How to add music to iMovie to rock things up

Every good TV show and movie needs memorable music. What would Rocky be like without Eye of the Tiger? Or Law and Order without its signature soundtrack? If you’re making a video on iMovie, you’re likely not making something as grand as a movie or TV show, but even your holiday movies deserve some extra love. As you thunder down the beach towards the ocean waves, the Baywatch song would ideally complement it. Here’s how to add music to a video in iMovie.

Read more: How to become a video editor online

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To add music to a video in iMovie on a Mac, go to the Audio & Video section at the top-left of the iMovie interface. Clicking Music in the left sidebar will show all the music files in your Mac’s Music folder. Click the song you want and drag it down to the video footage area.


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Obviously, it goes without saying that you should not steal music if you intend to publish your work publically. If you want to publish your work, you need to pay the owner of the music you want to use. If you put something on YouTube, for example, which has copyrighted music on it, YouTube will immediately take the video down and potentially close your account.

There’s plenty of free music out there if you know where to look — YouTube even provides a library of copyright-free downloadable tracks. Just sign into YouTube Studio and go to the Audio Library section.

How to add music to a video in iMovie on Mac

To add music to a video in iMovie, click Audio & Video at the top-left of the iMovie interface.

mac imovie audio

Now, click Music in the left-hand sidebar. This brings up the contents of your Mac’s Music folder. If the music file you need is in another folder, move it to the Music folder and refresh the contents in iMovie. Note that only MP3 files work in iMovie — other music files such as M4A and FLAC do not seem to work. You would need a music conversion tool in that case.

mac imovie music tab

Now it’s a simple case of clicking the music file you want and dragging it down to the video footage timeline. Another option is to drag the file from your Mac Finder into iMovie.

mac imovie add music

Place the music file underneath the video footage. It will show as a green bar with sound waves. You can move the green bar to where you want the music to start in the video.

If the original audio of the video is still there, that green bar will also be there. You can have both the original audio and the music if you want, but they would obviously interfere with one another. So I would recommend removing the original audio and going with the music. Or cut the original audio out of a section of the movie and replace it with the music. The possibilities are endless.

How to cut the music in iMovie

If the music track is too long, you will need to cut it off at precisely the right moment. To do this, click on the green music bar at the exact point it should stop and right-click. In the menu that appears, select Split Clip.

mac imovie split clip

You will now see two separate cut music bars. You can go ahead and delete the part you don’t need, by clicking it and tapping the Delete key on your Mac keyboard.

mac imovie cut audio

How to fade music in iMovie

It wouldn’t sound right for the music to suddenly stop abruptly. It would sound much better for the music to gradually fade out. Here’s how you do this. First, move your cursor over the end of the audio bar and a small circle with a black dot will appear. This is the button you use to fade the music out.

mac imovie fade audio button

Hold your cursor on that circle and move it to the left. You will now see the amount of fading out time, as well as a dark shadow showing the amount of music that will be faded. You can easily move the circle to the right again to decrease the fade-out time if you go too far.

mac imovie fade audio drag

When you release your cursor, you will see the shadow at the end, showing the faded-out music part. Now play the video at that point to hear the fade-out and decide for yourself how it sounds.

mac imovie fade audio finished

How to adjust background volume in iMovie

Sometimes, the background volume may be too loud in a video. Perhaps you shot the footage in a noisy environment, such as a street or a music concert? In that case, you may want to lower the volume a bit, so you don’t blast out the eardrums of your viewers?

To lower the volume, click on the green audio clip you want to adjust. Then on the preview screen, a volume button will light up.

mac imovie adjust volume button

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Clicking that button reveals options. You can click Auto for iMovie to determine the optimal volume level. Alternatively, you can use the slider next to Auto to select your own volume. If you have other separate audio clips in your video project, you can specify if the audio settings in this one should be set to the other ones as well.

If you make a mess, simply click Reset or Reset All. Then start again.

mac imovie adjust volume options

How to add music to a video in iMovie on iOS

To add music to a video in iMovie on iOS is slightly different, but still relatively easy. However, you don’t have editing features like fading in and out. You can add audio tracks, cut them, and adjust the volume. But that’s it. If you want to do anything else, it’s recommended to get a hold of iMovie on a Mac machine and do it there. It’s much faster and less fiddly.

On an iPhone, first, tap the + button on the left-hand side.

ios imovie plus

Select the Audio section.

ios imovie audio

Choose which audio category you want.

ios imovie audio section

Select your desired song. When you tap on it, a + icon in a circle will appear to the right. Tap that to add it to your video.

ios imovie select audio track

The green audio bar will now appear beneath your video footage. Play the video to see if the audio sounds right or not.

ios imovie audio track added

To edit the audio, hold down on the green audio bar with your finger. Finally, options will appear at the bottom — scissors to cut the audio, a volume icon to adjust the volume, and a Delete button to remove the audio completely. As I said though, no fading-out option.

ios imovie edit audio track

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