How to time a Keynote Presentation to a music soundtrack

I often do weddings and funerals, and as part of the wedding or funeral people like a Keynote slideshow with 10-20 photos set to some background music.  The problem is there may be other slides that need to come before or after it without background music. The easiest way to achieve this is to make a ‘movie’ of the slides (with a soundtrack) and then re-import this movie into a Keynote as a single slide. Here’s how to export a Keynote slideshow with a soundtrack.

The Problem.

If you are trying to make a keynote presentation that is timed to music, it’s hard because in Keynote you can only add music to a single slide, or to a whole presentation. If you add music to a single slide, it stops when you advance to the next slide. If you add music to an entire slideshow, it starts when the keynote starts, which may not be what you want.  In my case I want the music to begin well into the Keynote presentation, and then to play for 20 or so slides, but not for the whole presentation.

The Solution.

Make a quicktime movie of the slides that you want the soundtrack to and then re-import this movie into a Keynote as a single slide. It will appear as 1 slide but that slde will be a movie of several slides with a soundtrack.

Here’s how to do it step by step.

How to Record a Presentation in Apple Keynote


1. Make a new keynote file with the pictures in it that you want the music to play for.

2. Add an audio file from iTunes to the Keynote file as a ‘soundtrack’. Do not drag the audio file onto the slide or it will only play for the slide.  make sure you go to the Inspector Window, select ‘document’ Go to the ‘Audio Tab’ and add a ‘Soundtrack’.

Adding a soundtrack to a Keynote: From the inspector window choose the ‘audio’ tab. From this screen you can add a soundtrack to the keynote.
Adding a soundtrack in Keynote 7 Here I have added 2 songs.


3. Turn down the recording volume level.

Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Sound > Input and move the ‘Input volume’ slider volume to the left so that it does not record any sound while you are recording.

This is because the ‘Record Slideshow’ Is expecting you to do a “voice-over” on top of your keynote and it will record this voiceover. But  in this case we do not want a voice-over,  we just want the soundtrack that we added in step two. There  is no way to stop Keynote from recording a “voice-over” so the next best thing is to turn the input volume to zero  so that the “voice-over” is silent.

4. From the ‘play’ menu choose ‘Record Slideshow’.

Once the soundtrack is added, choose ‘Record Slideshow’ Manually advance the slides (right arrow or spacebar)  in time with the music. Keynote will record the timings.


5. With Keynote 7 and later you then need to press this Red ‘record’ button on the bottom left of the presenter display.

Now you can manually advance the slides (using the right arrow key) in time with the music. Press the Red button again to stop the recording.   Keynote will record  the time that you advance each slide.

You may wish to play back the presentation and check the timings are correct.


6. Export the entire keynote as a Quicktime movie. (File menu: Export To: Quicktime…) Under the options choose’ Playback Uses: Recorded Timing’. Also choose ‘Include the slideshow soundtrack’ and  ‘Full Quality, Large’.

When you are finished choose ‘Export Slideshow’ and select ‘Recorded Timings’,  ‘Full Quality’ as in the picture. Also be sure to tick ‘Include the slideshow soundtrack’ (It’s not ticked in the above picture but it should be!)

This is what it looks like in Keynote 7:

‘Slideshow Recording’ tells Quicktime to use the timings that you have already recorded in your recording. Choose a format that matches your final keynote slide size that you want.


7. You now have a stand alone movie of the images with a soundtrack. You can drag this movie into a new Keynote and play it at any point in the slideshow.


NOTE: There is a bug in some versions of keynote that means the audio will cut off after 30 seconds. If this is happening for you there is a simple fix:

Go to “File” then “Advanced” and “Change File Type” and set it to “Package”


30 responses to “How to time a Keynote Presentation to a music soundtrack”

  1. Kevin

    Thanks Wayne!

  2. jo

    thanks – brilliant!

  3. candice

    very clear and concise.
    the best and easiest answer to a question I’ve ever found on the internet
    thank you

  4. ping

    I tried this but then the keynote file cannot be exported to quicktime successfully after a quicktime file is inserted… How can I export a keynote with quicktime inserted to a quicktime file? Thank you :)

  5. Angelica

    Very illustrative. It complies with the promise to take the viewer step by step except when exporting to quicktime that I had to find a tutorial on how to do it but without this I still would be lost.’Thank you!

  6. Why my sound track stops in between? After recording when I export to QT using Recorded time, and play the exported mov, slide keep on run as it should run but sound stops only after 7-8 seconds for each slide?

    Please help me on this. I will be very thankful to you.

  7. Pastor Mike Gates

    How do I undo a timed keynote presentation so that I can make it change manually?

    1. Have a look at step 3 above.
      Instead of ‘Record Slideshow’ you choose ‘Clear Recording’ and it will change manually again.

  8. David Fisher

    After you have imported the QuickTime movie, say with a timed narration, can you then add a second audio track with music? Could you, say, play that music to be sensitive to what is happening in the movie?

    1. You could do that in iMovie or in Quicktime Player Pro.

  9. Sydney

    What do I do if my Sound and Movie export seperatly?

