Apple Garageband guitar iconHave you been wondering about how you can record your voice with Apple’s Garageband?

This tutorial by James T. Dawson 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!

James has contributed before (audio recording on a Mac) and I think you’ll enjoy this installment.
Learn more about how to get started with Garageband in today’s VOX Daily.

How Do I Use Garageband?

Of all the tech calls I get on Macintosh computers and Garageband, the majority are questions about why they can’t seem to “get the audio to work.” So let’s take a look at audio on the Macintosh and how to configure Garageband.

Current Macintosh computers come with built in audio cards. Relative to some consumer computers, they are very high quality. But they are 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 Macintosh computers 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 handed corner of your screen and scroll down to “System Preferences.” On the second row, which is labeled “hardware” and the far right you’ll find “Sound” and the icon of a speaker. Click on this to open the preference pane.
It should look like this….
Apple Macintosh System Preferences, Hardware, Sound
As you can see there will be the choice of the 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 I do not see that it would present much of an advantage of using the internal microphone.

Alternatively, you could buy a USB microphone and connect it to one of the USB ports. There are USB microphones currently available from manufacturers such as Alesis, Blue and Samson beginning at $59.00. 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.”

Below the input selection window, you can see the slider to adjust the input level and an input level indicator.
Apple Macintosh system preferences sound input
Next we can see what an external firewire audio interface will look like using the Tascam “FireOne” Because this is an input/output device, we will need to set both input and output in the individual windows.

Apple system preferences, sound, output
Note: If you can see through the indicators that there is a sufficient input level but no output (sound) then you may have forgot 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” and then click “create.”

Naming a template in Garageband
The main interface will appear. You will see two separate channels, one for male and one for female voice. These are “pre programmed” with each type of voice in mind. They are excellent starting points for the beginner.
Garageband main interface
The next step, the point that most often confuses people is selecting the input for each channel. In the lower right hand corner of the screen you will see the interface for selecting the input for each channel.
Garageband interface for selecting an 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.

Garageband channel for microphone cable connection
Be sure to turn off any powered speakers connected to the audio interface and listen using headphones or feed back 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!
Next time, we’ll talk about using the different features in Garageband to easily edit your sample voice recordings!
James T. Dawson

About James T. Dawson
James T. Dawson is a voice over artist and Macintosh Technical Support Specialist. He is a former Program and Promotions director for five Fox affiliates, and an Addy Award winning video producer, editor and animator. He was a featured speaker at the Fox Network convention at BPME (Broadcast Promotions and Marketing) in 1991.

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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,


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