Transposing the Pitch of an MP3 With Garageband

There are so many tools available to us these days that can facilitate easier learning. One of these is the Mac recording program, GarageBand.

GarageBand can do many, many things, but today I’d like to walk you through how you can use it as a pitch shifter. This can be useful for changing the key of a recorded song that you are trying to learn or matching standard pitch of a song that uses a different tuning. Many times there is a perfect ‘ukulele key for a song and it’s not always the same as what was recorded. For instance, I’m Yours by Jason Mraz is recorded in the key of B, but most people play it in C on the ‘ukulele. With GarageBand you can move the key of the recording up a half step into the key of C so that you can play along.

First of all, you need GarageBand for OSX. The one for iPad or iPhone doesn’t do what we need it to do. If you are on PC, you can do a similar thing in Audacity, but the process will be different.

I’m using the latest version of GarageBand. If you have an older one, the steps might be slightly different.

Open GarageBand and create a new project file. Doesn’t really matter what preset you use as long as you’ve got a blank template to start with. Delete all existing tracks (click to highlight then press “command” and “delete.”)

Open Finder in front of the GarageBand window and locate the track you want to transpose. Click, drag, and drop the track into the dark-grey center of the GarageBand window. The cursor will get a little green plus sign next to it to show that you can move the file there. This creates a new track from the imported song with an orange waveform.


Once the song loads it looks like:


Turn off the metronome. It’s just going to be confusing unless you know exactly what BPM the tune is. Go to the Control menu and uncheck the metronome box. Or click the metronome box in the control bar to the right of the heads-up display.


With the track selected, open up the track info. Click on the “i” icon in the bottom right corner.


Then click from “browse” to “edit” under the track image. You should see a “rack” of effects like “noise gate” and “compressor.”


Click on an empty effect slot. This will bring up a drop-down with many effect options. Scroll down to the second section called “Audio Unit Effects” and click on the one called “AUPitch.” This loads the effect.


Click on the effect image to edit the settings. This will bring up a little window with four “knobs” – Pitch, Effect Blend, Smoothness, and Tightness. I usually max out Effect Blend, Smoothness, and Tightness at 100%.


Adjust the Pitch knob to transpose the song up or down. It is measured in cents. 100 cents is one half step. If you wanted to move a song in A up to B, you’d go up two half steps, or 200 cents. Remember that the further you go, the weirder it sounds. If you like hyper chipmunks or slow motion robots then by all means, crank that dial!

Play back your song and the pitch shifting will transpose everything you hear. To turn the AUPitch off, just click the light blue button to the left of the effect slot.