Adding Free Sound Effects to GarageBand for iOS

There's more to GarageBand for iOS than meets the eye (and ear)! If you've explored all it has to offer, now's a good time to add some free sound effects, and Mike Watkinson shows how.  
Sound FX for GarageBand

GarageBand for iOS is a great app for creating music, but what if you have a project in mind that requires specific sound effects? Unlike the Mac app, GarageBand for iOS has a limited range of built-in sounds, so this tutorial shows you how to grab what you need from free-to-download websites like


Pic 1

First you will you need an app that lets you download assets (like audio files) from websites. There are plenty that do this as downloading stuff is a popular activity! One that I have stumbled across recently that makes this fairly easy is iDownloads Pro as it has a built-in browser and file manager, and it's only $0.99! 

Pic 2

In the browser of iDownloads, navigate to, or your website of choice for downloading free-to-use audio files, and make sure you read the licence agreements carefully—no stealing please! requires you to be logged in, but once you find a sound you want, tap the 'Download' button. Choose 'Download' from the pop-up menu.

Pic 3

As with all apps of this type the file will download into the File Manager of the app itself—if you have already created sub-folders this will make organization easier.

Pic 4

Locate your file in the File Manager section and tap the blue arrow next to its name.

Pic 5

Tap the 'Open with' button which will make the 'Open in...' dialog appear (yes I know, why isn't the 'Open with' button labelled 'Open in...'?) Currently GarageBand is lagging behind other audio apps like BossJock and Audio Mastering for iPad which directly support the 'Open in...' protocol (strange as Apple develop both iOS and GarageBand!) so you will need to choose an audio editor app like TwistedWave or Hokusai (with Tools pack) as an intermediate step. So 'Open in...' one of these apps.

Edit, Copy, Paste

Pic 6

In the audio editor app carry out any editing that is required.

Pic 7

Copy the audio file to the AudioCopy clipboard—this will enable you to paste it into GarageBand.

Pic 8

In GarageBand, create an audio track. This means choosing one of the two instruments that support audio files, the 'Audio Recorder' track or the Guitar Amp' track. If you are starting a project from scratch you will need to 'record' something so a project is created and you can see the instrument as a track—then delete what you recorded.

In Tracks view tap on the track background—a pop-up menu with the 'Paste' option will appear.

Pic 9

Paste the audio file from the AudioCopy clipboard into your project. GarageBand doesn't have an audio file manager either (like Logic Pro's Bin) so to use the sound effect in other projects you will need to copy and paste it from one to the other. It's probably worth creating a project just for keeping sound effects in for this very reason!

Mike has been obsessed with music software since he first saw Fairlight's Page-R, and has tracked its development through his work as a performer, composer and producer. As a writer he has contributed articles to Sound On Sound since 1999, and currently writes their Apple Notes column. As well as being a certified Logic Pro and Pro Too... Read More


Want to join the discussion?

Create an account or login to get started!