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There's one thing that every audio recording application on the market has in common, and GarageBand is no exception: you need to be able to get an audio signal into the application and you need to be able to get an audio signal out. Since GarageBand is an audio recording application that's made exclusively to run on Mac OS X, in this course we'll be focusing only on the Mac as a hardware platform for working with audio. Every Mac has some combination of audio in and out ports. You'll have to look up the specs for your particular machine if you're not sure what your computer offers.
Your Mac may have a built-in analog audio in and out, or optical digital in and out, or a combination of these. There are so many permutations of audio gear and connector types available these days that there's no way to exhaustively cover this subject in this course. But do check out the Digital Audio Principles course with Dave Schroeder, here on the lynda.com Online Training Library. Dave goes into great depth about all of these variations on the theme of getting audio signals in and out of your computer. In addition to the analog and digital audio line in and out ports on your Mac, you also have USB, FireWire, and Thunderbolt available to you.
This opens up a more flexible way to get audio in and out of your Mac. While the built-in audio ports on your Mac are useful, many of you will find everything you need in one device called a digital audio interface. There are dozens of manufacturers that make digital audio interfaces. These devices are designed to operate between your audio source and your computer and then on the way back out between your computer and your speakers or a studio monitors or headphones. Sometimes called digital I/Os or audio in/out boxes, they come in many shapes sizes and prize ranges.
The one you choose will largely depend on your budget and the number of simultaneous ins and outs that you may need. Some questions to ask yourself might be, are you going to want to record a whole band at once, or will it just be yourself, or you and one other musician? This will determine the number of inputs you need. Will you be wanting to send audio back out to 5.1 surround sound speakers or just a stereo pair of monitors or maybe just headphones? This will determine how many outs you need. Some other factors to consider in choosing an audio interface might be, do your microphones require 48V phantom power? If so, your I/O will need to have that feature.
Will you be recording instruments like guitars and basses connected directly to your interface? If so, you'll need to have an interface that offers instrument-level inputs, as well as line-level or microphone inputs. Finally, will you want to plug headphones into your interface to monitor while you're playing without having your speakers turned up? Make sure to get an I/O with a headphone jack on the front, preferably one with a separate volume. For this course I'll be using the Apogee ONE interface. It's a USB interface of a built-in condenser mic and also has a mic preamp with phantom power, so you can use your own mics as well.
It comes with a Y adapter allowing you to connect an XLR cable for a microphone or a quarter-inch jack instrument input for use with electric guitar, bass, or keyboards. The only other connection type you'll need to think about it is a MIDI USB connector to connect your MIDI keyboard or other MIDI controller to your computer. Almost all MIDI controller devices now come with a MIDI-to-USB converter built in, and this means you can just plug in your USB cable and start playing with all of the various software instruments available in GarageBand. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
If you don't know what a software instrument is, we'll be covering them extensively in a later chapter. One quick tip before we move on to the next movie: anytime you've all your devices connected according to the manufacturer's instructions and your computer's powered up and ready to go but for some reason you aren't getting any sound in or sound out, things just don't seem to be working the way they're supposed to, the first troubleshooting step for getting everything working again is always to shut down your computer, power off all of your devices, including the audio interface, your MIDI many keyboard, or USB mic, and reseat all of your connections.
This just means and unplug your USB and FireWire cables from your computer and your devices and reconnect them all, making sure they're seated properly in their respective ports. Once everything is reconnected, power up all of your external devices first-- this means any external hard drives and printers, et cetera, plus your audio interface and MIDI controller, and then boot up your Mac. Most of the time this simple procedure will solve the problem.
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