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Make music with your Mac: Garageband

Your Mac comes with a wonderful software to create and record music: Garageband. Always wanted to become famous as a singer songwriter? This is your FREE chance!

First, download Garageband
Garageband isn't on your Mac yet. You must first download it from the App Store. You need an Apple ID for that. You can read how to download software from the App Store in the chapter Installing apps. You also need an administrator password if you want to download additional instruments or amplifiers.

To record your work, you can use the internal microphone of your iMac or MacBook. However, using an external device produces much better quality.
MacMiep uses this external USB audio interface:

This is Line 6's UX2 Pod. This unit can record in 24-bit quality, just like Garageband.
CDs are 16-bit, so the quality is high.

If you think that is too pricey, consider an external USB microphone. MacMiep has these:

Trust USB microphone.
It works straight out of the box, without driver (operating program), so plug and play. Quality is average.

Install your hardware first
MacMiep's UX2 needs a driver, an operating program. It must first be installed before you can connect the device. It provides an additional System Preference:

In it you have various options for bringing in sound:

Consult the user manual of your own device to find out how it works.

Note: Be careful with new system versions and drivers for audio equipment. Before upgrading, always check for new drivers. Audiostuff is very sensitive to system upgrades.

MacMiep works to start with an acoustic guitar (with built-in element) and a vocal microphone (XLR). She can play guitar and sing at the same time and record that simultaneously:

Always use headphones
It is important to use headphones when recording sound. This is how you prevent 'feedback': a loop of recording and playback (beep).
More importantly: you hear much better what you are doing.
You can use the internal headphone port of your Mac for this.

Note: MacMiep chooses to connect it to the UX2:

Choose sound input and output
First make sure you have the input and output of the sound correct. To do this, go to System Preferences => Sound. In this case I choose both: UX2.

If you have an external USB microphone or other audio interface, select it here:

Note: You can still change this later.

Start Garageband
A window with choices will appear:

Garageband has a number of presets. You can find it under 'Project presets'. However, MacMiep wants to make music 'freely', so she doesn't use this right now:

For those who want it: you can already enter the key and tempo. MacMiep does not use this either:

Track type
Now you can choose what to record. In this case we start with guitar and vocals. We want to record each on a separate track, but at the same time. This is possible with such an external audio device as the Line6 UX2. If you don't have one, you only choose the microphone. You can then record everything at once, but also guitar first and then vocals later. That is more convenient because you can mix and edit better afterwards.
So we start with setting up the microphone. Select it and choose the input you want to use:

The input in this case is the UX2. To hear yourself while playing, check 'I want to hear my instrument while playing and recording':

With input you have several options, depending on your device:

It takes a while to try out what works best. Everything can also be set while working. If you don't have an external audio device, only the internal microphone will appear here.

The Garageband window
A window with a track appears on the screen. Make a sound to see if it comes in:

Pay attention to the buttons of your external audio device. Is everything open? Also those of the headphones?

This track becomes 'vocals' so we choose an amplifier for it. In the rows on the left you see various options under 'Voice':

Try out what you like. Listen through headphones. MacMiep chooses 'Natural vocal':

Note: Record your guitar or another instrument, then choose something else or nothing - is also allowed. You can always change things afterwards.

Recording an instrument: guitar
We are going to accompany ourselves with the guitar. We record vocals and guitar on separate 'tracks'. Choose 'New track ...' from the 'Track' menu:

At 'track type' we now choose 'guitar'. Pay attention to the input channel of your external audio device. Also choose 'I want to hear my instrument while playing and recording':

And that's where the track for the guitar appears. Select the amplifier you want to use in the left row. In this case 'Natural Strum', but there is plenty of other noise to be had.

Note: Often you see a circle with an arrow. That means that this amp (or sound) isn't on your Mac yet. You need to download it before you can use it.

Garageband has a built-in tuner:

Record multiple tracks simultaneously
You have now made two tracks: one for guitar and one for vocals.
The intention is to record guitar and vocals at the same time, but each separately on a track. To do this, go to the 'Track' menu and choose 'Configure track label ...':

Check 'Record Enable ':

An extra icon appears with each track. You can click here to turn recording on or off. So now you can make a multi-track recording.

Countdown and metronome
By default, Garageband counts down for recording and the metronome is also on by default:

Click once on them to turn them off if desired. They are off when they are no longer purple:

Play and record
Now you are done setting up and you can start playing and singing (or whatever).
To record, use the red button:

Note: The 'R' key on your keyboard also serves as a start and stop button.

