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How to Use GarageBand on a Mac

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Have you been wondering about how you can record your voice with Apple’s GarageBand?GarageBand is a great way to produce your finished product, whether that be a demo or audition. This article will lead you through the process of how to use GarageBand on a Mac.

This tutorial shows you how to do everything from creating the initial project to ensuring that you have the right settings for your microphone in preparation to record! GarageBand is an easy to use audio recording software Before getting into the GarageBand tutorial there are some things you will want to understand about how your auditions should sound.

How To Use GarageBand on a Mac

Let’s take a look at audio on Mac computers and how to configure GarageBand on a Mac

Macs come with built in audio cards. Compared to some consumer computers, they are very high quality, but they’re not sufficient for most professional voice over applications.

Fortunately, there are many audio interfaces from varying manufacturers available for your Mac.

Note: Internal audio cards on current consumer level Macs are quite good for recording while you practice, and with options such as USB microphones, they are a good choice for beginners.

Of the three brands of audio interface that I have used; Apogee, Focusrite and Tascam, all used their own software, but still require configuring in the “Sound” System Preference when using GarageBand. So let’s begin by looking at the “Sound” preference pane in System Preference.

Click and hold on the Apple icon in the upper left hand corner of your screen and scroll down to “System Preferences.” Look for the “Sound” icon and click on this to open the preference pane.

It should look like this….

Under the “input” tab you will see any microphones that you have connected and you can select the one you want to record with from the list.internal microphone or “line in.” On some of the new Macs this is both an analog and digital input. Conceivably, you could connect an inexpensive microphone through this line in and record practice takes, but it wouldn’t present much of an advantage.

Alternatively, you could buy a USB microphone and connect it to one of the USB ports. There are USB microphones available from manufacturers such as Alesis, Blue and Samson beginning at an affordable price point (e.g. below $100). In the following illustration you can see how they might appear in the sound system preference pane. In this case, we were using a Blue Snowball microphone.

Below the input selection window, you can see the slider to adjust the input level and an input level indicator.


Note: If you can see through the indicators that there is a sufficient input level but no output (sound) then you may have forgotten to set the output to the audio interface.

The next step will be to open GarageBand by double clicking on the icon on your dock. Begin by selecting “new project from template” and select “voice.”

It will then ask you to name and create the project, simply begin by typing “voice demo” (or whatever you choose!) and then click “choose.”

The main interface will appear. You will see options on the left hand panel that allow you to choose different voice types (ie. bright vocal, classic vocal).


The next step, the point that most often confuses people is selecting the input for each channel. In the lower left hand corner of the screen you will see the interface for selecting the input for each channel.

As you will most likely be using only one channel for your microphone (not using a stereo microphone) select the channel in which you have connected the microphone cable to the audio interface.

Be sure to turn off any powered speakers connected to the audio interface and listen using headphones or feedback will occur. Feedback is a high pitched howling sound that occurs when the microphone picks up the amplified sound of itself.

Now you are ready to record! 

There are plenty of GarageBand tutorials available online as well if you need more support as well as other recording software available. You just have to find the ones that work best for your needs.

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  • Jack de Golia
    December 3, 2010, 6:30 pm

    I’m glad you’re doing this. I’ve been using Garage Band (self taught) and will be interested in seeing new details.
    I’ve had two issues:
    1) Just recently, even though my Snowball is plugged in and selected, the computer has reverted to the built-in mic. I seem to have unplug and replug the Snowball to get it to work on a particular GarageBand file. Then when I switch to a new garageband file, the same problem happens. This never happened before this week. Before, I’d plug in the Snowball and it would stay the chosen mic throughout my work.
    2) On occasion, I open a GarageBand file and find that one or more audio segments are suddenly blank. As a result, I never quit or close a file until I’m sure the mp3 output file is OK and ready to submit. Or, if I have to leave, I’ll make an mp3 output file so that I can import it if I find something amiss with garageband when I return.
    Any suggestions?
    I have OS 10.6.5.

  • Simon Phillips
    December 6, 2010, 1:42 pm

    Hi Jack,
    I also use Garageband and I have a couple of suggestions that may help.
    Firstly, for general troubleshooting using Garageband, a PRAM reset (or zap) may help. It’s very simple, just google “zap PRAM” and you can find instructions.
    Secondly, regarding saving work in progress, it might be better to save an AIF (uncompressed) rather than MP3 file. You just uncheck the “Compression” box when you share the file. You can import it into Garageband later just like an MP3 but as it’s not compressed it is a better replica of your original recording. If you import an MP3, work on it and then save it as an MP3 again you will have compressed it twice which can have some unwanted side effects.

  • Holly Landau
    December 13, 2010, 2:22 pm

    Thanks for this article, my new Mac and I are anxious to start applying your advice to make some practice demo clips! I look forward to your other installments.

  • James
    August 4, 2015, 1:59 pm

    Hi and Thank you for this Article,
    I was wondering if there was an update to this article as Mac has updated to Yosemite and Garageband has updated to vs10.1.0. The interface has changed a little and I’m trying to learn Garageband while trying to refer to the old images. Guidance in the right direction would be immensely appreciated.
    Thank you,