Putting Apple’s GarageBand to the Test

Visit Us

GarageBand is a music creation software application that is part of Apple’s iLife suite (GarageBand, iMovie and iPhoto) and ships on all new Macintosh computers. For this column, I jumped into learning how well GarageBand might work as a musical sketchpad to rough out a basic song demo. I enlisted the help of two friends, vocalist Josh Washington and songwriter/percussionist Dan Faughnder, for the home sessions. In the process, we recorded live vocals and electric guitar to go along with the software-based instruments and loops found in the program’s library. We wondered just how good a song demo could be created in a couple of hours by GarageBand rookies.

As soon as you select New Track in GarageBand, this pop up window asks what type of audio track you wish to create.
As we got started with our session, Dan commented that the current version of GarageBand has some of the same functionality found in Logic Express, the “Light” version of Apple’s premiere audio workstation software, Logic Pro.

First, Dan opened a new project, gave it a name, and selected “New Track” from the Track menu. A pop up window appeared with three choices: A) Software Instrument, which draws on the library of available GarageBand instruments playable by a USB or onscreen keyboard; B) Real Instrument, which is any instrument or voice you choose to perform live into GarageBand; and C) Electric Guitar, which allows you to play your guitar into the program using the amp and stomp box combinations found in GarageBand. We decided our test drive would utilize all three methods of adding tracks to compare the various methods to create a song demo using GarageBand 5.1.

GarageBand's Loop Browser has hundreds of loops in almost any style of music you can imagine. Guitar Loops are currently displayed on the right side of the screen.
After checking out the various guitar, drum, and keyboard sounds available in the software library we started out by creating an acoustic guitar track using a pattern and sound from the Loop Browser library called “Classic Rock Steel 02.” This two-bar loop is a short guitar pattern with a descending line.

The range of choices in the Loop Browser is very broad, and one interesting feature is that you can combine an instrument, genre, and mood, and then GarageBand will find and display the loops that fit your criteria. We tried “guitar/metal/intense,” and “piano/country/cheerful” and found the results pretty accurate in most cases.

You’ll also note that some loops have a green icon showing a note next to them, while other have a blue icon with a waveform next to them. The green icons represent software instruments found in the library, which include MIDI data so that you can readily change the pitch, duration, velocity, etc., for any note. The blue icon denotes a real instrument recorded as a digital audio file that can be edited, but not to the same extent as a software instrument with its editable MIDI data. As we built our tracks for this song, GarageBand automatically differentiated the different types of audio files use for each new track: green for software instruments, blue for real instruments, and purple for recorded instruments including any electric guitar or bass you play live into a song.

Here you can see the Piano Roll editor in the bottom of the screen window, showing how individual acoustic guitar notes can be simply created and edited using the mouse. The small vertical keyboard to the left of the piano roll serves as a handy note and octave reference.

After experimenting with the acoustic guitar loop we started with, we decided to scrap the loop and just build a part from scratch using the acoustic guitar sound we liked in the Piano Roll editor. Creating and copying note patterns in GarageBand is easy to do. After creating the acoustic guitar part in the key of F, which started with a descending pattern similar to the one in the loop we had experimented with, Dan highlighted all the notes from the first two bars, copied and pasted the pattern into a new region, and then dragged the note pattern he had just pasted up to the correct notes to fit the B-flat chord for bars five and six.

Next, he highlighted those notes, again copied and pasted into a new two-bar region, then dragged that pattern up to a C-7 chord for bar nine, then back down to B-flat for bar ten, finally returning to F for the final two bars of the first verse. We now had six two-bar sections that made up the verse. He played it back to confirm we had a usable guitar part. To make copying the verse guitar part easier, Dan then used the “Join” command from the Edit menu after selecting all six regions to convert them into one 12-bar region.

After finishing up the guitar part for the first verse, we decided to add a basic drum part and chose to make the song demo four verses long, a total of 48 measures. For the drums, we went back to the Loop Browser and chose a simple rock loop named “Live Edgy Drums 12” in 4/4 meter. We proceeded to extend the loop out for 48 bars to make a four-verse song. Dan then copied the 12-bar guitar part three times by grabbing the edge of a region and dragging it until it looped three times before we moved on to the bass part.