During recording you will see a red bar moving forward:

Recorded material is blue:

You can make as many tracks as you want. Live it up!

Add a drummer
Right-click in the gray field of the tracks and choose 'New Drummer Track':

You can choose from different drummers. You have to get most of them first by clicking on the circle with arrow:

Once it's in, Garageband will ask if they can be installed. You need the password of your administrator account for this:

Repeat drum sample
Move your mouse to the top right of the sample until you see a round arrow. Now pull to the right. The sample will be repeated up to where you draw. This also applies to all types of samples and recordings.

Note: Make sure you have enough drum time to finish your song.

Midi keyboard
We are now going to work with a Midi keyboard. Midi is a language for sound. MacMiep has one with USB connection. This one goes straight into the Mac:

Plug in your keyboard. Create a new track and choose 'Software Instrument':

Choose the instrument you like:

Now you can also add keyboard/piano:

MacMiep hardly plays any keys, but nothing prevents you from recording keys and vocals at the same time with a USB keyboard and a USB / internal microphone.

Save your work
Don't forget to save your work:

Adjusting your work - recording
After recording comes the editing of your sound. If you prefer a different amplifier, you can change that per track. Try it out; the possibilities are endless.
Below the tracks you will find all kinds of options to further tweak the sound, here at the built-in bass amplifier:

An equalizer under 'EQ':

And it also with the midi keyboard track:

The changes you make are immediately implemented.

Before creating a new track, you could choose which source and whether you wanted to hear yourself back. Those same settings are also at the bottom of the window:

You can still change things per track.

Note: Do you use a microphone and internal or external speakers? Then select 'Feedback protection'.

Correcting your recorded work - midi
A nice thing about a midi instrument is that you can correct your mistakes with impunity.

Each note has a length, a pitch, and a velocity. Everything can be adjusted. Select a note with your mouse. You move it or pull it longer:

If you can read notes, you can also work in musical notation:

It is a matter of listening carefully and trying.

Correcting your work - physical instrument
This is less easy. Double-click on the image and an enlarged version will appear at the bottom:

Tempo, key, clarity, everything can be adjusted. Just try it out.

Adjust loudness within a track
Each track has a slider to adjust the amount of noise:

But you can also make passages within the recording louder and softer. Click on this symbol for this:

Lines appear. Double click on a line for a dot. Click on the dot and move. The line goes along. This way you make the recording softer and louder. You can apply as many dots as you want.
Not satisfied with a particular piece or made a mistake? Set the wrong piece to zero and record it again on a new track. Play with the loudness of both pieces to integrate them as seamlessly as possible.

Master volume
What is also possible is to make the entire image louder (or less) with a so-called 'Master track'. You use this when you are done with your mix.
It's especially useful if you want to make the song fade out (going down to silence at the end):

Select 'Show master track':

Stereo image
By the way, with the rotary knobs you can control the position of the track in the sound image: more left or right.

Audio and Midi configuration
In the Utilities folder you will find the Audio / Midi Setup app. Doesn't your external audio device work properly, take a look here:

Problems installing audio drivers
As described earlier in this chapter, audio software, especially drivers for external devices, are very sensitive to system updates.
What you can do then is (temporarily) turn off System Integrity Protection.

- Restart your Mac with Command-R pressed. Your Mac will boot into Recovery mode.

- In the menu bar go to Utilities => Terminal.

- Type the command below to disable System Integrity Protection:

csrutil disable

- Restart your Mac. SIP is now off. If you want to turn it back on, do the same as above, but change 'disable' to 'enable'.

It is wise to switch SIP back on after installing the drivers and see if the device continues to work. SIP is there for a reason: for the safety of your Mac.

The result of an evening of crafting
MacMiep plays a song from The Wanders Circus: 'Colourblind'. Don't mind the mistakes; the point is to show that you can indeed be a whole band on your own with Garageband:

With permission from and thanks to Henk Wanders

You can do a lot with Garageband. Much more than you can see in this quick guide. The whole DJ and hip hop happening, MacMiep has nothing to do with that.
Try it out and find out!

The next chapter is:
your Mac on the web

tips for apps

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 30 years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website. MacMiep is not interested in your data. However, she does use Google's services. Google is indeed interested. Are you happy with MacMiep? Please support your local cat shelter.