There are a number of ways to record vocals and instruments using Garageband and other DAWs, however, in this article, I’m going to explore what I think is the best way to go about it.
To put it simply, the best way to record instruments and vocals in Garageband is by hooking up your instrument or microphone to an audio interface that’s connected to your computer.
Naturally, you need 9 pieces of gear:
1) An audio interface
2) A microphone or guitar/bass/etc.
3) Noise Canceling Headphones
5) Microphone Stand
6) Music Stand (For lyrics, sheet music, miscellaneous notes)
7) A stool or chair.
8) A long and wide desk with multiple compartments.
9) Studio Monitors
Of course, there is a ton of equipment available for musical recording, however, you won’t go wrong if you purchase the following items (every link takes you to Amazon).
Audio interface: A Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
Condenser Microphone: An Audio Technica AT2035
Headphones: Beyerdynamic’s DT 990 Pro
Earbud Headphones: Etymotic’s ER4SRs
Stand-Up Adjustable Desk: SHW 55″ Adjustable Desk
Computer Monitor: Samsung LS27R350FHNXZA Monitor
Speaker Monitors: iLoud MTM Studio Monitors
Boom-Arm, Foam Guard, Phone Holder, and More: Magic Fun Bundle
This Is The Best Way To Record Using Garageband
First things first, you want to hook up your audio interface into your computer.
If you’ve purchased an audio interface, you’ll have all of the gear available to you, including the USB to Firewire cable, which connects to the back of the unit and into the computer like what’s shown in the image below.
1) Hook Up Audio Interface Into Your Computer
Assuming that you’re using a newer MacBook Pro or another computer from Apple (by the way, I recommend this particular MacBook Pro from Amazon), you’ll need a USB-C adaptor to plug in the gear.
I recommend getting a multi-purpose hub with many different ports, in case you don’t already have one. Grab one from Amazon here.
Once you’ve plugged in the audio interface, you’ll notice that Garageband, as well as your computer, will immediately recognize the unit.
To make sure everything has worked properly, however, you want to go into Garageband’s preferences and select the appropriate input and output controls.
In this case, I have the input set to the Focusrite 6USB, which is my audio interface, and then the output is set to the computer’s natural output, in other words, its built-in speakers.
In some instances, you may find that the computer or Garageband has a hard time recognizing the device.
In this case, you could either reboot Garageband with the interface plugged in, or you could reboot the computer completely to get it to recognize it.
You won’t normally have to do this, but it’s sometimes needed.
For instance, when I first grabbed the iRig HD 2 – which is a great audio interface for guitar players that I’ve written about before – for whatever reason, it took a moment and a bit of tinkering for Garageband to recognize it.
Since then, it hasn’t had any difficulty recognizing it and it’s been good to go. However, you may have to follow the steps outlined above.
2) Plug Your Microphone or Instrument Into The Audio Interface
This part is quite self-explanatory. Using an XLR cable (if you’re setting up a microphone – my guide), or a regular guitar cable (if you’re using a bass or an electric guitar – also my guide), you plug it into the device and you’re off to the races.
In some cases, a mic purchase won’t come with an XLR cable, in that case this one (also from Amazon) will do you just fine.
If you own a guitar or bass, you probably already have the appropriate cable.
Assuming you just want to record your guitar using Garageband, I’d recommend checking out my entire article and video on it at this link here. It’s not much different, however. You can see what this looks like in the image below:
3) Use Noise-Canceling Headphones To Eliminate Audio Bleed
While this next part might seem like it’s not important, it really is essential, because if you’re recording just vocals, for instance, you don’t want the music playing in the background of your vocal recording.
For that reason, it’s best to use noise-canceling headphones like the Etymotic ER4SR from Amazon, that way you can eliminate or at least attenuate the problem right off the bat.
Unfortunately, however, you’re always going to get at least a little bit of microphone bleeding in your recordings, so it’s worth mentioning that this won’t completely avoid the issue unless you turn down the playback recording as much as possible.
Other ways to reduce background noise includes:
- Moving your head further back from the mic
- Using noise-canceling earbuds
- Use a noise-gate
- Use Melodyne 4 – Studio to eliminate transients.
4) Get A Microphone Stand
I like having at least two microphone stands, one for when I have a microphone sitting on my desk when I’m recording my voice while using Garageband and ScreenFlow Editor, and then another for recording vocals.
Having a microphone stand is great because you don’t want to hold it in your hand. You need to get something like this from Amazon, or, you can get a traditional microphone stand like this one here from the same place.
5) Get A Pop Filter
A pop filter like this one from Amazon is what helps eliminate the plosive sounds in your audio recordings, specifically, for vocals. Certain consonant sounds have a very loud quality to them, including “s” sounds and “p” sounds.
These are easily the most intrusive sounds in the English language, and I’m sure in other languages as well.
