Putting the Band Into GarageBand

One may be the loneliest number, but that's how most people use GarageBand--sitting alone in front of their Mac, playing along with loops and building songs track by track. And while this method works well for solo artists, it can be time-consuming when working with a band.

Recording the guitarist, bass player, and keyboardist separately can take three times as long as recording together, not to mention sucking the spontaneity out of a performance as musicians twiddle their thumbs awaiting their turn to lay down a track.

With multitracking, GarageBand allows you to record up to eight real instruments and one software instrument simultaneously, more than enough tracks to record an entire band at once.

To do so is relatively easy. You'll need GarageBand, an interface that allows multiple inputs, some instruments to attach, and some musicians to play them. With all of that lined up, you're ready to multitrack!

1. Launch GarageBand and select New Project.

2. Enable the multitracking feature: Click the Track menu and choose Enable Multitrack Recording.

3. Once multitracking is enabled, you'll see a new round button appear just to the right of each track's instrument icon. Clicking these buttons arms the selected tracks for recording.

4. Once you've armed the tracks you want to record, simply click the R button on your keyboard, or the red Record button on the toolbar at the bottom of the GarageBand window. The selected tracks will turn red and start recording.

That's all there is to it. Unfortunately, I have no tips on how to get the bass player to show up on time.

Getting the best sound

Record vocals last. A scratch vocal track can be helpful when recording a song, giving cues for changes from verse to chorus, for example. You can lay down a scratch vocal track while playing a guitar or other instrument, but outside noise will likely be picked up by the vocal microphone, making it unsuitable for the final mix. Go back and record your final vocals, while wearing headphones, after the basic tracks have been recorded.

Mic your drums. If you're recording live drums, microphone placement is key. If you're only using one mic to record a whole kit and decide later that the cymbals are too loud or the kick drum too quiet, it's a little too late. Your options are experimentation with mic placement or use multiple microphones to record one drum kit and experiment some more with overhead microphones, for example. Using multiple microphones on multiple tracks allows you to control the levels between kick, snare, and cymbals.

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