The ideas and techniques I will convey in this tutorial are essentially the same ideas and techniques I have been using to produce a significant portion of the piano loops and themes in my stock music library. It certainly goes without saying that there are an infinite number of possible ways in which to create professional quality piano loops and this tutorial outlines just one of those methods. This is not a tutorial on music theory or music composition but more of a demonstration, with details, of how a simple music loop can be created using Garageband.
Step 1. Choose a chord progression
Even if you do not know what I mean by chords and their progressions, your ears are probably familiar with some of the common chord progressions that are widely used in every kind of music that is out there today. One such chord progression is C-G-Am-F. Let’s use this chord progression for our piano loop. Open up Garageband and select “Grand Piano on Stage” as the instrument for the track. As shown in the video, press the record button and play the chord progression in triads (three notes) so that each chord takes up one measure (4 beats). In the video, you can hear the imperfections during the recording because I didn’t play the chords in rhythm. This can be easily fixed by selecting all of the notes and quantizing them (1/1 Note) as shown in the video. You should have 4 total measures.
Step 2. Come up with a melody
Copy and paste the chord progression repeatedly for as many times as you desire so that it plays in a seemingly infinite loop. Open a new track and set its instrument to “Grand Piano on Stage.” Go to the beginning of our song and press the record button. While the chords are playing, try to come up with a melody that compliments the chords well. This may take some trial and error but you really only need four good measures since we are not composing a symphony. Watch the video to see how I struggled but eventually managed to come up with a decent melody. Once you have your melody, you can cut out all of the other stuff so that you are left with just four measures of melody and chords.
Step 3. Copy and paste without plagiarizing
In steps 1 and 2, we did most of the heavy lifting by coming up with a chord sequence and then conjuring up a melody to accompany the chords. We will now copy and paste our four measure long sequence four times so that we now have 16 measures. However, what we have essentially done is create a track that repeats the same four measures four times. Remember, we are creating a loop, but we don’t want the repetition to occur every four measures and sound like a broken record. So we need to add some variation every time we repeat the four measures. Listen carefully to what I have done in the video. The variations are not drastic and they usually are not. As a rule of thumb, if you do want to “deviate” further from the original melody, the third set (second repeat) of four measures is the place to start doing it.
Step 4. Fade In and Fade Out
While still in Garageband, export our 16 measure piano loop to an MP3 file. Open Audacity, which is a free audio mixing program. You can drag/drop or import the MP3 file into Audacity to visualize the piano loop sound waveform. Zoom into the beginning of the waveform and you will see that there is some deadspace without any audio. Delete this portion of the track. Now we need to do some math to figure out exactly how much time equals 16 measures. The equation is as follows:
(# beats in measure x # of measures x 60) / beats-per-minute
= (4 x 16 x 60) / 120
= 32 seconds
From 32 seconds to the end of the track, delete whatever is there. The last steps are to add a “fade in” and “fade out” to the first and final 15-20 samples of the track. This will allow the track to loop without any distortion in the sound. In Audacity, you can export this track as an MP3 or WAV.
Congratulations! You have produced your own piano loop. Here is the resulting music track in MP3 format.