Author:
Joey Sibaila
12/8/2008

When I first decided to use a Mac to create a song, I decided to use the GarageBand application basically because I had some experience with it and I had found it very easy to use. In addition, I didn’t need to spend money on costly mixing software since it came standard with my MacBook Pro as part of iLife ’08.

Garageband Title Screen

Garageband Title Screen

The best part of using GarageBand is how easy it makes recording tracks without having recording experience. Usually when recording onto a computer, the user needs some sort of audio interface, which will amplify the input signal. For this project, I had no available audio interface and was a little worried that the input signal from my guitar wouldn’t be loud enough to make a decent recording and also to compete with louder instruments like the drums. I had purchased a ¼” to 1/8” adapter from Radio Shack earlier in the day, and was going to simply use the adapter to connect my guitar to the computer.

Connecting it to my computer was as simple as plugging in some headphones, as I used the MacBook Pro’s audio input jack. For other audio interfaces, you can use either Firewire or USB connections. Anyway, initially when I opened a new file and wanted to record from a live instrument, GarageBand used the MacBook Pro’s onboard microphone as the default input for recording instruments. Of course, this was initially a problem because I wanted to record directly into the computer using my electric guitar and not through the microphone. After a little frustration, I found an article in the GarageBand’s help index which explained that I needed to first go into the System Preferences/Sound, select Input, and then select “Line In.” (see Figure 1.A) After doing this, GarageBand instantly recognized my input device. To actually hear the guitar through the computer speakers, I had to unmute the track and turn the monitor to “On.”

Figure 1.A

Figure 1.A

I was immediately impressed with the clean (undistorted) sound that the guitar was making without having an audio interface. There are also numerous effects that can be used to give many varieties of sounds, for instance a hard rock crunchy sound to a lead with tons of reverb. This was fun to play around with as you can even refine their preset effects and create the perfect sound.

Once the instrument is set up, recording can begin. There are some easy to find buttons near the bottom which are the master track controls for recording, playback and volume control. Once the recording button is clicked, recording can begin immediately or after a countdown using the metronome. I liked having this “Count In” feature since it allowed me time to click the record button and grab my guitar. Initially, I added one of the drum kits, which are pre recorded drum tracks from Apple. Other tracks can be added, and can be recorded in real time over the previously recorded tracks. This allowed be to add a lead guitar part, rhythm, and solo tracks.

Garageband in action

Garageband in action

The basic editing tools are very intuitive, and can be done with a couple clicks of the mouse. I really liked how I could specify the count (in beats per measure) and GarageBand would automatically segment the score in equal parts which made it very easy to copy and paste different parts of the song and edit them in a way that fit perfectly with the drum kit I previously added.

Finally, after I completed the song, I was able to compress the raw tracks into an MP3 file which of course can be played in a number of devices.

I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface with the features of GarageBand. The point is that I was able to create a song with simply a guitar and an adapter with minimal musical knowledge and the intuitive recording and editing features required no technical expertise. The overall recording process can be made better by using an audio interface (such as the MBOX2) which will amplify the guitar signal and give a better quality recording. It’s amazing that this program is standard on Macs considering all of the great features it has. I’d highly recommend using GarageBand as a great foundation for recording and editing music for those who eventually want to become proficient in Logic Studio, Acid, or Pro Tools, or as a great way for a guitar player to record and showcase their talents.

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