Tips for Trimming Regions in GarageBand

GarageBand is based on the same powerful engine as its larger sibling, Logic Pro. Alongside the powerful features are some peculiarities, such as the differences when trimming MIDI & audio regions...  

GarageBand is possibly the most popular digital audio workstation in the world and it is given away free with every Mac. Although very powerful in its own right, it can be viewed as a simplified version of Logic Pro. This simplification can lead to confusion for some users when trying to understand its behaviour. This tutorial aims to clarify the ways in which GarageBand controls the trimming of regions. 

Audio vs. MIDI 

Audio regions (rectangles) can be trimmed using the Resize Pointer by dragging the edge on either end as expected, but this is not always the case with MIDI regions. MIDI regions can usually only be trimmed from the right edge, (also called the trailing edge). To be more specific, MIDI regions can be trimmed from the left edge, but only if there is an area of the region that contains no notes. Take a look at the screen shot below:

MIDI regions can be trimmed up to the point that notes exist.

MIDI regions can be trimmed up to the point that notes exist.

MIDI Loops vs. MIDI Recordings

MIDI loops (available in the loop browser) typically have no empty space in the region before the first note so cannot be trimmed from the left edge at all. MIDI recordings typically have some empty space before the first note (where you were too chicken to start playing immediately!) and so can be trimmed up to the start of the first note. 

The Grid 

GarageBand's grid setting drop-down menu for the Arrange area is found at the far right of the timeline, and to keep life simple everything snaps to the grid: the playhead, and moving and trimming regions. The one exception is when trimming the empty space from a region up to the first note you recorded, where the region boundary snaps to the note position not the grid:

Click here to change the grid setting.

Click here to change the grid setting.


What if you want to trim notes from the front of the recording? Maybe you've made an awkward start to that lead line? The workaround (to not being able to trim using the resize pointer) is to place the playhead at the edit position and choose Edit > Split (Command-T). The unwanted material (before the playhead) is automatically selected; just press delete to get rid of it. 

Split regions and Backspace delete.

Split regions and delete what's already selected.

The Track Editor

Further potential confusion awaits in the Track Editor. Double-clicking an audio region opens it in the Track Editor and you can trim the region by moving the pointer to the lowest eighth of the region (at either end) where it will change into the Resize Pointer. Opening a MIDI region in the Track Editor (which shows the Piano Roll) does not allow trimming from either end, however! It is important to realise that the role of the Track Editor's Piano Roll as far as MIDI is concerned is to allow the editing of individual notes only!

Audio regions in the Track Editor can be trimmed from either end - MIDI regions cannot!.

Audio regions in the Track Editor can be trimmed from either end—MIDI regions cannot!

Splitting in the Piano Roll

The 'Split' tip described above only works in the Arrange area. It can appear to work in the Track Editor/Piano Roll. However, if the last click with the mouse was on any object in the Track Editor, that becomes the active workspace and the Split function will not be available. To 'split' with the Track Editor open, click back in the Arrange area to make that the active area . You can tell the Piano Roll is active if the Piano Roll button is bright green (see image below) and you can now split the region. If the button is grey, the Track Editor is not active and you cannot split the region.

Region will 'split' at the playhead.

Here, the region will split at the playhead.

Region will not 'spilt' at the playhead.

But in this example, it will not.

Hungry to learn more tips, tricks and techniques to help you master GarageBand? Look no further than the GarageBand '11 101 - Core GarageBand '11.

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


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