Join Garrick Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting real sounds into your Mac, part of GarageBand Essential Training.
So far, we've seen how to work with apple loops in garage band, and how to work with and record software instruments. In this chapter we're going to look at how to set up and record real instruments in garage band. Because, as useful as it is to play with apple loops, and as great as some of the built-in instruments sound, sometimes you just can't beat the real thing. I'm going to start by opening up an empty project. Now, when you want to 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. Notice, one of the options says record using a microphone or line input, and the other one says record guitar or bass using Garage Band as an amp.
Unlike a software instrument track, which contains MIDI data, An audio track is a track containing an actual audio recording. This means that you can't fix flub notes and 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 where you record anything that 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 garage band 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 be taking a look at these tools a little later. Now when it comes to choosing one of these two audio track options, you'll only select the guitar option. If you intended to record an electic guitar or bass, there are garage band built-in guitar amps instead of micing a real guitar amp. It actually really doesn't matter, you can change the tracks' properties after selecting them here, meaning if I do choose the mic option, I can still change it to an electric guitar track at any time. This guitar option just gives you a shortcut to creating a guitar-specific track. I'll just double-click the mic option for now and that adds that track.
Then you can see the meter moving now because right now it's taking input from the microphone I'm using to record this movie. I'll just mute that so it's not so distracting. So the audio track option 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 going to be, say, a vocal track, I might want to select voice, and then choose one of these processes to apply to the track. If I were recording guitar, and I didn't choose the guitar option earlier, I could just select electric guitar and bass, and 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 going to get your sounds into Garage Band.
Now some older Macs have built-in audio input jacks for plugging in many jack style eighth inch audio cables. The label on the Mac input looks like two triangles pointing towards each other on top of a small circle. Now in the past you could get some adaptors so you could plug a standard microphone or guitar cable into your Mac through this port. But most of the newer Mac models these days no longer have an audio input jack. Which really isn't that big a loss, because the sound quality through that input wasn't the greatest. If you're going to be recording live audio into your Mac, you really need to get an external audio input device.
Audio input device is a general term for any external device that connects to your Mac via USB, fire wire, Thunderbolt, and so on. Into which you can connect various audio devices such as guitar cables, microphones, or midi-cables. The sounds are run through the audio input devices and in to your audio recording software in this case Garage Band. 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 going to be recording primarily guitar, base, or other instruments that uses standard quarter-inch cable you can get something like the Jam from Apogee or the i Rig HD from IK Multimedia.
These are simple great sounding digital devices into which you can plug your guitar in one end and into the other end you plug in the included USB cable which you then run to your Mac. 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 devices do limit you to just quarter-inch instrument cable inputs. Most microphones, on the other hand, use standard XLR style cables which can't be plugged into either the jam or the iRig.
So, if you're going to be recording microphones, you'll want to look into an audio input device 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 the Focusrite and the Presonus have combination XLR and quarter-inch ports, meaning you can plug in either type to a single jack. While the M-Audio has separate ports for the two connector types. We'll see a little later that you can perform simultaneous multi-track recording in Garage Band, 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 want to think about how many tracks you might want to record 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 decision.
If you don't need an 18 input device, don't spend your money on one. If you're just planning on recording simple guitars and vocals, you can even find cables and microphones built specifically to connect directly to your computer without the need of any kind of audio input device at all. 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 microphone that also plugs directly into the USB port. Again, these are just some options to consider. Now back here in Garageband, once you've figured out what gear you'll be using to get your sound 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 apogee quartet here and I'm going to plug it into my Mac. After a moment I see this message telling me that Garage Band has detected a device name Quartet. An it's asking me if I want to use this device, I do want to use it, so I'll click use. That automatically sets up the device as my input device, without me having to do anything else. Notice if I un-mute this track now you're no longer seeing this meter move as I'm speaking, because it's now using the Quartet as the audio input device. Now if Garage Band wasn't running when you plugged in your device, or if you have multiple devices connected to your Mac and you want to specify the one you're using, go to Garage Band preferences, audio/MIDI, and here choose your device from the input menu.
You should also choose your output device here as well. 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 on your guitar and when you actually hear it coming out of Garage Band. Now I know many people prefer to use the speakers connected to their Macs to listen back, and if you aren't experiencing any latency issues that's fine. But if you do run into problems try setting your output to your audio input device.
Now for the purpose of recording these movies that you're watching, I need to keep my output device set to my system settings. Notice that switches my input device back to system as well, but from here, I can switch back to quartet. And again, I'm only doing this in this case because these are the settings I need to record these videos you're watching. But that's the gist of getting ready to record real audio into Garage Band, first figure out what you want to record. Get the appropriate audio or hardware input device. Plug it in. And let garage band know that, that's what you're going to be using to record. 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 the Share menu
- Controlling GarageBand remotely from an iPad
Skill Level Beginner
Q: This course was updated on 11/24/2014. What changed?
A: We added one new movie ("What's new in GarageBand 10.0.3") and revised three others ("Customizing the bass sound," "Using Audio Unit and third-party plugins," and "Using the Share menu") to reflect the changes in GarageBand 10.0.3.
Q: This course was updated on 8/03/2015. What changed?
A: We added two new movies, one covering the general 6/30/2015 update to GarageBand and one at the end of chapter 3 on working with and automating the new synth sounds and Transform Pad.