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Using GarageBand in Music Therapy

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

The use of music-making softwares and technical devices has become more popular in the Music Therapy community in the last decade (1). While most sessions I conducted involve improvisation using 'traditional' musical instruments, technical resources can enhance clients experience in Music Therapy, especially in online sessions. In this blog post, we will look at how GarageBand (iPad version) can support Music Therapy sessions and the practical steps I used to incorporate the app in online sessions via Zoom (as promised in previous post).


How does GarageBand support Music Therapy clients?

Beat Sequencer on GarageBand

1. Lightweight, easy to carry

While an iPad is not the cheapest device, it is a lot easier to transport and clean comparing to a full set of instruments. For organisations and homes with limited funding and little space, getting an iPad equipped with virtual instruments may be a better option than to purchase a full set of musical instruments.

Smart Guitar on GarageBand

2. Accessible for a wide range of clients

GarageBand's virtual instruments respond to tapping, sliding and dragging motions on the screen making the app accessible for clients with limited mobility. The virtual instruments in the app also have a 'smart' function where the users can choose to play pitches from chosen chords.

R&B live loops on GarageBand

3. Relatable to clients interested in music technology

Many adolescents and young adults are motivated by creating their own tracks. GarageBand's pre-selected loops are categorised by genres, which makes it incredibly simple to create a background track even if the clients do not have extensive music training beforehand. Clients can then rap or sing over the track they created.

Sound Library in GarageBand

4. A versatile Sound Library

The app also have a Sound Library with synthetic loops and virtual sounds categorised in genres and cultural backgrounds that users can download. These packages are useful when working with clients with neuro-disabilities as they often find the discovery of new timbres and rhythmic pattern stimulating.

How to turn on Guided Access


  • To prevent clients from flipping between different apps (intentionally or not), go to Settings > Accessibility > Guided Access. Turn on Guided Access and set passcode. Once this is done, you can activate Guided Access by triple tapping the home button. The screen will be locked on the app. De-activate Guided Access by triple tapping home button again and type in your passcode.

  • Clients with limited mobility often struggle to hold the iPad still and may sometimes push the iPad off the table by accident. Putting a rubber mat underneath the iPad will help to keep it stable.


Incorporating GarageBand on Zoom

Song production has been a popular request from my clients, especially older children and young adults. When I moved therapy sessions online, it seemed obvious that GarageBand will be a valuable resource. But here's the problem, GarageBand does not have a real-time multi-users function.

After several trials and errors, I have collated the following steps that allow Music Therapists to share their GarageBand screen on iPad via Zoom, where their clients can indicate their preferences by annotating on a shared screen.

Step by step guide:

1. Open GarageBand on iPad, and plug iPad into your Mac/PC (the one you will run Zoom calls on) using a lighting cable.

2. Open QuickTime on Mac/PC, go to 'File', and choose 'Create New Recording'.

3. Click on the small arrow next to the red recording button when the new QuickTime project is opened. Choose the recording input as your iPad under 'camera' and 'microphone'. Your QuickTime should mirror your iPad screen after a few seconds. Make sure the sound of the QuickTime app is on.

4. Dial in Zoom meeting using your Mac/PC, make sure you have permission to share your screen if you are not the meeting host.

5. On Zoom, choose 'share screen', click on QuickTime screen and make sure you check the box that says 'share computer sound' and 'optimise screen share for video clip' at the bottom of the dialogue box.

6. Invite clients to indicate their choice of loops or soundtracks by using the annotation function of Zoom. To annotate, go to 'more options' tap and choose 'annotate'.


  • Do take time to explore the different interfaces of GarageBand before hand. When you create a new sound project, there are two ways to create sounds, 'Tracks' and 'Live loops'. The 'Tracks' option contains virtual instruments as well as a voice recording function; and the 'Live loops' option contains pre-arranged packages of synthetic sounds categorised by commonly used genres, such as 'Hip Hop' and 'R&B'.

  • The therapist will need to wear headphones when sharing GarageBand on Zoom otherwise the sound output coming from the therapist’s device will interfere with the client's sound output.


Have you been using any other apps to make music? Do you think these apps will help clients in Music Therapy sessions? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

*No images, examples and quotes featured in this post are from confidential therapy sessions.


(1) Cevasco, A. & Hong, A. (2011), 'Utilizing Technology in Clinical Practice: A Comparison of Board-Certified Music Therapists and Music Therapy Students', Music Therapy Perspectives, 29(1), pp 65–73. Available at:


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