Using GarageBand loops to teach music

Before we should begin, I should make one thing clear.  I do not believe that technology is the only way to teach music.  The National Youth Choir of Scotland (through which I gained most of my musical education – learning about music theory and singing through the Go For series that uses Kodaly methodologies) have done incredible work in promoting music education through singing.  The only thing that I have always felt that it lacked was the creativity of composition.  I loved creating music when I was young, but never really knew how to do it, as I didn’t have the skill to compose or even understand musical notation.  GarageBand changes that.  Combined with other musical learning, GarageBand is a tool to bring creativity back into the heart of music education.

There are so many fears and concerns that music is being lost in the curriculum, and it’s true. Alongside digital literacy, it is an area that many colleagues feel unconfident in delivering effectively.  Hopefully, this blogpost will give you the confidence to experiment with GarageBand and allow your learners to do the same.  Many aspects of musical learning can be taught through GarageBand, and it also is one of the best ways to achieve the ‘musical technologies’ outcome in CfE.

Getting started

The biggest problem with GarageBand is, as it’s such a powerful program that can be used by beginners and professionals alike, its interface isn’t the easiest to navigate.  Fortunately, there are many tutorials and guides online to help, the best of which is Apple’s own “Everyone Can Create: Music” available in the apple book store for free on iOS devices.

I have put together a few slides below to help you with the interface.  I have used GarageBand with learners from P2 upwards, so it is very useable with a little bit of understanding about the main features.

Here is how to create a new piece, and a little about the main menu:


Learning through live loops

For this post, I am mainly ignoring the ‘instruments’ that you can play in GarageBand, as we can do this with real instruments anyway.  Of course, children should be shown them and allowed to experiment and record with them, but this is not what makes GarageBand so fantastic and useable at a young age.  The thing I will focus on is ‘Live Loops’.  Again, I have put some slides below about how to use live loops but I’d strongly recommend looking at the Everyone Can Create: Music, which allows you to download a live-loop version of Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake, to demonstrate teaching points about structure etc.  Everyone Can Create: Music is a fully comprehensive teaching and learning tool, and can be used as a script for lessons even!

Here is the basic overview of how to use live loops:

Important learning in this section is:


*Dynamics (using the mixer – drag the small bar beside the instruments to the right to access this)

*Key signature

*Time signature

*Beats and bars


Getting creative

This is more advances, and I’d only use it with upper primary – secondary.  Children can create their own loops from scratch, or at least select pre-recorded loops from the vast expanse of GarageBand loops to create their own music that hasn’t been pre-arranged.  Creativity at it’s best!  They can use the instruments in GarageBand or even their own voice to record loops if they like – but, even just selecting pre-recorded loops and thinking about structure is hugely valuable.

Here’s how to do it:


P6 and P7/6

This term, I am doing a music project with P6 and P7/6 in Mosspark PS every Wednesday using GarageBand (and the Everyone Can Create: Music resources).  You can follow us on Twitter using #MossparkP6 and/or #MossparkP76, or by following @MossparkPS to see what we are doing.


I love GarageBand.  No guide that can be made can ever be fully comprehensive in its use, as it is so powerful that its limitation is truly the imagination of the user.  I hope that this blog has helped you to get the confidence to experiment with GarageBand.  Even experimenting will show you just some of the potential of this incredible app in the classroom.

Please do send me a tweet if you have any specific questions about how to do certain things in GarageBand and I will get back to you ASAP!

Have a great week