Join Garrick Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video Get real sounds into your Mac, part of GarageBand Essential Training.
- [Instructor] So far, we've seen how to work with Apple Loops in GarageBand. And how to work with and record software instruments. In this chapter, we're gonna look at how to set up and record real instruments in GarageBand. Because, as useful as it is to play with Apple Loops, and as great as some of the built in software instruments sound, sometimes you just can't beat the real thing. Let's start by opening up an empty project. Now, when you record things like your electric guitar, or a trumpet, or a violin, or your own voice, you have to choose one of the audio track options here.
We have a microphone option and a guitar or base option. Unlike a software instrument track, which contains many data, an audio track is a track containing an actual audio recording. This means that you can't fix flubbed notes, or off key performances on a real instrument track as easily as you can on a software instrument track. But, unlike software instrument tracks, real instrument tracks let you record anything you can hear, as long as you have a microphone or an instrument cable. You just have to be a little bit more on the ball with your performances, when recording real instruments. But GarageBand does boast some powerful tools to help you correct minor imperfections in real instrument recordings, such as the ability to fix timing issues, where you might not have been playing on the beat as accurately as you intended.
We'll take a look at these tools a little bit later. When it comes to choosing one of these two audio track options, you'll only select the guitar option if you intend to record an electric guitar or bass, with your GarageBands built in amps, instead of miking a real guitar or bass amp. It doesn't actually really matter though. You can change the tracks properties after selecting it here. Meaning if I choose the mic option, I can still change it to an electric guitar track at any time. The guitar option just gives you a shortcut to creating a guitar-specific track. I'll double click the mic option for now to add the track.
And you can see that places a track, called Audio 1, in the project. So the audio track just gives you a place to record straight, live audio, with no processing. If you want, you can come over to the library. And if this were gonna be, say, a vocal track, I might want to choose Voice, and choose one of these processors to apply to the track. If I were recording a a guitar, and I didn't choose the guitar option earlier, I can just select Electric Guitar and Bass. And then choose my amp sounds from here as well. But whether you're recording vocals, guitars, saxophones or drums, the first thing you have to figure out is how you're gonna get your sounds into GarageBand.
Now, even though some Macs still have an audio input port, especially if you're using an older Mac, and it's technically possible to buy adapters, to plug things like guitar cables into that port, the sound isn't going to be that great. If you're serious about recording live audio into your Mac, you'll wanna get an external audio input device. Audio input device is a general term for any external device that connects to your Mac, via USB, FireWire, Thunderbolt, and so on. Into which, you can connect various audio devices, such as guitar cables or microphones. The sounds are run through the audio input device, and into your audio recording software.
In this case, GarageBand. Now, there's an entire world of audio devices available out there. Which one you get really depends on what you think you'll need. If you're gonna be recording primarily guitar, base, or other instruments that use a standard quarter inch cable, you can get something like the Jam, from Apogee, or the iRig HD, from IK Multimedia. These are simple, great sounding digital devices, into which you can plug your guitar on one end. And, into the other end, you plug the included USB cable, which you can run to your Mac. Now, as a side note, both of these devices also come with a cable to connect them to an iOS device, like an iPad, as well.
So, if you like to make music on your iPad too, both of these devices give you that option. But these types of devices do limit you to just a quarter inch instrument cable. Most microphones, on the other hand, use standard XLR style cables, which can't be plugged into either the Jam or the iRig. If you're gonna be recording microphones, go on the look into audio input devices that can accept XLR connectors, as well as quarter inch connectors. A couple of examples would be products like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, the M-Audio M-Track Plus, and the Presonus Audiobox USB.
Each of which allow for two simultaneous inputs. You can see that they each have combination XLR and quarter inch ports. Meaning you can plug either type into a single jack. You'll see a little later that you can perform simultaneous multi-track recording in GarageBand. Meaning you can record multiple instruments or microphones to individual tracks at the same time. But, in order to do so, you'll need an audio input device that can accept multiple inputs at once. So that's another factor to consider. You'll wanna think about how many tracks you might want to record to at one time. If you need more than two inputs, you can look at other devices by these same companies, and many other companies out there.
Apogee puts out a high-end professional level input device, called the Quartet, that can accept four inputs. And you can find devices like the Presonus Audiobox 1818, that gives you all the way up to 18 simultaneous inputs. But, the point is you need to consider what it is you're going to be recording, and factor that into your hardware decisions. If you don't need an 18 input device, don't spend your money on one. If you're only planning on recording guitars and vocals, you can even find cables and mic's built specifically to connect directly to your computer. Without the need of any kind of audio input device. For example, the Alesis GuitarLink cable is for plugging a guitar directly into your Mac's USB port.
And the Apogee MiC is a studio quality condenser mic that also plugs directly into the USB port. Again, these are just some other options to consider. You'll have to figure out for yourself what will suit your needs. Let's come back into GarageBand. So, once you've figured out what gear you'll be using to get your sounds into GarageBand, you then have to let GarageBand itself in on the information. One way to do this is to simply plug your device in while GarageBand is open. I have an input device here from Behringer, called the UMC202HD.
And I'm gonna plug that into Mac right now. And, after a moment, I see this message telling me that GarageBand has detected a device named UMC202HD. And it's asking me if I want to use this device. I do want to use it, so I'll click Use. And that automatically sets up the device as my input device without me having to do anything else. Now, if GarageBand wasn't running when you plugged in your device, or if you have multiple devices connected to your Mac, and you wanna specify the one you're using, go to Preferences, select AudioMIDI.
And here you can choose your device from the input menu. You should also choose your output device here as well. Now, as a general rule, most audio input devices have a headphone or speaker jack built in. And that's what you should use to listen to your playback. Doing so cuts down on latency issues. Which is when there's a noticeable delay between when you, say, strum your guitar, and when you actually hear it coming out of GarageBand. I know many people prefer to use the speakers connected to their Mac's to listen back. And if you aren't experiencing any latency issues, that's fine.
But, if you do run into that problem, try setting your output to your audio input device. But that's the gist of getting ready to record real audio into GarageBand. Figure out what you want to record, get the appropriate hardware or audio input device, plug it in, and let GarageBand know that that's what you're gonna be using. Next, we'll take a look at how to make sure you're getting the proper input levels from whatever you're recording.
- Creating a new project
- Adding tracks
- Working with loops
- Recording software instrument tracks
- Getting real sounds into your Mac
- Recording and compositing multiple tracks
- Arranging, editing, and mixing your project
- Sharing your music with others