As we checked out various bass sounds, we decided on a stand up bass software instrument named “Round Latin Bass 04.” Dan and I traded places and I proceeded to use the same method to program the bass part in the Piano Roll editor: “Command + Click” on the note value I wanted, then extending the right edge of the note value for as many beats as a I wanted a bass note to sustain. We both found that while using the Piano Roll editor to create instrumental parts, we would sometimes have to adjust the velocity setting for a preset instrument. For instance, on the software instrument stand up bass we were using, the velocity had to be increased to get the nice attack a bass player can create when she/he really pulls on a string. And by varying the velocity a tad between notes, a little more texture results in the overall bass pattern. It took about fifteen minutes to create the bass part, once again, copying and pasting the basic note patterns in two-bar regions. I also added a chromatic walk up to the C-7 chord in bar nine. Then, as we had with the acoustic guitar, we joined the six two-bar regions into one verse-long region. Finally, we dragged the edge of the joined 12-bar region until it looped three times, giving us the completed bass part.

At this point we played around with the track volumes, which are controlled by small horizontal faders on each track. Adjacent to the track volume, are buttons allowing you to engage Record, Mute, Solo, or Lock each track, along with an Automation control which allows you to program changes in volume, such as fades. We boosted the volume of the string bass and decided to add an electric piano, which took about fifteen minutes to program in the Piano Roll edit window once we had selected a software instrument sound we liked. As we played back the whole track, we realized a human drummer would hit a few crash or ride cymbals to accent chord changes and such, so we added another drum track, which would only be used to add cymbals. Dan clicked around the vertical keyboard in the Piano roll editor until he came up with crash and ride cymbals, hit the record button on the new track, and then added cymbal crashes, along with a nice ride cymbal accent in the third verse that would become an instrumental verse. He missed two cymbal hits along the way, and rather than re recording them, we located each mistake, and repositioned the crash right on the beat using the mouse. We were ready to wrap up our first session, but realized a normal band would hit a final F chord together and let it ring out for the end of the song. Dan added a one-measure region and programmed a final chord/beat for each instrument.

Josh and Dan at work adding a vocal part to "Springtime Blues" using the Shure X2u and GarageBand.
Adding Live Tracks
A few days later, vocalist and songwriter Josh Washington dropped by to add a vocal part. Although the MacBook we were using has an internal mic, we decided to use a better quality vocal mic and at the same time test out the Shure X2u USB to XLR computer recording interface. Plugging the mic into the XLR end and using the Shure-supplied USB cable, we were quickly up and running.

The Mac recognized the X2u almost immediately and asked permission to make it the Audio Input. We plugged a 1/8” headphone splitter into the headphone output on the X2u allowing both Josh and Dan to monitor the overdub on headphones. Next, Dan adjusted mic input level, overall volume and the mix between the backing track and the live vocal Josh was performing. (See the companion mini-review and more photos of the X2u.)

Josh was ready to improvise a blues lyric over the backing track, but Dan and I realized we had neglected to program a song count off. No problem. Dan moved all the backing tracks down exactly one measure, leaving a four beat gap before the song began. Lesson learned. Always program a measure or two of click track to use later in case you want to overdub any live performances. Josh practiced his entrance a few times and when he could come in correctly we were ready to record. After three takes, we had a vocal everyone liked and Josh headed home. The final test would be to record a live electric guitar part for the third verse solo section using GarageBand’s amp and stomp box emulations.

To the right of this screen, you can see the "Vibrato Blues" virtual guitar set up (amp plus stomp boxes) that we selected for the swamp guitar solo in GarageBand

I got out my Fender Tele-Coustic, which has an active preamp on board (I had experimented earlier with an older passive electric guitar and found the input level was too low to get a decent tone.) We used a regular guitar cable and put a 1/8” adapter on the end and plugged directly into the Mac’s audio input and turned the Tele-Coustic’s volume up all the way. As I played, Dan started experimenting with the various amp and stomp box combinations found in GarageBand. The small LCD at the bottom of the page offers an option for an on board guitar tuner which we found was incredibly accurate. We settled on an amp-stomp box combination dubbed “Vibrato Blues,” a black face Fender-style amp with a distortion box and chorus pedal. I started out trying to add a lot of licks to the song, but after we had run it down a number times, realized that a simple retro swamp boogie part on just the instrumental verse seemed to fit best with the overall sound and feel of the demo.
Here is the menu to choose from a number of preset Vocal Effects. We choose "Male RnB Vocals as the best fit for Josh's vocal part.