  10. John

    Thanks Wayne, great stuff. Wondering if there is a way to do a larger Quicktime movie, larger than 1024×768. Right now I’m on a Macbook Pro retina display and when I export the movie my images all look compressed compared to the rest of my slideshow, which is all at full retina display size. In other words, they don’t look as sharp and crisp as they did in the Keynote presentation before I recorded the slideshow and exported it.

    1. not that I know of built in. You could try a screen video capture program like snapzpro.

  11. John

    Thanks Wayne, that’s a pretty major limitation, then. Especially for those of us on retina displays now…1024×768 just doesn’t look very good at full screen resolution.

  12. Hannah

    You have totally saved me! Thanks!

  13. Sam Renga

    I completed my keynote presentation and added music for the whole presentation. However the moment the presentation ends, the slide stops abruptly and subsequently disappears and shows and shows a blank screen. I want to presentation to stop at the end slide and not disappear. Appreciate if you can guide me achieving my need to complete the presentation without any hiccups to abrupt stoppage. Thank you.

  14. Henning

    It’s obviously a basic flaw in Keynote – as it is in PowerPoint – that there’s no easy and simple way to time slides to prerecorded sound, which is the most obvious and intuitive way to combine audio and visuals. Sound usuallly has to be continuous, slides are by their very nature not. The most reasonable way would be to start the sound and click slides in and out along the way. And then, of course, it should be possible to adjust time codes afterwards.

    1. Yes all it would need to have is an option so that if you put a sound on a slide, you could choose a tick box for that sound to ‘keep playing’ after you exit the slide. Then you could have a sound that played over multiple slides. It is such a simple feature that is missing.

  15. Kate Hatton

    I thought I’d found the perfect answer to my searching the internet to find out how to play music in a keynote presentation with timed slide transitions. I can do this perfectly well in PowerPoint, but only have a Mac to play the presentation on. But when I try ‘record presentation’, it doesn’t play the audio file, so I can’t hear when to advance the slides. Aaaargh!

    1. Hi Kate. There is a little red button that you need to press in Keynote 7 after you press ‘Record Slideshow’. I just checked the Apple documentation and there is no instructions about this. I have just updated the article to reflect this. Sorry about that but I wrote this article with an older version of Keynote. I have also upgraded the article it with some newer screenshots for you.

  16. Brian Spiby

    I have added music to each of my slides. I can trim the length of each music extract but would like to fade-out each extract while the slide continues to show rather than cut the extract abruptly.
    How can I do this, please?

    1. I’d say the best way would be to edit the music track in another piece of software (e.g. Audacity) and put a fade onto it, then export the new music file (with the fade in it) and put it into the keynote.

  17. Brian Spiby

    Thanks, Wayne. I’ll give it a try.

  18. Jon Miner

    More helpful hints using audacity.
    If you want certain sounds from a longer piece of music to match a certain slide, you can use Audacity to add sound clips exactly. In Audacity you can add exact seconds of silence between parts of a sound recording. Make one at the beginning and copy it. Decide where you want to separate the original sound into parts. At each break, press paste. A silent space will insert at that point.
    Go to File Export and name it. Now, save the work you did a new name. Save to a known location such as desktop. Open the new file and don’t save the original unless you want it to have all the stuff you added. Remember, the one you worked on is the original. Just save it to a new name and then don’t save the original.
    Now you have a sound file that could be drawn like this –||||||–||||||–||||||–||||||–||||||–||||||–||||||–||||||-
    Select the 1st part at the last half of the into to the 1st part of the outro: -||||||- Cut it. (Command x)
    Make a new file, Command n and paste Command v, Export as Part 1. If you want to use a fade, you select the part you want to fade and select fade in. Select the ending and select Fade out.
    Go back to your large sound file. Cut off the second bite (it is now the first bite) and make a new file and paste it in. Fade as you wish. Export as Part 2. Repeat for all the parts you want as clips.
    In Keynote, Open your slideshow. Open the location in Finder where you have your clips. Drag each file on to the slide you wish. You can set – in animation – if the sound plays automatically or on a click.
    Another trick with Audacity is to add silence at the beginning of a piece that you put in as background audio. Your presentation can have introductory material that takes a known amount of time before the background starts. Just add that many seconds of silence to your sound before saving it to your presentation. Good luck!

  19. Cecilia

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!
    It helped me a lot!!!

  20. John

    *** iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, 2017), macOS Mojave 10.14.6, Keynote 9.2.1 ***

    Helpful article. Outstanding detail. Many thanks.

    The later version of Keynote has a few interface differences that you may want to update for convenience and accuracy. For example, in Step 6, the export to Movie has replaced export to QuickTime, with some controls no longer available.

    One question: after following your instructions, while stepping through the slide show, when I click to display the initial slide of the series for which I have added the time-sequenced soundtrack, I have to click the initial slide a second time in order to have the soundtrack begin. This has the feel of a setting that I’ve overlooked. If you know how to “repair” this, I’d be grateful.

  21. Nathalie

    omg! Even though it’s a little outdated this was soooo helpful! Thank you!!!!

  22. Andrew

    I am having the problem that when I export the file, the soundtrack is not playing in the quicktime file. It is as if the exported show is just the screens cycling in the order I clicked them. Are there any suggestions for this?

  23. David B.

    I’m using Keynote 10 and this worked perfectly for me! Thanks!

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