How to Use Garageband

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If you've recently gotten a Macintosh computer, you may be surprised to find a lot of software pre-installed, such as Macintosh's Garageband. Don't be fooled by the price tag: Garageband is a full-featured computer-recording software program.

Things You'll Need

  • Macintosh computer
  • Garageband
  • Recording interface
  • Midi controller
  • Headphones
  • Purchase a digital interface for recording an electric guitar and plugging in a microphone. A midi controller keyboard is also highly recommended. It is possible to type in notes using GB's on-screen keyboard or "Musical Typing" using your computer keyboard, but this is pretty limited. At the very least, it will give you a taste of what the program can do at the start.

  • Open Garageband, choose, "Start a New Project" or "Open Existing Project." Choose software instrument (the keyboard) or real instrument (mic, guitar, or other instrument).

  • A software instrument will be Grand Piano by default. Choose another instrument-synths, strings, horns, drums, etc. The nice thing about using instruments in Garageband is that you can change the sound after the track has been recorded, so you are never locked down to one particular sound.

  • If you choose real instrument, be sure to click the correct channel-listed in a drop-down menu beneath the instrument effects on the right. Also be sure to turn monitoring on so you can hear the track as it's being recorded.

  • Set the levels for the instrument you're recording. Make sure that the level of the input does not hit the red. EQing and effects can be changed later, but a distorted signal cannot be fixed.

  • Use loops to set a starting beat. Set the tempo-the default is 120 bpm. Altering this number a little more or less can help your song stand out. You can also use musical loops-very helpful if you've never learned an instrument. Cut and paste different loops at different points of the song.

  • Hit the record button and dive in. If it's not perfect, hit delete and try again.

Tips & Warnings

  • You're going to need at least a G3 with OS X 10.2.6, with 256 MB RAM and 4 GBs free disk space. That's just to run GB 1. It may run with less, but not completely fast or stable.
  • Garageband Jam Packs contain hundreds of different software instruments and loops. You can also find free loops available online as well as software instruments that are Garageband-compatible. Any sound file in the Audio Units format can be played in Garageband. Check online for compatible soundfont libraries.
  • You can add a number of effects to each instrument and then save that instrument as your own-thereby making your own personal software instrument or guitar effect.
  • Lock tracks when they're done-it will help your computer's processing power (click the lock icon beneath the track name).
  • A great way to fill out tracks is to copy and paste a recording on a new track and select a different instrument. For example, set two different types of piano sounds for the same recording and buss the tracks left and right, adding stereo separation.
  • Since Garageband 2 it is possible to record different instruments at once. Set the tracks using the steps above, click the red "Record Enable" button for each track and begin recording.

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