After playing back all the parts, we decided to do add a few effects and then do our mix. For vocals, GarageBand offers a number of preset effects packages some of which are highly specialized (Helium Breath, Megaphone) to more traditional (Male Rock Vocal, Female Dance Vocal, etc.) We liked the “Male R’n’B Vocal” preset on Josh’s vocal. It uses a nice delay, a touch of compression and some reverb, each of which can be further adjusted very easily. We added some reverb to the drums and acoustic guitar and boosted with the amp emulator’s vibrato in addition to the chorus for and even swampier sound. I also decided to use the Track Automation, a really nice feature to remove one glissando I threw into the solo, which didn’t really fit after a number of listens.

It's easy to automate fades or pans on an individual track in GarageBand to fine tune your mix. The horizontal line below the purple Vibrato Blues guitar region shows how the volume was dropped out to mute a particular note during the solo and then ducked down to avoid overlapping the last verse's vocal entry.
With track automation, I also faded the last notes of the solo so that they didn’t conflict with the last verse vocal entry. (You can also automate Pans, which can be a cool effect.) As the mix was getting a little busy, we panned the electric piano and acoustic guitar to opposite sides to open things up a bit. The last step was to tweak levels a bit more, boosting up the bass and automating the ride cymbal during the solo. Last, I exported the mix to iTunes using the “Share” pull down menu so I could burn the song to CD, email it to friends or include it in an iTunes playlist.

Post Mortem
After two short sessions totaling about three and a half hours, we had a complete song (named “Springtime Blues,” a whimsical reference to the seasonal allergies that Josh had been suffering on the day of our vocal session). The current version of GarageBand offers a wide range of instruments and features that make it a good choice for someone just getting started creating music. Using the library of loops, even non-musicians can quickly create new song ideas. Since we didn’t have a USB keyboard at the time we were doing the sessions, we found it easier to use the Piano Roll editor to create various instrumental parts. For anyone with basic keyboard proficiency, an inexpensive USB Keyboard would make creating parts even faster.

Did I forget to mention GarageBand comes free on any new Mac? (PC users, sorry to report that there isn’t a PC-version of the program available.) GarageBand’s effects, automation, editing and live recording capabilities elevate the program to the point where it can be useful for creating song demos, certainly at a quality suitable to share with other musicians, for learning arrangements, sending to the Copyright office to register a sound recording, or just for fun. Apple also offers five different extensive sample libraries ($99 each) with even more instruments, loops, background vocalists and a wealth of real instruments to choose from.

Listening back to our mix, I noticed that the overall sound quality of the drum loop lacked the texture and spontaneity that a live drummer adds to any recording. However, for a song demo, if we would have spent a bit more time programming drum parts rather than relying on a two-bar loop repeating throughout with a few overdubbed cymbals, we could have created a more nuanced drum part in GarageBand. How good your GarageBand song demos sounds all comes down to the amount of time a person is willing to invest in programming the nuanced fine points that help any track sparkle. Likewise, the tonal colors and shadings available using the software instruments were pretty impressive, but a talented live musician is often able to create and add texture and personality to a song arrangement in ways that a programmed part seldom equals in my experience.

When I asked Dan to share his thoughts, he agreed that it certainly is possible for a songwriter to make a serviceable demo using GarageBand. However, he also felt that, “In the end, it seems as though GarageBand’s attempts to simplify so many functions ended up making things a bit more difficult. For instance, although there is a track compressor available, there is no metering to see how much the compressor is affecting particular track. The guitar amp modeling in GarageBand was fun to play with, but hard to customize in the time I spent with it. It seems we ran into some of the limits that the program has doing this project. I was extremely impressed with the Shure X2u and how easily we were able to record vocals with it.”

