Note: These instructions are for earlier versions of Garageband. For the latest versions, such as Garageband ’11, see our post here.
If you’re a guitarist of a certain age like me you probably find computer sequencers and audio recording software pretty difficult to use. Maybe it’s just me, but I struggle with the user interface in Cubase, Logic etc. I just find them too complicated! In the past I’ve spent a small fortune on digital multitrack recorders, FX units and audio software and I never use them! Just give me a Strat and an old Marshall and I know what I’m doing – I mean there are knobs to turn and everything!
Having said all that, there is actually one piece of music software that even I can use – Garageband. The fact that you can drop samples onto tracks and build up songs in a modular fashion makes it pretty much idiot proof. And lets face it, with me it needs to be! However, even though the built in samples in Garageband are fun to play around with, isn’t it much more fun to play a real instrument like a guitar?
Anyway, what follows is a quick guide to setting up and using the LINDY USB Guitar cable to record in Garageband…
Here we go!
First of all, what do you need? Well, a Mac with Garageband is essential, a guitar (or bass – we’ll let you bassists play too), knowledge of at least 3 chords is mandatory :-), some speakers (or headphones if the kids are asleep) and the aforementioned LINDY USB Guitar cable, priced at a very reasonable £19.99 ;-).
For this test I used my 1.33GHz G4 Mac Mini which only has a measly 512MB RAM, but thanks to the Core audio drivers built-in to OS X I didn’t have any major latency issues. If you’re interested, for the guitar I used a Fender Classic Player 50s Stratocaster- my favourite at the moment. If you’re looking for a nice, affordable Strat I suggest you check one of these out.
The Technical Stuff
First things first, power up your Mac and plug the cable into a spare USB port. There’s no need for any special drivers – it’s a Mac not a PC, it just works! You can check the USB guitar cable is installed correctly by taking a look at the Sound settings in System Preference:
Under the Input tab, make sure C-Media USB Audio Device is highlighted. By the way, you can plug the cable into your guitar now if you like, but you won’t hear anything just yet. There is one important setting to take note of here – Input Volume. You’ll need to set this quite low to avoid distortion (and not the good kind either). After you’re up and running in Garageband you might need to tweak this setting to get the best sound. I found setting it to about a quarter gave the best results.
Next, take a look at the Output tab. Make sure built-in audio is highlighted, although this can also be selected within Garageband later on:
OK, you can close the Sound window now. Next, take a look at Audio MIDI Setup. This can be found in the Applications>Utilities folder:
Select the Audio Devices tab. Make sure the default input is set to C-Media USB Audio Device and both Default Output and System Output are set to Built-in Audio. Close the Audio MIDI Setup window.
Let us ROCK!
Right, now it’s the fun part! Launch Garageband and select the Preferences option under the Garageband menu. (Note: I’m running Garageband version 2.02, your menus may look slightly different). Select Audio/MIDI and make sure the settings are set the same as the example below:
Close the Preferences window and create a new track: Track>New Track. Make sure Real Instrument is selected and Guitars. You can select one of the example sounds, for example Classic Rock. Now, THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT! You must select On next to the Monitor option otherwise you won’t hear anything while you play! So, now you should be hearing something, even if it’s noise (if you don’t hear anything you’ve either got very quiet pickups or you’ve forgot to turn your guitar volume up!):
Now, you can play around with the different amp simulation types, effects settings etc. (you’ll almost definitely want to tinker with the noise gate settings – you’ll probably find your pick ups pretty noisy, especially using distortion sounds), but remember for best results, keep an eye on your input levels!
More about Latency
That’s about it, but one more note about latency…If you experience latency issues, i.e. where there is a noticeable delay from the time you hit the strings to the sound coming out of the speakers, try this: hit record, wait a few seconds and then press stop. Try playing and, hey presto, the latency should be gone.I found this neat tip on ehow.com, where there’s a whole bunch of Garageband tutorials.
Anyway, hope you find this useful. Now make a record!