GarageBand isn’t just about Apple Loops and software instruments – Apple’s entry-level music workstation is an extremely capable multi-track audio recorder, capable of capturing almost any live instrument you can think of. Equipment-wise, to record live instruments such as guitar and vocals, you’re going to need a good quality microphone and an audio interface with a decent mic preamp. A quality pair of closed-back headphones is also essential to prevent the sound of your backing track being picked up on the mic while recording.
As far as mic choice goes, a good all-round option is a large-diaphragm condenser type, as these cope well with most home recording needs. There’s also the option of using a USB mic, which has a built-in preamp and can be connected directly to your computer’s USB port.
Top ten tips
1 Use a template
GarageBand’s New Project screen includes a selection of templates. The Amp Collection contains a collection of pre-configured software amp and stompbox combinations, while the Songwriter option provides a complete
2 Click it old school
GarageBand provides a metronome to help you play in time while recording, enabled by clicking the Metronome button in the toolbar. Clicking the Count-In button to its left activates a count-in before the recording starts, the length of which you can set.
3 Gate excess noise
The noise gate trims off excess noise when you’re not playing. Click the checkbox to enable it, and the gate cuts noise below the threshold level that you set with the slider, opening when you play to let your playing come through, and shutting when you stop.
4 Auto record level
Setting the right record level is crucial – too high and the sound may clip, too low and the recording will be too quiet. Tick the Automatic Level Control checkbox and GarageBand will set the optimum level for you automatically as you play or sing.
5 Record multiple takes
Set up a cycle region via the yellow arrows button to record each consecutive pass non-stop over the top of the previous one as the track loops round. After recording, the comping system will compile the best performance using the best bits of each take.
6 Tune up!
GarageBand has a built-in tuner to ensure that your instrument is perfectly in tune. To access it, click the tuning fork button next to the toolbar’s LED display. The tuner will detect the pitch of the incoming signal automatically. Just adjust the pitch until the pointer is vertical.
When recording yourself singing or playing, it’s important to be able to hear yourself in your headphones. Clicking the monitoring button will let you do this – each track contains a monitor button in its header, or you can enable it from the Info panel.
8 Amps and stompboxes
Creating a new guitar or bass audio track unlocks a range of virtual amps and pedals, accessed via the two buttons in the top-right of the Smart Controls pane. You can mix and match amps and cabinets, adjust virtual mic positions and chain stompboxes.
9 Setting input source
Select the track you want to record on and click the Smart Controls button in the toolbar. Click the ‘i’ button to reveal the Smart Controls inspector and select the required source from the Input pop-up menu. The choices vary depending on the interface.
10 Multiple tracks
You can record to multiple tracks simultaneously. Select Track>Track Header>Show Record Enable Button to reveal each track’s record enable button. Then set the correct input source and click record enable for each required track, and hit record.
In detail: Live recording
Click the annotated image below to view it at full-size.
Step-by-step: Create an Aggregate Device
And in the bonus round tutorial, here’s how to record into multiple audio interfaces at the same time using an Aggregate Device.
1 Launch Audio MIDI Setup
To record using multiple interfaces simultaneously, you need to create an Aggregate Device. Quit GB, plug in your instruments and interfaces and launch Audio MIDI Setup.
2 Create device
Click the ‘+’ button and select Create Aggregate Device. Type a new name for your device and tick the checkboxes next to all of the devices you want it to include.
3 Select device
Open GarageBand’s Audio/MIDI Preferences and choose your new aggregate device. All inputs from all included devices should now be available as input source options.