From my perspective, I believe that GarageBand offers plenty of power and flexibility to get a songwriter started with learning how to make DIY song demos at home, with the addition of an audio interface such as the X2u. We only scratched the surface of what this free program is capable of in the few hours we invested to create a quick song demo. However, Dan’s comments about the greatly simplified features found in GarageBand are true.

If you start out on GarageBand with its very simple learning curve, you may eventually consider moving up to Apple’s Logic Express (street price $165-199), a program that has a more comprehensive approach to the art and science of sound recording, and a much more fully featured set of tools, plug-ins and effects. The good news is that the feel and basic layout from GarageBand is instantly transferable into Logic, so you’ll likely be creating and mixing your tunes in Logic Express in no time at all.

Springtime Blues Instrumental

Springtime Blues Final Mix

Special thanks to Josh Washington and Dan Faughnder for help in preparing this article.

Story Links
Apple’s GarageBand Home Page
Shure X2u XLR->USB Audio Interface
DIY GarageBand Resources
ART Tube MP preamp – an inexpensive tube preamp (street price $30) to boost the signal of instruments like passive electric guitars or basses when recording direct into GarageBand
Apple’s GarageBand User Forum and Discussion Board (find just about any topic under discussion in the more than 1300 pages of postings!)

84 thoughts on “Putting Apple’s GarageBand to the Test

  1. Excellent blog here! Also your website loads up very fast!

    Whhat web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  2. I’ve been recording on garageband 5.1 with an Mbox. I have no problem with my midi tracks, but my audio tracks (voice/guitar acoustic) always end up on one side. My pans are in the middle both on the mbox, the track and on preferences. Help!

  3. Pingback: JSonar Project
  4. Did you do any mastering afterwards to get the volume up? I am having trouble making my GB recordings as loud as i would like them to be once exported to itunes, even with a good interface.

  5. I have soon to be 3 cd’s that I have done using Garageband on my mac mini…and it’s worked wonderfully ! The only loops I use are for drums and I use my mac keyboard to play all of the keyboard parts,recording guitars,vocals etc….w/my snowball mic. While it isn’t going to be totally professional it certainly comes out way better than any demo stuff I did back in the 80’s !!! Cdbaby has let me get my music out too…iTunes,Amazon,Napster…really the best thing that could happen to an independent artist and as a one man band it is the only way to be heard (no live shows for me !)

  6. I use Garageband for a variety of reasons. It’s quick for songwriting, once you get used to finding the basic rhythms & such. I’ll often create a texture, then export it to Pro Tools. I don’t like the routing layout. Not very useful for detailed mixes, but you can get a great demo done. The quality of sound is excellent. I have a lot of other virtual instrument libraries I easily integrate into GB.

    I’ve heard some major commercials using the exact same loops available in Garageband. I know this because I’ve used them myself. My wife looks at me when I’m in shock and disbelief, after explaining to her that this major car commercial just used the exact same sample that is available in my computer, the exact same sample I just used on a demo, and for all I know, this major commercial music was recorded in Garageband.

  7. I am Poo Poo Man of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Parliament Funkadelic. I also recorded my latest album to soon be released on Apple’s Garage Band. It had a lot of shortcomings, but all and all, with the help of transferring to other software, I was able to wind up with a great finished product.

  8. “Garage Band is a great software if your just getting into the flow of things, if your just getting your feet wet. It’s limited yes but it is in truth the little brother to Apple Logic Pro. Logic Pro is Apple’s answer to Pro-tools. Garage Band is still a very useful piece of software and is more than capable of getting the job done. If your looking for a more professional recording then you step into Logic Express or Logic Pro, you know 24 bit. and up Studio Quality, Garage Band only supports up to 16 bits i think, Which is still Cd Quality. So there Long story Short”

  9. I’m the author of the story, “Putting Apple’s Garage Band to the Test.”

    Let me apologize for suffering an attack of writer’s myopia for spending the time with Dan and Josh working up “Springtime Blues” (both instrumental and vocal versions are now posted with the article), writing and editing the article, and then not sending in the sound files for the song to my editor (who should be held blameless for my goof.)