A pop filter is going to greatly reduce these sounds. You could also use Melodyne after the fact to help eliminate the sound as well, but it’s best to just get rid of it immediately. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
6) Music Stand
Getting a music stand is a great idea as well, such as one from Yorkville or a similar company. A music stand is self-explanatory; it’s used for holding guitar tabs, sheet music, etc.
As I’ve explained before in my article on the best products for Garageband, I have my music stand in front of my couch or my stool, and then I sit on the couch to play the guitar with my laptop sitting on my table with all of the accompanying gear.
Frankly, I don’t see how it’s possible to not have a music stand, especially if you’re a musician or even a vocalist. You can use it to hold your lyrics, sheet music, tabs, etc.
7) A Stool And Chair
I’d recommend getting a stool and a computer chair. Opt for a high-quality version of both.
For instance, a stool made entirely out of wood and that’s balanced and not shaky, and a computer chair that actually has back and neck support like this AKRacing one from Amazon.
8) A Desk with Multiple Compartments
This is arguably the most important aspect of setting up a home recording studio, because as time goes on, you’re going to have so much gear that you need a place for all of this stuff to sit, otherwise, you’ll have to hook every up over and over again everytime you want to get to work.
You can see what this looks like in the image just below, and also in the following section. Take notice of the fact that there is a stand right on top of the desk on which the computer monitor sits. That’s what you want, because then, you can put your audio interface and other equipment directly underneath the monitor and save a lot of space.
Admittedly, I don’t have a desk that has multiple sections, however, I did get my hands on this stand-up adjustable desk from Amazon and I have to say that it’s probably one of the best purchases I’ve made in years. The option to sit and stand at it whenever I choose is amazing, and I can’t believe I went without one of these for as long as I did.
This is my current set-up which includes all of the gear that I mentioned at the very start of the article, including the monitors as well as the stand-up adjustable desk:
9) Studio Monitors
For the studio monitors, I’d suggest getting something like the KRK Rokit RP5 G5s from Amazon, although, in my picture above, I’m using the iLoud Micro Monitors.
Another good option is the iLoud Micro Monitors from IK Multimedia (my review). These speakers are awesome, and I couldn’t recommend them enough, however, if I had to do it all over again, I would get the bigger ones from Amazon rather than the more portable option because the smaller ones can’t go as loud as I would like without clipping.
How To Set Your Gear Up
In this section, I’m going to show you what a solid home recording studio would look like with a few simple pictures.
For instance, take a look at what this home recording studio looks like:
This is almost perfect. Typically, you want to have a fairly long and wide desk, with a separate portion of it meant for the computer’s monitor.
Moreover, it’s best to have two individual stands for the speakers, that way your set up isn’t hindered by the inclusion of two speakers. The desk should be for holding all of your other movable gear.
You can take it a step further and actually put noise-canceling pads just behind the studio monitors, to minimize the amount of sound traveling through the wall.
On the side of this desk, you could have all your other gear, including guitars and other instruments, and then in another area, you can have a microphone coupled with a pop-filter and a music stand to hold lyrics and other sheet music/tablature.
Don’t worry about getting all of this stuff at once. As time passes, you’ll pick up on more and more gear.
Alternatives for Recording In Garageband
As I just mentioned there are other ways of recording using Garageband as your DAW.
Through the use of a standard USB Microphone such as the Samson Q2U (my guide on it), or a guitar cable-to-USB cable, you can eliminate the need for an audio interface such as an iRig Pro I/O, iRig HD 2, or a Focusrite Saffire 2i2.
However, this is more of a budget option of doing so, and in the end, you’ll find that you need to make the upgrade anyway.
With that said, this might be the best option for you if you’re on a budget, or if you’re just not that serious about recording yet and you want to see if you like it. The Samson Q2U from Amazon is honestly a fantastic microphone for the cost. It holds up to more expensive mics like the Shure SM58 and it’s more convenient.
In the case that you want to record a guitar or bass, or some other instrument, you could also set up a microphone to your amplifier. This option, however, has some serious downsides, including extraneous noise that might bother your neighbors.
But, it’s also the better option if you want a fantastic guitar sound, for instance, if you have an awesome amplifier that you want to use, and it’s a shame to not use it for recording.
Truthfully, I rarely use an amplifier anymore for playing the guitar, because I find that the use of an audio interface, plug-ins, and the overall usefulness of a DAW makes it a great way of going about it. However, it’s worth mentioning.
At some point, I’ll explore the best way of going about this as well, but right now I’m living in an apartment where I’m sure my neighbors would not appreciate this at all.
YouTube Video Tutorial
All-in-all, the three-step process that I mentioned above is definitely the best way to go about recording using Garageband as your interface. There are more options out there, as I mentioned, but this is going to serve you quite well.