How to Import Audio Files Into GarageBand on iOS 11 and Later

Importing audio files in GarageBand: why do that?

Note: this is an updated version of a post that was published in 2016. The GarageBand app on iPad and the operating system have had some changes since then, so this article is applicable to GarageBand on iOS 11 and later.

Let’s say you or your students have created an audio file in another app or software program – such as Groove Pizza, Incredibox, Beepbox or one of the many other music app options – and now you want to import that audio file into GarageBand so that you can record a vocal part over the top.

The steps are not too difficult and it opens up some useful opportunities for your students to develop their musical creations.

You can use Apple’s Files app as the “portal” to access audio (and MIDI) files in locations like Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud Drive and more.

Here’s a list of the quick, basic steps:

  • Save the audio file in an accessible location
  • Create a new document in GarageBand with an Audio Recorder track and head to Tracks View
  • Open the Loop Library and import your file into Files list
  • Drag the file from the Loop Library into the project you’re working on

For a more detailed explanation, read on.

Save the audio file in an accessible location

First, you’ll need to save the audio file you want to import into GarageBand into a location that you can access on your iPad. Luckily, Apple improved this process greatly with the introduction of the Apple Files app in 2017.

Apple’s Files app is a central file management system for all of the files on your iPad and iPhone. Through the Files app you can access documents, photos, videos, and audio files that live in iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox or any other compatible app.

Apple Files app

If the file is currently on your laptop you can save it in one of these cloud locations for easy access inside GarageBand.

How to access the file inside GarageBand

When you open the My Songs browser in GarageBand you can see the collection of files – the same ones that you can see in the Files app – in a list on the left of the screen.

The options you can see in your Locations list will vary, depending on which apps you have installed on your iPad.

My Songs browser On My iPad

At the top there will be an On My iPad location. Tapping on this allows you to access the files inside apps on your iPad. Some files that you can see here will be greyed out since they are not compatible with GarageBand. For instance, the files in my Keynote app folder are greyed out because they are not audio, MIDI or GarageBand files and therefore not compatible with GarageBand.

If you have Google Drive, Dropbox or iCloud (you have the apps installed and you are signed into those services) you will also see those in the Locations list. Again, some of the files that you can see here in those folders will be inaccessible because they are not audio, MIDI or GarageBand files.

So, in order to import an audio or MIDI file into GarageBand, first save it into Google Drive or Dropbox OR one of the other locations you can see here.

Steps for importing an audio file into GarageBand

  1. First, make sure the file you want to import is in an accessible location (see above)
  2. Next, open GarageBand
  3. Create a New Document
  4. Locate the Audio Recorder (microphone) on the instrument browser and tap on the Voice option
  5. Tap the Tracks View button

6. Tap the Song Sections button (the “+” at top right of the screen)

7. 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)

 Section length set to automatic

8. Tap the Loop Library button and then tap the Files tab. At the top, you will see a list of any files that have already been imported. To import your new file, tap Browse items from the Files app at the bottom of this window

Loop browser showing files

9. The Files app will open. Choose the location of the file you want to import (such as Drive or Dropbox), find the file and then select it. Your file will be added to the list of files that live inside GarageBand

10. Next, drag the file 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 which option you choose)

File dragged into project

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. Choose Save/Share and then save the audio file into the Files app (or directly into Drive or Dropbox)
  4. Follow the instructions above to import it into GarageBand.

One more option: iTunes

If you have a Mac laptop or desktop computer you can also use iTunes to transfer files in GarageBand.

  1. On your computer, open iTunes and add the audio files you want to import to the GarageBand File Sharing area.
  2. Open GarageBand on your iPad and follow the steps above to create a new document.
  3. Tap the Loop browser button and you will see a message asking if you want to move the audio files to the GarageBand File Transfer folder. Tap Move Files and the audio file will be moved to the GarageBand File Transfer folder where you can access it in your project.

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Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences an other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

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