Not all MP3s are created equal. The quality of some MP3s are good, others are barely audible. Among the thousands of songs on your hard drive, I’m sure that there are several that fall into the category of ‘should be better’ — the ones with low volume settings, the ones with weak vocals, the one with too much bass, and other various imperfect conditions.
The quick fix is adjusting the equalizer. But there are situations where repeated re-adjusting is annoying. You need a permanent fix.
The tools in the garage
I also have quite a few imperfect songs. Having just finished the eBook ‘Recording Your Next Hit With GarageBand‘, most of GarageBand’s tricks and tools are still fresh in my head. They are more than qualified to enhance and improve the quality of MP3s.
Please note that even the best audio tools out there have their limitations. Nobody can enhance Bon Jovi’s song and turn it into Celine Dion’s. With that in mind, let’s get started.
Open GarageBand and start a new project. Basically, you can choose any of the templates, but it’s preferable to use the ones that comes with the least tracks like ‘Voice’ and ‘Loops’. We are going to delete all the tracks anyway.
You can give the project any name that you want, but for easier exporting in the future it’s advisable to use the song title that you want to enhance as the project name.
Delete any pre-set tracks that GarageBand gives you using the ‘Track > Delete Track’ menu item or use the ‘Command + Delete’ keys combination.
Then open the media browser by clicking its button at the bottom right corner of GarageBand.
Browse for the song that you want to edit. Or for faster results, use the search feature. Then drag and drop the song to the main pane of GarageBand window.
The song will be imported into GarageBand. Please notice ‘Importing File(s)‘. It means that you can import more than one song and mix them if you wanted to. You can also cut, edit and join songs together to create new songs. But that is beyond our scope here.
The most basic editing that you can do is manipulating the song’s volume. You can decrease the volume if the song’s too loud or the other way around. Always look at the peak meter for guidance. Keep the lights below the red zone.
Then open the automation pane. You have two basic control here: Volume and Pan. You can adjust these components in any specific part of the song. For example, if you want to increase the volume only between the first and second minutes of the song, you can.
Click ‘Add Automation’ to get more controls to adjust.
There are several elements that you can add, grouped into two: Visual EQ and Echo & Reverb. Check to the box(es) that you need.
The ones that you need will appear in the automation list. Choose one of them to start adjusting.
Click on the control line to create a starting point and another one for the end point. You can adjust the position of the points at the levels that you need.
You can achieve many stunning results by combining several controls. Just as a rough guide, human vocals are somewhere in the mid-range frequency. You would want to meddle with mid level gain to increase the singer’s volume.
Going a little bit further
There’s another cool effect that you can try — ‘Fade Out‘. It’s available through the ‘Track’ menu.
This effect will lower the level of the Master Volume at the end of the song.
Should you want to add your own voice to the song, maybe as the background vocal or as the duet partner, you can easily add a ‘New Track‘.
Pick ‘Real Instrument’ from the options and click ‘Create’
Choose ‘Vocals’ from the Real Instrument pane and continue with the one that fits you.
Send it back home
After the editing process is done – even if it’s only increasing or decreasing the volume, you can export the result back to iTunes. Go to the ‘Share > Send Song to iTunes’ menu.
A Song Info window will pop out with fields to be filled. The one that you should pay attention to is the ‘Compress Using’ and ‘Audio Settings’ options. To get the most compatible format in the best quality possible, choose ‘MP3’ and ‘Higher Quality’ settings.
The song will be converted and added to iTunes with the project name as the title.
Then it will appear in iTunes and is ready to be played.
Rinse and repeat to improve the quality of MP3s.