How To Import Audio Files Into GarageBand for iPad

How To Import Audio Files Into GarageBand for iPad

How to import audio files into GarageBand on iPad

Importing audio files in GarageBand: why do that?

Let’s say you or your students have created an audio file in another app or software program – maybe on a laptop even – and now you want to import that audio file into GarageBand because you’d like to use the Smart Drums to add a backing.
Or perhaps you want students to use GarageBand to record their voices over the top of a drum part they created elsewhere.
If you want to do this on the iPad only, you will need to use Apple’s iCloud Drive service as the “go-between”. Any audio files that have been placed into iCloud Drive can be imported into GarageBand (I have few tips below).

If you have the audio file in one of the other commonly-used cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox or the audio file is in your email inbox, you can still transfer it to GarageBand – you’ll simply need to get it from that location to iCloud Drive (and then import it into GarageBand from there).

Here are some instructions for a few different scenarios. Yep, it’s a bit fiddly and involved but it works and it’s WAY easier the second time you do it!

From iCloud Drive into GarageBand

If you have an audio file in iCloud Drive, here’s how you can import it into the GarageBand app:

  1. First open GarageBand
  2. Tap the “+” button and then choose Create New Song (DON’T choose Import from iCloud Drive!)
  3. Select the Audio Recorder (microphone) from the instrument selector
  4. Tap the Tracks View button
  5. Tap the Song Sections button (the “+” at top right of the screen)
  6. Tap Section A and turn Automatic on (this will allow GarageBand to accommodate the length of the file you’re importing. If the song section is too short, the file will be cropped)
  7. Tap the Loop Library button and choose Audio Files
  8. Tap Import from iCloud Drive
  9. Tap on the audio file you want to import. GarageBand will add it to the list of files
  10. Drag it into your project: tap and hold your finger on the audio file and drag it across into the empty audio recorder track (or even underneath the empty track – it doesn’t really matter)

From Google Drive into GarageBand

Basically you will save a copy of your Google Drive file into iCloud Drive first and then follow the steps above to get it into GarageBand.

  1. Open the Google Drive app on your iPad
  2. Locate the audio file you want to import into GarageBand
  3. Tap the vertical 3 dots that appear next to the file name and choose Send A Copy
  4. Tap Open In
  5. Wait while the file exports
  6. Then tap the Add To iCloud Drive option.  It doesn’t feel like anything happens at that point (!) but it will be added to iCloud Drive
  7. Follow the instructions in the From iCloud Drive To GarageBand section above

From Dropbox into GarageBand

As with Google Drive, you will save a copy of your Dropbox file into iCloud Drive first and then follow the steps in the From iCloud Drive To GarageBand section above to get it into GarageBand.

  1. Open the Dropbox app on your iPad
  2. Locate the audio file you want to import into GarageBand
  3. Tap the “…” button at the top right of the screen
  4. Choose Export and then choose Open In
  5. Wait while the file exports
  6. Then tap the Add To iCloud Drive option.  It doesn’t feel like anything happens at that point (!) but it will be added to iCloud Drive
  7. Follow the instructions in the From iCloud Drive To GarageBand section above

From email attachment to GarageBand

Instructions for this depend on which email client you are using (Gmail, Apple Mail etc), but the overall steps are:

  1. Open your email app
  2. Locate the email with the audio file attachment you want to import into GarageBand
  3. Save or export the audio file into iCloud Drive (exact instructions vary depending on email app used)
  4. Follow the instructions in the From iCloud Drive To GarageBand section above


From another music app to GarageBand

If you have created something in another music app on your iPad – like a wicked-sounding drum pattern from DM1 or a looping masterpiece from Loopy HD – and you want to transfer it directly to GarageBand, here are some options:

  1. Use the Audiocopy or Inter-App Audio feature.  This article from Tuts+ has a great explanation of how to do that.
  1. Use the Audiobus app which is an alternative to GarageBand’s inbuilt the Inter-App audio feature.

Further reading

Apple’s help article on importing audio files into GarageBand can be found here (includes instructions on how to import audio using iTunes).



By |2018-09-07T00:57:58+00:00October 4th, 2016|iPads, Teacher Tech Tips|29 Comments

About the Author:

I love to simplify technology for music teachers. I help teachers from all around the world through the Midnight Music Community - an online professional development community where teachers can take online courses, ask questions and receive personalised help for the music tech goals.


  1. 0011101000101001 January 13, 2017 at 1:27 am - Reply

    When I press the ‘loop library’ button, I’m just greeted with Apple loops. How do I fix this?

    • Katie January 18, 2017 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      Hello! There’s an “Audio Files” tab at the top of the Loop library menu/window. You should be able to select that to see the options mentioned above.

  2. Naomi January 29, 2017 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Wonderful! Thank you! This tip saved me stress and time. Happy to be back enjoying sharing the podcast and creativity!. 🙂

    • Katie January 31, 2017 at 7:39 am - Reply

      Thanks Naomi!

  3. Paolo February 9, 2017 at 4:14 am - Reply

    There is No audio file, there is only audio loops and music, how do I fixt this?

