Video Editing

How to Add Music to iMovie (With and Without iTunes)

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iMovie, despite having some learning curve, remains one of the best free video editing apps for mobile and desktop devices to add music to iMovie videos.

In addition to adding music from your personal library, this app offers a wide variety of collection of soundtracks, and sound effects, which you can add to your videos.

This blog will take care of the learning curve part and show you how this app works. By the end, you will be able to add any type of audio to your iMovie projects. 

How to Add Music to iMovie on iPhone

Before you start adding music to iMovie on your iPhone, it is highly recommended that you use copyright-cleared music, available on iMovie via soundtracks and sound effects. 

Unless the song is copyright-cleared (licensed for use on various platforms) or copyright-free, major video websites will likely take down your video if you publish it on their platform. This includes YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Instagram.

In some cases, they might not take it down, but they could monetize it using ads to pay the copyright holders. And yes, it doesn’t matter if you used it for a commercial or personal video. 

It means Facebook could place an ad in front of a video of your son’s birthday party if it contains protected music. Or remove it altogether.

Here is how to add them to your videos.

STEP 1 - Import your Video and Select Audio

Presumably, you have launched a video project and have a clip in the editing timeline. If you don’t, do that first. If you don’t know how to, here is a quick step-by-step breakdown.

  1. Open the app and click the Projects tab
  2. Under Projects, click the + button named Create Project. Then select Movie
  3. Tap the video you want to add music to, then click Create Movie

Once the video is in the timeline, tap the + icon at the top left corner of the timeline.

Tapping the icon will take you to a new window with the categories of media files you can add. This includes Photos, Video, and Background Images.

You can also use this process to add fresh camera footage and voiceover recording to the video. 

All you have to do is place the playback cursor where you want the voiceover to start and click the + button. Then scroll down and select Voiceover from the list of options.

However, we are adding music in this case, so select Audio.

STEP 2 - Choose the Soundtrack/Sound Effect you want

iMovie will open another submenu with options to choose the type of audio you want to add. From here, you can select soundtracks, your music, or sound effects.

Selecting any of them will open a list of available options in each category.

For instance, tapping Soundtracks will open a list similar to the one below.

Tap each soundtrack to preview it, then click the + button beside it to add it to your video in iMovie.

The soundtrack will show up as a green line underneath the video frames in the timeline.

This process also applies to Sound Effects. However, effects are shorter and more pointed than soundtracks.

So, before you click the + button, scroll through the timeline and place the playhead or playback cursor to the exact timestamp where you want to add the effect.

The sound effect will show up as a light blue line underneath the video frames in the timeline.

If you discover you misplaced the placement after adding the effect, press and hold the line on the timeline, then drag it to the correct position.

Between these two categories, you can add different copyright-free sounds to your video on iMovie. The sound effects are particularly good for explainer and tutorial videos.

But if you are willing to dare the internet gods or don’t intend to share the video online, here is how to add your music to iMovie.

STEP 1 - Open My Music under Audio and Add Song

The starting process remains the same as adding sound effects or soundtracks. After opening the Audio submenu, tap My Music.

It will open the Music submenu, under which you can find the songs saved on your device. You can find the exact track you want by searching via different categories.

When you find the song, click the + button, and that’s it. You have added your music to iMovie.

Note: if you add a song and it isn’t playing, especially a song you bought from the iTunes Store, it is likely copyright-protected. 

To bypass this, jump to the last section to see how you can download and add music from your iCloud Drive or local folder.

How to Add Music in iMovie with Themes

One of the benefits of iMovie is that it comes with built-in themes that help users define the look and style of their video. Each theme comes with its own transitions, filters, etc. that make it easy for anyone to create a professional-looking video.

Themes is also another way to add copyright-cleared music to your video. Every theme has one, and you can add the music.

Here is how.

STEP 1 - Open Project Settings

Again, before doing anything, make sure you have a project in the timeline. You can either start one or import it from the Projects tab if you have been working on one.

Once you are in the editor’s window, click the gear icon in the bottom right corner to open Project Settings.

STEP 2 - Choose a Theme

Under Project Settings, you will see Project Filter and Theme sections.

Scroll through the themes to select the one that fits your purpose.

