GarageBand was developed by Apple under the direction of Gerhard Lengeling, formerly of the German company Emagic, makers of Logic Audio. (Emagic was acquired by Apple in July 2002.)

The application was announced during Steve Jobs's keynote speech at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco on 6 January 2004; musician John Mayer assisted with its demonstration.

GarageBand 2 was announced at the (2005) Macworld Conference & Expo on January 11, 2005. It shipped, as announced, around 22 January 2005. Major new features included the abilities to view and edit music in Musical Notation form, to record up to 8 tracks at once, to fix timing and pitch of recordings, to automate track pan position, master volume, and master pitch, to transpose both audio and MIDI, and to import MIDI files.

GarageBand 3, announced at 2006's Macworld Conference & Expo, includes a 'podcast studio', including the ability to use more than 200 effects and jingles, and integration with iChat for remote interviews.

The latest version of GarageBand is part of iLife '08. It incorporates the ability to separately record sections of a song such as bridges and chorus lines, support for automation of tempos and instruments, and a "Magic GarageBand" feature that includes a virtual jam session with a complete 3D view of the instruments.