    In hindsight, I can only offer up a Homer Simpson-like, “DOH!” What was I thinkin’??

    Thanks to everyone who posted a comment, rant, or gripe about the story… especially folks that discussed their own use of GB and opinions about its usefulness (or lack thereof).

    Personally, now that it’s been a while since putting “Springtime Blues” together, I might use GB to rough out basic ideas, but my preference is to sit in a room with three or four musicians and make music. I’ll just turn something on (Zoom, Pro Tools) to capture what we’re doing in real time.

    BTW, I checked out the samples that are up on CD Baby of Christopher Lockett’s eponymous album, which was recorded completely in GB, and it sounds clean and polished. Nice work! In the end, I think it doesn’t matter so much what you use to get your music out to people, so long as when people hear it, they connect with your tunes.

  10. Garage Band has some great features but is very frustrating because of what was left out. No vertical zoom for tracks, only whole number tempos, no right click options anywhere. It lacks the standard drag handles for fades and volume on clips as well.

    If you don’t expect these things, it is a solid good sounding system that runs well on limited resources including MacBooks.

    I don’t agree that the upgrade to Logic 9 is an easy step or that if you use Garage Band you can be productive in Logic in “no time”. Logic is a comprehensive and complex DAW that is a HUGE step up in complexity from Garage Band. Garage Band sessions can be loaded into Logic, but Logic will require and extensive investment in time and probably additional equipment and computer upgrades.

    For the musician or songwriter moving up from Garage Band, you might be best to find an home studio enthusiast to work with you, or consider more approachable alternatives like PreSonus Studio One or Propellerheads Record.

  11. I have recorded multiple ways over the past twenty years, and used Garageband for the first time over the past year. I loved it, for the visual aspect, and then being able to experiment with many things, I have not been able to to in my admittedly, minimal past of “engineering”. I did have it mastered by a very well known engineer, so I noted the treble/bass had more range afterward. I have had some nice results too ( a little stay in the CMJ), and lots of great questions as to “how I did it”. It was a good virgin voyage, beyond the old-4-track. To listen http://web.me.com/rabbit velvet, and at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rabbitvelvet

  12. Believe it or not I use GarageBand as my main recording software and I have written and recorded a song that a hit music FM radio station in my area contacted me to ask me if they could play it on their radio station.. Hard to believe? What’s crazier is that I use Audacity, which is freeware that you can download right from their website, to master my music. I don’t have a lot of money, and consequently can’t afford much recording gear but I make do with what I have. In the past, though, I was able to afford pricier stuff and I tried out several windows-based multi-track recorders and I honestly like GarageBand way more than I like the other programs I’ve used in the past.. One day I do plan to upgrade to Logic (when I can afford it), but until then GarageBand is a perfectly capable recording program. Through searching for free audio-units and plug-ins I was able to find some really handy compressors, dynamic processors, and limiters for free that really help out in the mastering stage. Check out the music that I record at http://www.myspace.com/untildawn1 or http://www.facebook.com/untildawn1. You’d be surprised what you CAN do with GarageBand.

  13. I do know why they always use Apple for music, I used my PC with tones software for track recording!
    I agree with every one else here, if your going to talk about a song then post it!
    as far as mic is concerned I use firewirer and hotbox to go into my PC.

  14. I have done two major projects in Garageband. If has plenty of kick for just about anything. If you have to tweak a lot, you will need to upgrade to Logic Express, but for many projects Garageband is plenty of horsepower. I scored two films with it! Awesome capabilities!

  15. My experience with Garage Band is favorable, however there are some limitations..
    The mixdown process of transporting an automated mix into I tunes, appears to be a crap shoot.
    Whatever your painstaking mix is in Garage Band ,when it’ s done transfering over into I Tunes and an MP3, it becomes something else.It does not transfer exactlly as you hear it in Garage Band. Tried numerous mixes , but soundwise, they are never exact for what it is in Garage Band .
    I’ve also heard that tracks can be ued with other systems in a real recording studio, if tracks are converted into wave files……….

    1. I used to have this problem too. I eventually figured it out – the problem was within iTunes. Specifically, I had the bass turned way up in iTunes compared to my settings in GB, and as a result every single time I exported to iTunes, it sounded way too bass-y. Took me a lot of hours finding that and then un-screwing my mistakes.

