Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Many Uses of Garageband

If you are an owner of a Mac computer than you are an owner of the Garageband software.  It is part of the iLife suite of software and is pre-installed when you purchase your iMac, Mac Mini, Macbook or Macbook Pro.  Most people don’t use it stating that it’s a bit confusing or some just feel too intimidated by music software.  It is, in reality, software that can be used by many people for many different purposes.  It is a MIDI sequencer and an audio recording/ editing software all rolled up into one.  It can be used by the professional musician, the amateur musician, a music student or for anyone who has a need to create simple audio recordings. 

When I first bought a Mac that had it installed I actually ignored it myself.  My computer usually has the high tech Pro Music software and felt that it is something that I did not have to use.  However, one day about four years ago I opened it up and played around with it and realized that it was actually software I can use for many purposes.  Over the years as it developed further I became very fond of Garageband.  I used it for simple recordings, podcasts, and when I needed background music while I played the piano.  I also found that it was great for the student so I started to teach how to use it.  I want to explain some of the uses of Garageband and how it can be useful for the musician, the music student, and the average non-musician.

The software is a multi-rack recording studio and you can hook up a MIDI keyboard and audio microphones.  With the MIDI keyboard you can create tracks of musical lines and assign them different musical instruments.  The software already includes a library of musical instruments such as strings, guitars, keyboards, winds, percussion, and even sound effects.  Apple also has available extra library of sounds and instruments that you can optionally install to add to the library.  This then can be a great way for a musician to create background music while they are playing their instrument or singing.  They can edit it and then create a CD or mp3 file that they can take with them to their gigs or performances. 

There is also pre-programmed library of audio tracks of musical instruments.  You can then set the parameters of different instruments and then record yourself playing or singing on another track.  For example, let’s say you have been practicing the famous Bette Midler song The Rose.  You can then set parameters of a track of drums, a bass line, and even a guitar.  Then after editing and setting this up you then can create another empty audio track.  Add a microphone and press the record button then record yourself while the background tracks are playing.  You now have a recording of yourself just like in a professional studio. 

There are several options of how you can add microphones.  The first one is a bit expensive.  An audio interface such as the MBox or M-Audio can be attached to the computer either USB or firewire.  Then you can add XLR or RCA microphones to the audio interface.  If you don’t want to or don’t have the budget to spend several hundred dollars on microphones then there are the other two options.  You can add a USB or even an RCA microphone right into the computer.  This uses the internal input and output scource of the computer for audio.  It is less expensive and works just as good.

There are many other ways Garageband can be used.  If you are one who creates podcasts, then this software is perfect.  It has a pre-programmed wizard to set it up for you.  All you need is a microphone and headphones.  Then you record like a tape recorder.  You can then add tracks of music or sound effects right from your itunes library.  The software is smart sensitive and when there are spoken words the music will reduce in sound rather than you select or change parameters.  Unlike the professional recording software, Gargeband will set this up for you.

Remember the good old days when you wanted to record and owned a tape recorder?  Everyone owned one.  Some used it to record voice notes while other used it to record interviews (such as journalists).  You have this capability right there on your computer (if you have the Mac).  Garageband works the same way.  You also have a large advantage with Garageband, it can record multi- tracks so you can add several audio tracks.  Then you can have music or sounds that you can import from your itunes library.  A person recording their diary can add the song they are talking about or nature sounds for the person who is recording meditation/spoken words.   Having Garageband on your Macbook with a simple USB microphone and small headphones anyone can travel and have a “digital” recorder with them all day long.  Journalists can use it for their interviews, students can record class lectures, business meetings can be recorded, and Mom and Dad can record the first words of baby.  The uses are endless and with many possibilities.  By learning the simple operations of Garageband it can be a great tool for everyone.

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