Before choosing a theme, make sure you already know what it looks like and the accompanying soundtrack. You can’t preview from settings, but you can do that by -

  • returning to the Projects tab
  • tapping Create Project and select Trailer
  • preview each theme by clicking play on each option

Once you know the suitable theme, return to your project and toggle Theme Soundtrack on.

Finally, tap Done to apply the theme.

How to Add Background Music to iMovie on Mac

The process is similar to adding music to iMovie on the iPhone.

STEP 1 - Start a Project and Open the Audio Tab

Suppose you are using iMovie on a Mac computer for the first time. In that case, first import a video into the editor. To do that,

  • Launch the app and click Create New under the Projects tab
  • Click Movie in the dialog box
  • Click Import Media to open your media folder
  • Select the video you want to add music to and click the blue Import button
  • Finally, drag the video from the iMovie library folder into the timeline

Now click the Audio tab in the toolbar over the project browser section.

On the left, you should see Music, Sound Effects, and Garageband. Select the source for the sound you want to add.

The Music option will open a list of copyright compatible tracks from your iTunes library. Selecting Garageband will open a list of the audio clips you’ve made in the Garageband app.

STEP 2 - Find the Music and Add it to the Timeline

Inside each source, click the play button at the front of the title to preview the audio before adding it.

Next, drag the song to the timeline, under the video clip, starting from where you want it to begin. Once it's there, you can stretch it out or in or set the duration of the audio.

If you want the background music to align with the video throughout its duration, place the audio clip at the beginning of the first frame.

A small green line will appear if you do it right, confirming that the audio and video clips are aligned. 

Afterward, you can simply press the SpaceBar to preview how they align up side by side and make additional changes if necessary.

PRO TIP - always Fade In and Fade Out your background music. 

To do that, position the mouse over the audio waveform at the beginning or end until it transforms into fade handles.

Then drag the fade handle to the point where you want the fade to begin or end. When you drag it at the beginning of the audio clip, it creates a fade-in effect. When you do it at the end of the clip, it creates a fade-out effect.

That’s it. You now know how to add background music and other audio types to iMovie on Mac.

How to Add Music from YouTube to iMovie on iPhone

Besides iTunes, YouTube is another great place to find music to add to your iMovie project. Remember, you cannot add songs from YouTube Music. Even if you have downloaded a song for offline listening, you can only stream it within the app.

However, YouTube has an audio library where you can download multiple sound effects and music. The database is regularly updated, so you can visit over and over to find something you like.

The library is accessible from YouTube Studio. Once you are there, click the play button to preview the clip. Click download when you find something you like.

The website will download the audio to your computer, and from here, you can add it to the iMovie library.

First, click the Import Media button on the toolbar.

It will open the Import Media dialog box. Click the drop-down menu at the top to select the right folder. In this case, the Downloads folder.

Next, locate the downloaded clip, select it, and click Import Selected.

Afterward, return to the Media tab and drag the imported clip to the timeline under the video track.

With that, you have successfully added YouTube music to your iMovie project.

Asides from YouTube Audio Library, you can also download copyright-free music for free or cheap from other sources like AudioJungle, Incompetech, and dig.ccMixter.

However, you must first move the downloaded audio clip to your iCloud Drive to do this on an iPhone.

How to Add Music to iMovie without iTunes using iCloud Drive

If you download an audio clip from YouTube or another source, it is possible to upload it to iTunes and access it from there. But you might be unable to use the clip in iMovie if it is DRM-protected, i.e., copyright-protected.

iCloud Drive is a useful way to circumvent this problem and upload to iMovie directly, and it is just as easy to do this on your iPhone.

To do this, start a project or import an existing one inside iMovie and tap the + button. Next, tap Files and then Browse.

Inside the Browse section, choose iCloud Drive and then select the music you want to add.

You can also use this process to add music from your local iPhone or other cloud storage. 

When you add the music, the tracks are automatically adjusted to match the length of your video. However, you can adjust the length according to your needs by tapping the green line in the timeline.


Even though you are working with visual content, music and other types of audio can improve your video’s quality. And since iMovie is a capable video editing tool, knowing how to add music within the app is beneficial.

We have thoroughly explained how to do this on iPhone and Mac. Whether you are making a video for YouTube, Instagram, or a friend, feel free to experiment with as much music as you like. You might just love the results.

For more tutorials on video editing on your iPhone and Mac devices, visit our learning page.

Hammad Akbar
Hammad Akbar
September 14, 2021