unpublished master’s thesis). New York University