Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Guitar hooked up to GarageBand

After being home sick, by this evening I was starting to get back on track and decided to fiddle around with my new computer a little bit to see if I could get my guitar hooked up to GarageBand successfully. After a bit of fiddling, it looks like it's working nicely.

So first off: this Mac purchase was an excellent decision. If you see my post from a week or two ago, I said one of the reasons I was buying the Mac was for GarageBand... and it definitely does not disappoint. It has some stuff that is miles beyond the old software I was using on Windows a while back - it's got a built-in metronome (useful) and even more importantly... a built-in tuner!! This is amazing as I've always had to plug into a tuner and tune the guitar and then rig it up to the computer to record, only having to jump back to the tuner when it gets out of tune. Now the tuner is built into the "LCD" panel inside of GarageBand. Brilliant.

There are some fancy/hilarious things like pitch correction and time correction, presumably to make you sound less terrible if you a) can't sing in key or b) can't play in time. Let's hope I don't need to use any of those ;)

A part I really liked was the effects. I suspect the purists still go for the analog stompboxes, but a friend of mine bought a digital guitar effects board a few years ago and was showing it off to me, it was pretty amazing. For the longest time I've had the Boss CH-1 Super Chorus pedal on my "wish list", but it's always been like $130 or something so I've never bought it. I know you can get an entire digital pedal board for like $200-something, so I've always wondered why the analog pedals are still so expensive. I do LOVE the sound from that Boss Pedal, but the question I've got to ask myself is, how many times have I played a live show in the last 5 years?!? Not many. In the last 10 years?! Well, including all those shows in first year at University, maybe 5 or 10 times... so that doesn't really mean that I need a concert-worthy stompbox to really be stompin' on hard during a show. Rather, as it appears I'm entering "guitar hobbyist" territory lately, digital effects will be just fine for whatever recording purposes I have.

Which brings me to my next point - why even buy a stompbox at all if it's digital and I'm using it for recording only... in that case, I may as well let Apple program my pedals for me and use their awesome and simple interface. The pedal selection is pretty much the usual standards: chorus, flanger, overdrive, distortion, etc. I saw a few cool ones like "Auto Wah" which had a lot of options and I could see using it during a chorus line or something. Very cool. On the other hand the "Chorus" pedal sounds awesome as always and I could see using that on an entire song to give a DMB-ish effect, after some fine-tuning, and maybe some extra reverb or echo to give a concert-hall feel.

This is all I've got after just an hour or so of fiddling with GarageBand '11, but it was definitely fun and I like the interface. There are some useful pieces like setting loops and also just listening to one track at a time and so on. Of course you wouldn't want to overuse the effects and you'd probably want to pick carefully how and when you use them, but in general they seem pretty plentiful and easy to apply and layer on top of each other. You can even save out specific instruments that have a bunch of effects already applied to them which is cool. I think I read somewhere that there are amp effects as well so you can get GarageBand to emulate specific amp output sounds, that sounds like a cool idea.

I wasn't sure how to best post these sounds here but I guess the easiest is just to make a YouTube video with the 3 playing in it. Enjoy :) There will be real music to come over the next while as I get back into it and start practicing some songs again. It's good to be able to record easily again.

Mac Mini connected to Behringer sound board. Output via Monster L/R to mini stereo jack, input from standard guitar cable. This allows me to boost the guitar signal and ultimately also to plug in my Mic which requires Phantom Power.

It works! GarageBand is an awesome interface and even has a tuner!

Example of 3 audio tracks. First is me playing part of "Stay or Leave" by Dave Matthews, then I ran it with the Auto Wah effect and then with the Chorus effect.

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