Reshape your sound by adjusting the parameters set out in GarageBand’s revised controls
Looking back with hindsight, the previous version of GarageBand had various surface-level limitations. One in particular was the one-size-fits-all effect profile assigned to new default tracks of varying types. Typically, the old setup was to offer two basic slider controls for track reverb and echo as standard, before you started switching on AU units.
Thankfully this has been addressed, introducing aptly named Smart Controls that will seem vaguely familiar to GarageBand users on iOS. Now we get a changeable array of knobs to twiddle, depending on the type of track, software instrument, amp or effect. The look and configuration vary, but here we aim to demystify the common configurations with before and after projects for fully understanding how Smart Controls work.
Step-by-step Master GarageBand’s new Smart Controls
1 Showing Smart Controls
With any track selected, click the third button from the top-left of the GarageBand workspace. Smart Controls will show within the bottom panel until you choose to hide them.
2 Toggle switches
In the ‘Smart Controls 1’ project, select the first track. This shows a familiar set of Smart Controls, offering Compressor, EQ and Send options. Activate using the silver toggle switches.
3 Raising levels
Smart Controls are changed using their dials. Here the Compressor can be applied to even out volume while the EQ knobs are great for adding more bass and tone to our drum loop.
4 Added atmosphere
Particularly with loops, you’ll want to tweak the sound to make them feel more natural. By isolating the drums and adjusting the Ambience and Reverb dials you can give them more life.
5 Bass options
Now select the third track and see how the Smart Controls change. Here we get Filter, Threshold, Ratio and Attack dials – capable of dramatically changing how the bass line sounds.
6 Real Instrument
In track two, we get Smart Controls for a guitar. The current patch is Dublin Delay so the dials relate to a string of effects. Basic amp Gain, Tone and Tremolo can be applied first.
7 Distortion and Echo
The basic guitar track sounds thin, so we can add subtle levels of Distortion and Echo. This combined with the original wah-wah heightens the Reggae feel and adds some warmth.
8 Even Smarter Controls
Access full amp and stompbox options via the small buttons in the right corner. Here you can drill down and adjust the wider parameters for achieving more advanced sound results.
9 Master Track
Show the master track via Show>View Master Track. This track also has Master Controls with an array of parameters for the whole project. These are useful for rounding out the final overall mix.