  16. I’ve been using GarageBand to record – it’s fun and addictive. I also use real instruments tracks. I’ve been bringing my mixes (High quality MPEG) into ProTools to further edit and add other real instruments (acoustic guitar, bass, vocals, etc), although I do think it’s possible to make an excellent recording with GB, even without exporting to another program.

    In GB you can edit the loops to such an incredible level – pitch, timing, slice and dice em up, even change the sound of the loop by changing the instrument, or going into the Edit menu – and there is a host of filters almost overwhelming for a novice like me. I love this program and I won’t outgrow it anytime soon!

    One of the best things about GB is that you don’t necessarily need to know anything about professional recording to start using it….and if you are on your way to becoming a professional recording musician, there’s plenty of tools and toys to play with.

    I think it helps to have some basic knowledge about mixing/mastering however if you’re going to actually release a GB album. I’m still learning about Compression (when and how to use it) although GB does seem to help the user “fix” the recording when it exports the mix. Just watch the sound indicator bar at the bottom right of the window – you don’t want to be peaking in the red.

  17. If you go to my myspace page, all the songs are recorded in GarageBand. Although they are just demos and need work, I thought they came out well. It’s a good way to sketch out songs that are swirling around inside your head.

    I’m most likely going to go to a studio to record my first album but GarageBand is a great place to start.



  18. I produced my whole album Im finishing called Soulhop II The Breakaway, a follow up to my previous EMI release Soulhop The Breakthru. I found Garageband to be a great instrument to get my ideas out completely. I also taught a music production class of Garageband with 7th graders, and they loved it. It’s user friendly, and the finish product is meeting the high standards I want when I present music. Garageband is fresh..

  19. What a waste to post all that blah-blah-blah explanation of how you created something… without posting the results. How hard is it to post the MP3 file and show us what us what can be done with GarageBand? You haven’t yet sold me on the program.

  20. I’ve been using Garageband for years as a demo tool… this software basically took the place of my 4track as soon as it came out. Currently just pop on my ART MPA & VLA with a Bluebird Mic out front and I’m ready to roll without setting up a full session in Pro Tools… its the best way to roll out a quick demo, and I record a lot.

    That being said… people recording in Garageband are going to be laughed at by Pro Tools users, but what the PT guys forget is that some of our favorite records were done on FAR inferior formats than GB… Keep up the good work Apple…

  21. heck, a zip or dmg with the tracks and a garageband file would be uber-cool… I know it’s not a tutorial, but a link to that would be neat… along with a way to hear the finished song, or a clip of the song – hey Keith, a clip?
    the little tiny photos are also annoying, but that might be a wordpress thing, or discmaker’s fault?

  22. I have a few strictly garageband-made songs. If you go to BGRocks.com/songs listen to “Alone on Christmas” and “That’s Cold”.

    I used a midi keyboard for the drums on both. I think one song had an electric bass ran through a fast track interface while the other song used midi keyboard for bass sounds. I used a cheap SM-58 knock off for the vocals and acoustic guitars. They were all done in a matter of hours as a one man job. They’re rough but not bad sounding. In fact, one has been placed on a cable TV show!

    Facebook my band BENCH GRINDER if you care to critique/attack these songs 🙂

  23. We are currently looking into a Mac purchase and are very interested in the Garageband program that comes loaded. I too would have loved to hear the demo track to see just how well this thing puts it thru. My daughter and I are eager to put out songs down but would like to use GB solely–anyone put out a CD using GB as the recording software? If so, please reply–we need to know if it’s feasible for more than just a demo. Thanks!

    1. Yeah, see my comment. I did everything on my album in GB. It was mastered in something else, either ProTools or Logic, by the mastering guy. But everything else was recorded in GB.

    2. All tracks there was tracked with Garage band and mastering to put on my cd out a “Michel Perillard play’s romantic guitars” was made with Mac logic studio 8.03. This cd is availiable as download on itunes, napsters, cd baby, Amazone and 9 more sites. I always use Digidesign M-BOX-2 as AD input for analogue instruments recording input.

