GarageBand - Glossary

AAC: A compressed audio format, designed to be the successor to MP3. It generally has better sound quality than an MP3 of the same size. AAC is Apple’s default file format for iTunes and the iPhone.

AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format): A sound file format developed by Apple. Most Macintosh audio software can handle the AIFF format, and AIFF is one of GarageBand’s export options. Expect a GarageBand-exported AIFF file to consume about 10 MB of disk space per minute of song.
bass: The low frequencies of human hearing (not to be confused with the instrument, which can be acoustic, electric, or even a synthesizer).

breakdown: Frequently found in dance music, a short interlude in the middle of a song where most of the instruments drop out.

chord: Any combination of two or more tones sounded simultaneously. See harmony.

clipping: Digital distortion caused when output levels are set too high. Every track, as well as the master output levels, has clipping indicators: red dots that light up when your output goes “into the red.” Clipping is bad, even if you think you can’t hear it.

dynamics: Variations in volume in a piece of music.

effects: Sound-altering devices that are added in the Details section of the Track Info pane. These include reverb, echo, and EQ.

EQ (equalization): A set of filters that lets you balance the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies of a track. It also includes the bass reduction and treble reduction filters, which cut all frequencies above or below a certain adjustable cutoff point.

fill: A short musical passage or riff that adds interest between melodic phrases. Drummers in particular often add fills at the ends of phrases and during transitions to new sections of a song.

gain: The amount that volume is turned up or down on a signal. In GarageBand, gain controls can be found in many places, including amp models, the compressor, and the Visual EQ effect.

half step: The smallest interval commonly used in Western music; the distance between a black key and the adjacent white keys on the piano (or the distance between two adjacent white keys if there is no black key in between).

harmony: The vertical dimension of music; the interaction of notes sounded simultaneously to produce chords. Harmony also refers to the progression of chords over the course of a piece of music.

high-hat: A pair of cymbals, one face up and the other face down on a stand, arranged so that the drummer can control the space between them using a pedal.

interval: The vertical distance between two pitches. The interval between a white key on the piano and the adjacent black key is called a half step.

key: A selection of tones that gravitates toward a root note, or tonic. A song in the key of C is based on the notes of the C scale (all of the white keys on the piano) and naturally gravitates toward C. Keys are commonly divided into major keys, which generally sound happy, and minor keys, which sound more melancholy.

level: The volume or loudness of an audio signal. Earlier in this book I walk you through the basics of setting levels.

loop: A short segment of music that can be repeated seamlessly over time. GarageBand ships with more than 1,000 professionally produced loops. See region. You’ll find lots of loop-related information in Add Loops, and Work with Regions and Loops.

major key: A key based on the major scale, whose third note is natural (as opposed to flat). Major keys tend to sound bright and happy. See minor key.
measure: A rhythmic unit of organization. Most popular songs have four beats per measure, and in general the snare drum accents the second and fourth beats of the measure (the backbeats).

melody: A series of notes with a pleasing and recognizable shape. In general, the most effective melodies are relatively simple and are easy to hum. Flip back to Melody, for more info.

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface): A digital language used to connect synthesizers, computers, and other electronic instruments. MIDI information includes details about the note played, its velocity (or volume), and any vibrato or pitch bending that was applied.

midrange: The frequencies between the bass and the treble frequencies.

minor key: A key based on the minor scale, whose third note is flat. Minor keys tend to sound sadder and darker than major keys.

mix: The full output when all your tracks are blended together; the end result after you’ve finished recording, looping, editing, and mixing your song.

mixing: Adjusting the individual track volumes, panning, and effects to make parts of a song fit together harmoniously and effectively.

MP3: A compressed audio format. Much smaller than the AIFF format, it typically requires about 1 MB of disk space per minute of song.

Mute: The button found in a track’s header, that lets you temporarily disable a track.

note: Any single pitch or tone produced by a musical instrument.

octave: The most stable interval in Western music. An octave is the distance between two adjacent notes with the same name. These two notes sound like the same note, only higher or lower versions of each other.

pan knob: A knob that lets you control the apparent position of a track between the left and right speakers. For panning basics and a screen shot of the pan knob, see Learn Editing and Mixing Basics.

region: A contiguous segment of recorded music in a GarageBand track. A cropped segment of a loop is a region, as is a loop that repeats 20 times. See also What’s the Difference between a Loop and a Region?.

reverb: An effect that simulates an acoustical environment, such as a small room or a large arena.

rhythm: The beat or pulse of a piece of music, including accented notes, measures, and all other aspects of musical time.

ringtone: A custom ringer on a phone used to indicate an incoming call or text message. Many ringtones today are short snippets of a song or other melody.

root: The dominant note in a chord or scale; the note from which a chord or scale seems to originate. Also called the tonic.

sample: A recorded sound or musical note. Typically, samples are “mapped” to the keys on a keyboard, so they can be played like a piano or a synthesizer. A set of samples of a trombone, for example, could be played on a MIDI keyboard, and the performance would sound as if an actual trombone were playing the notes.

scale: A series of notes progressing up or down in a stepwise fashion. The most common used in Western music are the major and minor scales.

send: A way to share an effect among many individual tracks. GarageBand has two send effects: Echo and Reverb. When Echo, for example, is engaged and set above zero on several tracks, a portion of the signal from those tracks is sent to the Reverb effect on the master track and all those tracks will exhibit the same echo effect.

snare drum: A drum fitted with wires, or snares, on the bottom that produce a crisp, rattling effect when the drum is struck.

Solo: A button in a track’s header, that lets you listen to an individual track by itself. This is useful for adjusting effects and EQ on a particular track.

tempo: The speed at which a piece of music is performed. Ballads have a slow tempo; high-energy dance music often has a fast tempo.

texture: The interaction of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements within a piece of music. A solo cello holding long notes is one kind of texture. A jazz band playing complex rhythms and harmonies while a saxophone takes a solo is another, completely different kind of texture.

timbre: Tone color. A violin can produce certain musical timbres, whereas those produced by a piano are quite different. An electric guitar can produce lots of different timbres, depending on many factors (including the amplifier, the volume of the sound, and whether effects are being used).

tonic: The dominant note in a chord or scale; the note from which a chord or scale seems to originate. Also called the root.

track: In GarageBand, each track usually carries a separate musical instrument; you can independently adjust each track’s volume, pan, and effects without affecting other tracks in the song.

treble: The highest frequencies of human hearing.