Join Damian Allen for an in-depth discussion in this video Installing and configuring hardware, part of GarageBand '09 Essential Training.
To get the most out of GarageBand, you'll need a way to get the sound of your instrument into your Mac. First we'll take a look at the physical connections, and then we'll see how to work with those inside of GarageBand's preferences. The easiest way to connect the guitar is via the built-in Microphone port on your Mac. Now it has a mini jack connector and an electric guitar has a quarter inch jack connector. So you'll need an adapter to get from your guitar output to the computer input. Now there are good adapters and bad adapters. On the left here, you'll see a classic case of a bad adapter. Once the cord is plugged into this, there is so much weight that you can actually crack the solder contacts for the connector on your computers main board. So avoid that kind of adapter at all costs.
The adapter on the right is only marginally better. It has the length of cable to reduce the strain, but on a Mac Pro, it can still produce enough weight to crack that connector. A much better solution is a cable like one of these. On the left you'll see a microphone connector cable and on the right, you'll see a guitar connector. Notice that the 8 inch Mini Jack connecting to the computer is nice and light and won't strain the main board. Regardless of what kind of cord you use, always try to create some kind of strain relief to prevent the port on a computer from being stressed. One issue with connecting instruments like this is a lack of a Preamp.
A Preamp boosts the signal of your instrument before it reaches the computer. Now these solutions will actually take you a long way, but when you want you go to the next step, you want an external audio interface. There are inexpensive audio interfaces both for USB and Firewire connections. These almost always include on-board preamps and include regular quarter inch connectors for guitars and XLR connectors for microphones. Another really useful option for microphones is to purchase a USB mike. USB mikes cover the range from the moderately expensive condenser microphones to inexpensive but still quite usable cardioid types.
Finally to play software instruments with your Mac, you'll need a USB keyboard. Even 49 key models are quite inexpensive these days and it's well worth your investment, if you really want to spend time with the software instruments. If you have an external audio interface that includes a MIDI port, you can also use a standard MIDI keyboard that doesn't have a USB connector. Let's take a look now at setting up GarageBand to work with your audio interface. We will choose GarageBand, Preferences and go to the Audio/MIDI Tab. You'll see here a section for Audio Output and Audio Input. Currently it's set to the System Setting. What that means is if we go to Apple, System Preferences and select the Sound section, whatever is set as the Input and the Output device here is what will also be used by GarageBand.
Instead I can choose to manually set the Audio Output and Input. You'll see in my case I actually have two external audio interfaces connected to my computer, the Firebox and the FastTrack Pro. Now that's quite unusual but you can see here that I can select between either of these as the Audio Output and either as the Audio Input or I can use my standard built-in Line Input, that's the microphone jack that's built into your Macintosh. It's usually a good idea to set the same device for the Audio Output and the Audio Input, that guarantees that both signals will lock in time and you won't have any complications with popping, clicking or phasing issues. Another option here is Keyboard Sensitivity. If you're finding when you're playing a MIDI keyboard that you just can't hear the notes loud enough, you can adjust the sensitivity and GarageBand will compensate accordingly.
Finally let's look at a critical setting in the Advanced Tab. The Audio Resolution by default is set to Good, which is equivalent to the standard 16 bit 44 KHz resolution of CDs. However you have the option to increase the quality to 24-bit which is Best. Now even though you might be mastering to a final CD at 16-bit, it's always best to record and mix at 24-bit. That's because 24-bit gives you a lot more space in your mix to allow different volumes of instruments to sit at different levels. It really makes a huge difference to the overall quality of the final mix down.
If you are working with an external audio interface though make sure it supports 24-bit recording before setting Audio Resolution to Best. The other caveat here is that best audio resolution will take up about 50% more disk space. In a day and age of big hard drives that's not such a big deal, but if you have 3000 photos in your iPhoto collection that may start to be a competing problem. Finally at the top here, we have a Maximum Number of Real Instrument Tracks, Software Instrument Tracks and Voices per instrument. These determine the polyphony of the different elements. Now if you have no idea what I'm talking about, leave this at Automatic. If you know what I'm talking about then you'll know how to adjust them.
And that's pretty much it for setting up your Audio Interface. Once you're all done, you can go ahead and select the appropriate input for the channel you are working with.
- Creating a project from scratch
- Making music instantly with Magic GarageBand
- Learning the guitar and keyboard with the lessons in GarageBand
- Using piano and orchestral and analog synth software instruments
- Mixing tracks for a balanced composition
- Working with the new stomp boxes and virtual guitar amps
- Effectively applying reverb, echo, compressors, and EQ
- Exporting and sharing compositions