  24. I recorded my entire album using GarageBand ’08. Released it last year. It’s getting airplay, solid reviews and there are some real heavy hitters on it.

    Because of the kind of working relationship it was, and because it was so low budget, the session folks were free to make comments. Their names are on it, too, so it was in everyone’s best interest to make this thing as good as possible. Nobody ever said “Yeah dude, this sounds like it was recorded at home on Garageband.” Even the mastering guy, who could have upsold himself more business by saying “Yeah, I’m going to have to spend a lot of time fixing your screwups and this lame Garageband stuff,” didn’t.

    I hear things I want to improve upon next time, but I’d hear that regardless of what I recorded on. You can hear some tracks here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lockettchristopher

  25. I found out the hard way that GarageBand is useless for a professional musician/engineer (unless you own Logic) when an arranger recently submitted a demo created in Garageband. To my total amazement (consternation) I found out that you can not export a midi file from Garageband for use in Protools and or Finale (for creating sheet music parts). I even tried a work around with something called “midi out” that I could not get to work. I’ve always been a huge fan and supporter of Apple but this omission is incredibly stupid (or arrogant) on their part.

    The many extra hours I had to spend on this project will have me running for the hills if anyone ever approaches me with another Garageband file!

    1. Mike,

      I can’t possibly believe you were surprised that GB doesn’t have MIDI Export feature! It is a FREE software tool for home use! I can’t think of ANY home user even knowing what is MIDI file, let alone needing to export one from GB.

      They do have a very cheap $100 solution for amateur and semi-pro musicians called Logic Express. If you really, really need to get GB song out in MIDI format, get the Logic Express, open a GB song from there and export as MIDI file. That takes all of 3 minutes (instead of many extra hours it took you).

      I often find myself using GB for smaller pro gigs (jingles, TV commercials, etc). It is so simple, fast and intuitive, it’s just less of a hassle than Logic (Studio, as well as Express).

      1. Some “home users” are closet musicians and might know a bit about midi. I mean, just because we record at home doesn’t mean we are necessarily clueless about real instruments.

        I’m probably losing quality, but I export my GB mixes as MPEG files (the high quality option) and bring them into ProTools….granted, at that point they are a waveform.

      2. Predrag,

        The current Garageband is only free if you have a new machine. I had to spend money to upgrade to iLife 09 just to open the file I was given.

        Having never used Garageband I was totally surprised that it didn’t export midi. So was the arranger who happens be an established NYC Latin trumpet player who thought Garageband would be a simple quick way to use his Macbook to work on the arrangement.

        Since many users do have to pay for it. It seems like it should be a very simple thing for Apple to include a midi export as an advanced feature without making people spend money on any version of Logic.

      3. Mike Freeman May 19, 2010 at 4:44 pm

        The current Garageband is only free if you have a new machine. I had to spend money to upgrade to iLife 09 just to open the file I was given.

        Having never used Garageband I was totally surprised that it didn’t export midi. So was the arranger who happens be an established NYC Latin trumpet player who thought Garageband would be a simple quick way to use his Macbook to work on the arrangement.

        Since many users do have to pay for it. It seems like it should be a very simple thing for Apple to include a midi export as an advanced feature without making people spend money on any version of Logic.

    2. Wolfgang Gunther
      What you need on a Mac is Audio Hijack, just have it listen, record, and open the resulting file into anything you want.

  26. I was using other options until I heard the tunes my buddies were making in GarageBand. I sold my Korg 32-track on eBay and started using GarageBand which I already had for free on my Mac. I would never really use any of the drum tracks except for maybe a click track. Ditto for most of the other samples. I use it straight up as a recording program like I would anything else. It’s surprisingly good for free. I’m sold on it. If I were making a big-budget major record label album I would obviously be in a big studio using something else. But for home recording, I can do everything I want with it.

  27. Couple of things.

    1) You can get a count in without moving everything. Under the control menu, it’s the 2nd item.
    2) If you find yourself without a USB keyboard, you can use the computer keyboard to play. From the “WINDOW” menu, choose Musical Typing.

    I’m finding Garageband to be fairly deep considering how much it cost me….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *