How to Add Music in iMovie

If you’re a busy content creator, you know how valuable background music can be to set the mood in your videos.  People who need to create video quickly often use iMovie since it s a robust editing app free for Mac users. Once you’ve mastered the basics of iMovie, you’ll be ready to take your projects to the next level by adding in your own audio. While iMovie does have some built-in jingles and a link to your iTunes library, for unique, royalty-free tunes you’ll likely need to look elsewhere—like our music library.

Step 1: Import Music into iMovie

Across the top of the browser, you’ll see different media types available to add to your iMovie projects such as My Media, Audio, and Titles. Any files—video and audio—imported from your computer will show up under the My Media tab. The audio tab is only for built-in sounds, Garageband files, and your iTunes Library. Import your file by clicking the downward arrow in the upper left corner of the window (highlighted in red below) and locating the file on your computer.

Importing external audio files into iMovie

Under My Media, imported audio files will display as an audio waveform thumbnail. Hover the cursor over an audio clip and press the spacebar to listen to the file.

Select imported audio clip in iMovie

Step 2: Add Music to Your iMovie Project

To add the music track to your video, just drag it to your timeline.

Drag audio clips into timeline in iMovie

Now your music track might be longer than your video. Keep in mind you can filter by track length in our music library, so it’s possible to find a track that is a close or exact match to your video. Here though, we’ll assume it’s not an exact fit. If the song is pretty long, you may want to use the slider to zoom out on your timeline until you can see the end of the track. Now you can click and drag the end of the track until it aligns to the end of your video. You should see it “snap” to the end when you’re there. You may need to trim and adjust a few times to get it to lock in. If you cut it too short, you can extend it back out again. Similarly, if you don’t want the music to begin right when the video begins, you can trim a little from the beginning. Learn more about how to cut music in iMovie.

Zoom out in iMovie timeline to trim audio

Step 3: Fade in and Out to Prevent Abrupt Cuts

At this point, when you play back your project, the sound will stop at exactly the right time, but abruptly. We need a fade-out to prevent a sound cliff. Hover your cursor over the end of the audio track until you see a small dot appear. iMovie calls this a Fade Handle.

Locate fade handle dot in iMovie

When you hover over the Fade Handle, your cursor will change to two triangles. Always note cursor changes in iMovie as a similar movement can have different results depending on slight changes in your cursor position. Drag the Fade Handle toward the center of the clip to adjust the duration of your fade. Fade Handles work at either end of any audio or video clip so you can fade the music both in and out.

Fade audio out in iMovie

Step 4: Trimming Clips

So far we’ve assumed that you want to start your song right at the beginning of the track. But what if your video is only 15 seconds and the song doesn’t pick up until the 30-second mark? While we can click and drag to trim the clip from the beginning the same way we did for the end, for a more precise cut here let’s use the Clip Trimmer. Right-click your audio clip and choose Show Clip Trimmer.

Show clip trimmer in iMovie

The Clip Trimmer displays the clip in its entirety with the used section highlighted. Click and drag in the center of the highlighted portion to shift which section of the clip is used, while maintaining the overall duration of your music. Use the audio waveforms displayed as a visual for identifying the beginning of musical phrases. Press the spacebar to play back your project and click Close Clip Trimmer when you’re all set. If the new beginning sounds a little harsh, use the Fade Handle to create a fade in to open your video.

Close clip trimmer in iMovie

Adding audio is a great way to make your video project complete, and you don’t need professional software to fit the music exactly how you want it. To go further with audio editing, check out this post. Practice makes perfect, and our audio library is filled with both music and sound effects to use in practice as well as large-scale productions.

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