    • Katie February 9, 2017 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure Paolo, but I would check to see if your iOS is updated, you have the latest version of Garageband app and that you have upgraded to iCloud Drive to see if any of those things fix it.

    • Matthew Warner April 11, 2017 at 5:23 pm - Reply

      I was having the same problem- you have to put an audio file into Icloud drive before the audio tab shows up, only then will you see the “audio” tab under loops

  4. Stephen Hegarty February 19, 2017 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much, great detail

    • Katie February 21, 2017 at 12:35 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome Stephen 🙂

  5. Nick Harwood February 21, 2017 at 4:02 am - Reply

    Hello Katie,
    I would like to import a midi file and understood that GarageBand supports that. However, the audio file tab doesn’t list midi files as a supported file type and it won’t let me drag the midi file to the empty track.
    Would you confirm whether midi file imports are supported?

  6. Nick Harwood February 21, 2017 at 4:17 am - Reply

    Hello again! I should have mentioned that that I’m using GarageBand on an iPhone (iOS 10.2.1 and GarageBand v. 2.2.1). computer.

    • Katie February 21, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      Hi Nick – so it’s easy in the desktop (Mac) version of GarageBand: you can simply drag a midi file from the Finder on to an open Garageband project (either on to a software instrument track or into the empty space below any existing tracks). Once you’ve done that, you can reassign instrument sounds etc as needed.
      But – it’s not possible on the iOs version 🙁 I thought that I might be able to do a workaround – import a midi file into the desktop version, save it as a GB file and then send it to the iOS version via iCloud Drive but the iOS version won’t open GB files created on the desktop app. I could have sworn I used to be able to do that, but I may be dreaming!

  7. Nick Harwood February 22, 2017 at 2:11 am - Reply

    Hi Katie, Thank you for your help, which is greatly appreciated 🙂
    It does seem strange that the GB files aren’t compatible between mobile and desktop versions.
    Apple does seem to trip up more frequently now!

    I’ve just come across the following workaround to move GB files from MacOSX to iOS by adding an additional (dummy) loop to the midi file before archiving:

    The alternative way using the Fixed1t utility that’s mentioned in the above YouTube video is detailed at:

    I’ll try the above at home this evening.

    • Katie February 23, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Nick!

  8. Martina March 19, 2017 at 2:56 am - Reply

    Hi Katie, thanks for your instructions! I tried the way from dropbox to icloud drive, but unfortunately there is no option to export the file to icloud drive. So my journey ends at “6. Then tap the Add To iCloud Drive option., because there is none. Any ideas why I cant export to iCloud Drive…? It’s so annoying that I am not able to import a file to Garageband without a computer nearby.

    • Katie March 27, 2017 at 1:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Martina – I’m not really sure, but the first thing I would check is that iCloud is set up properly on your iPad (not just for Dropbox, but overall). Usually if something doesn’t appear as an option in a menu it’s because your iPad doesn’t have it set up and/or installed (in the case of a specific app). Good luck!

  9. saurabh gayali March 21, 2017 at 2:04 am - Reply

    I still cannot save files through icloud. I mailed. There are not even descent file explrer for ipad.
    Seriously waste of time.
    Things should be made easdier for non nerds.

  10. Marina Villasenor April 2, 2017 at 3:49 am - Reply

    Hello. I just have a question because when I try to export the audio from ICloud Drive to Garage band, it doesn’t even let me move the file- it’s kinda grayed out and doesn’t let me do anything with it. Please help?

  11. Julfikar April 14, 2017 at 4:02 am - Reply

    I cannot find import from iCloud option even after enabling garageband in iCloud

    • Katie April 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      That might be because you don’t have an audio files in iCloud perhaps? I would try adding an audio file to iCloud first, then come back to GarageBand and see if you have the Import From iCloud option available.

  12. Dave M June 4, 2017 at 9:07 am - Reply

    It all went fairly well for me, except the filename is greyed out for me in the “audio Files” and it can’t be dragged into the tracks.

  13. JEremy June 7, 2017 at 11:52 am - Reply

    can you import audio from a video? I make videos of me playing guitar and I like the way that it sounds better than when I record straight from garageband. I would like to import the video sounds into garageband so that I can edit them some. Does that make sense?

    • Katie June 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Jeremy – yes that makes sense. You would need to open the video in video editing software first and export the audio and then import that file into GarageBand after that.

  14. Doomups June 14, 2017 at 11:22 am - Reply

    I recommend Avdshare Audio Converter to convert MP3 to GarageBand.

  15. Gabriella January 5, 2018 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Omg I was trying for so long to figure this out! Thank you so much for sharing this

    • Katie January 7, 2018 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome Gabriella!

  16. Mike March 31, 2018 at 5:39 am - Reply

    Hey Katie there’s a problem. When I try to export the file from Dropbox to GarageBand,I don’t get the option to add it in iCloud Drive. Pleeeease help me quick, I need to mix a song =)

  17. Massimo April 25, 2018 at 3:03 am - Reply

    Thanks a lot , in less than a couple of minutes I’ve done it, excellent tutorial!!

    • Katie May 3, 2018 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      I’m happy it helped!

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