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Recording guitars in GarageBand – A beginner’s guide

If you've ever wanted to record your guitar in GarageBand, here's an easy beginner's guide to getting started.

30-minute beginner's tutorial
Record Guitars in GarageBand
The recent iLife update swelled the ranks of GarageBand’s virtual guitar amps and stompboxes to the point where there are now 12 amps and 15 effects pedals to choose from, so we decided to examine the steps needed to get a GarageBand guitar-fest up and running.
There are cables you can buy, such as Monster’s iStudioLink cable, that allow you to plug an electric guitar directly into your computer’s audio input, but results can vary depending on what model Mac you have. The safest bet when hooking up your guitar is to use an external interface to boost the signal to the required level, and these range from budget analogue DI boxes right up to high-end, professional USB solutions from the likes of Avid and Apogee. Whichever option you choose, once you’ve connected your guitar and fired up GarageBand, just follow the steps in this tutorial and you’ll be ready to rock.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step by StepRecord Guitars in GarageBand - Step1

Step 1: Set preferences
Open GarageBand’s Audio/MIDI Preferences panel and select the interface your guitar is connected to from the Audio Input menu. Close Preferences.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step2

Step 2: Create new guitar track
To access GarageBand’s emulated guitar gear, you need to create an Electric Guitar track. Click ‘+’ in the lower left corner and select ‘Electric Guitar’.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step3

Step 3: Instrument Setup
Click the Instrument Setup triangle to reveal a selection of menus to configure your track’s input and output settings. Click on each to adjust them.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step4

Step 4: Enable monitoring
So that you can hear your guitar while playing, tick this checkbox to turn monitoring on for your created track. When ready, click the Create button.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step5

Step 5: Select combo preset
GarageBand will add your new track to the project with a Clean Combo setting. To change the sound, click on the pop-up menu to display the preset list.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step6

Step 6: Adjust tone
To fine-tune the sound, click on an amp or a pedal to reveal its controls in the lower panel. Click and drag on the knobs to adjust the settings.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step7

Step 7: Set recording level
With the amp highlighted, click the Edit button. The amp will swing round to reveal the input source, monitoring and recording level controls.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step8

Step 8: Pedal display
Clicking on a pedal in Edit mode brings up the 15 stompboxes. Just drag and drop one over an empty yellow pedal slot to add it to the effects chain.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Step9

Step 9: Record
When happy with the sound, click Done, then hit Record. You can tweak the sound after recording, as amp and stompbox effects are applied on playback.

Click on the image below to zoom in and read the annotations.

Record Guitars in GarageBand - Annotated