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Once you've connected your digital audio interface and have plugged in at least one instrument or microphone into one of your inputs, you have one last thing to do before you can get audio in and out of your Mac, and that is to set your sound preferences within Mac OS X, as well as your audio input and audio output preferences within GarageBand. Let's take a look at the system-wide preferences first. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, and on the far right of the Hardware row, click on Sound. We are primarily concerned with the Output and Input tabs here.
All of your audio output options, including interfaces you may have connected, are all going to be listed for you here, and my window might look very different than yours because of the different devices we have connected here to make this recording possible. If you wanted your sound to simply play out of your laptop's built-in speakers, or through your headphone jack, you'll just choose Line Out or even your internal speakers. If your Output volume slider is grayed out, it just means that the device you've chosen has output volume controls on the device itself. By graying this out Mac OS X is just making sure that you only have one gain stage on output.
This is to prevent you from adjusting your output in multiple places. Next, click the Input tab and you can select your device for sound input. You can use Line In or Digital In, if you're using one of those ports, or again, if you have an interface connected as I do, select it here. If your device has its own input gain control, you'll not be shown an Input level slider here. If it does, you should see a slider. I don't have one right now, so you are just seeing this "The selected device has no input controls." If you're using a built-in mic or a device with no individual input gain, you'll be able to set that here by moving the slider, and you can use the Input level meter as a guide to set your level.
We'll discuss getting proper input levels in a later movie. For now, select your devices for output and input in the System Preferences Sound pane and close Preferences. Next, let's open GarageBand, and from the GarageBand application menu, you can choose Preferences. Throughout the course I'll be using this keyboard shortcut for accessing preferences, Command+Comma. We'll be discussing different areas of GarageBand's preferences throughout the course as each section becomes pertinent to what we are doing. To set up our audio input and output, click on the Audio/MIDI icon at the top of the window.
You'll see the Audio Output and Audio Input dropdown menus and if you click on them, you'll see a similar set of choices to the ones you saw in the main System Preferences pane. You can choose System Setting if you'd like to allow GarageBand to take its lead from the choices you've made for input and output in the System Prefs, or you can force GarageBand on an ad-hoc basis to use a specific audio input or output device here. Just keep in mind that you can open Preferences at anytime and change these settings. A few seconds later you'll be getting audio in or sending audio out of the new device that you've chosen.
Ready to change back: Command+Comma select a new device, click OK, and get back to recording. The Audio/MIDI pane also shows you how many MIDI devices GarageBand currently sees connected. I have two MIDI devices connected and it's saying, "2 MIDI Input(s) detected." You can also adjust the velocity level of notes you play on your MIDI controller here. If you find that even when you're trying to play a nice soft piano note on your MIDI keyboard but that the sound is always coming in at the highest level for example, you can adjust this slider a little lower here.
You may have to do a few tests to find the sweet spot for your controller and playing style. We'll cover this in detail in the chapter on software instruments. One final thing I'd like to mention is that when you're working with audio on your Mac, oftentimes you can set your preferences and just leave them alone; other times you'll be visiting your preferences regularly and selecting a different device for sound input. For example, I might use my audio interface as my input device most of the time, except when I want to use my USB condenser mic. In order to use it, I just need to hit Command+Comma to open my GarageBand Preferences, click on Audio/MIDI, and change my audio input from my audio interface over to my USB mic.
When I do that, GarageBand asks me if I'd like to change the audio driver. Just click Yes and it will switch over to your newly selected input device. The reason I mentioned this is that many people tend to assume that Preferences are something you set and forget. In the case of working with audio recording on your Mac, I found that getting comfortable with frequently visiting your System Preferences and your GarageBand Preferences is not only helpful, but necessary. In a later movie we'll see how you can set GarageBand's input and output settings on the fly for any new track that you're creating.
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