Recording

Why Your Recording Sounds Bad in GarageBand

Written By : Andrew Siemon

There are a few reasons why your GarageBand recordings can sound bad. However, I’m going to show you only the reasons I’ve encountered.

The first reason your GarageBand recording sounds bad could be that you’ve loaded the Amp Designer by accident. Make sure you use a fresh audio track with nothing on it. The next most common reason is that you’re using far too much input gain on your audio interface.

Two Ways to Fix Bad GarageBand Recordings

1) Make Sure Your Audio Track is Completely Empty

1) Make Sure Your Audio Track is Completely Empty
It’s not uncommon for me to also turn off the Channel EQ and Compressor as well which comes stock on each empty track. The same thing goes for the Master Reverb and Master Echo.

The image shown above is what an empty track looks like. Press ‘B’ on your keyboard to bring up the Smart Controls, so you can see what plugins are currently turned on.

Usually, an empty track will say ‘Audio’ on it followed by a number, depending on how many tracks there are.

1 C) What You Dont Want It To Look Like
You don’t want your track to look like this. If you’re trying to record vocals or your guitar amp through the Amp Designer, it’s going to sound terrible.

As I explained in my YouTube video above, I’ve done this many times by accident.

You want to be careful that you’re not running the Amp Designer, the Pedalboard, or some other plugin in the Smart Controls.

If you’re just trying to record vocals or your guitar amp, you’ll want a completely empty track with nothing on it.

You can add noise gates, channel EQ, compression, and other processors once you’re ready to start mixing.

1) B) turning off master echo and reverb as well
Unless you want the Master Echo and Master Reverb turned on.

Personally, it isn’t clear to me what the Master Echo and Master Reverb are even for.

I imagine it’s probably used in the case if you decide to run Echo and Reverb on the Master Track..

Either way, I never use them so I typically just disable the plugins by unchecking the boxes.

The next possible reason why your recordings sound bad is due too excessive input gain.

2) Turn Your Input Gain Down on Your Audio Interface

Way Too Much Input Gain
I saw someone on Facebook recently ask why their recording sounded so bad, and their waveform looked like this.

This means you’ve either increased the gain too much on your audio interface or you’re recording a signal that’s too loud.

The good news is that it’s an easy fix. You just have to turn down the gain a bit on your device, regardless of the device you’re using.

Too Much Gain on the Audio Interface
For my guitar and NUX Trident, I have it set to 3.5. That’s how I got the waveform shown in the next image

Have a look below:

Much Better Input Gain Level
This is typically what I aim for when I’m recording, whether it’s guitar or vocals.

The key is to have it loud enough so the waveform is nice and thick but not so loud that a loud strum or abrupt spike in vocal volume will cause clipping.

To dial it in, sing or strum as loud as you would during a performance and check how much the audio is peaking.

If a relatively hard strum causes clipping, keep turning it down. The same thing goes for singing.

Peaking Signal Zoomed In
How do you know that you’re clipping? You know that you’re clipping because the waveform will literally touch the top of the interface.
Peaking Signal Zoomed Out
This is what the same wave form looks like when you’ve zoomed out.

Clipping should almost always be avoided because it occurs when a signal exceeds what a recording system can handle. The end result is a harsh, unpleasant, distortion.

Once you’ve clipped a signal, there’s not much you can do about it after the fact either.

So it can ruin an otherwise solid recording.

That all said, some people use distortion as an effect for different purposes. This is how overdrive and distortion, for example, was invented for guitars.

A lot of hip-hop producers these days use clipping and distortion on their 808 bass instruments too. But anyway, I digress.

All-in-all, these are the two main culprits for why your GarageBand recording could sound bad.

Of course, there could be many other reasons as well.

For instance, a lot of people like to use those low-quality USB to 1/4” cables for guitar recording, rather than purchasing a proper audio interface.

I would avoid those.

Do you have any thoughts, comments, questions, or concerns? Let me know in the comment section below. If you have any tips, it would be great if you would share.

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Andrew Siemon is the principal creator of ProducerSociety.com, a website dedicated to all things music, including music production, music theory, recording, and how to use the most popular DAWs. Starting out as a metal guitarist, Andrew has since moved into other areas of music production including hip-hop and fusion

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