In this tutorial, I’m going to lay out a step-by-step process for installing plug-ins into GarageBand as well as a brief summary of how to do it. At first, I struggled to make this work, but it became like second nature after a few tries. it’s really quite simple and the infographic shown here will definitely help.
Due to recent updates, you’ll probably find there are additional steps necessary when you go to open the plugin. For example, GarageBand will give you a malware warning. Here’s what you have to do in the case where GarageBand tells you it can’t open the plugin due to security issues.
Table of Contents
Where Do I Find the Best GarageBand Plug-Ins?
First things first: If you want to get your hands on some solid VST’s, check out Plugins4Free, Plugin Fox, and Plugin Boutique. These are great places for all kinds of plug-ins. On Plugins4Free, many of them aren’t compatible with Mac, however, there are still some great ones on there.
In fact, I’ve done a lot of research over the years and I’ve compiled a list of what I believe to be the best plugins in a special list for my subscribers. You can access that down below:
1) BlueCat Audio’s Axe Pack
2) Komplete 13
3) FabFilter’s Mastering Suite
4) Initial Audio’s 808 Studio II Synth
5) Melodyne 5 from Celemony
6) Antares Auto-Tune Pro
7) EZ Drummer 3
8) Melda Production’s MFreeFXBundle
One of the great things about VST’s is that you can find them all over online. Many YouTubers show you what plug-ins they use, and where to find them, so finding a great plug-in is as simple as just going on YouTube or Google.
Without further ado, this is how to download VST’s for Mac in GarageBand.
How To Install Plug-ins In Garageband
For this tutorial, I’m going to be using the DSK Dynamic Guitars Plugin from Plugins4Free.
On this page, you can see the different options for downloading the plugin. We want to use the Mac AU version.
1) Click on the Mac AU file and download the Zip File. I prefer to put it all on the desktop, that way it’s easy to find later when I want to drop it into the library.
It shouldn’t take longer than a couple of minutes for it to download.
2) After it’s finished downloading, you can open up the Zip File, and it’s going to show you the components for the plug-in.
3) Now, go to your computer’s home screen, then into the settings on the top left-hand side, and click on where it says “Go.”
4) During this part, you have to hold the “Options” button on your keyboard so that it brings up “Library” in the drop-down menu. You have to hold the “Options” button, otherwise, it’ll disappear.
5) Go into your “Library,” and find the folder that says “Audio.”
6) Typically, it’ll bring up four different folders, “MIDI Drivers,” “Plug-Ins,” “Presets,” and “Sounds.”
7) Open up “Plug-ins.”
8) Open the file, “Components.”
9) If you’ve followed the instructions I’ve laid out, you’ll have the Dynamic Guitars Component sitting on your home screen, that way you can simply drag and drop the component into the “Components” file.
10) In most cases, getting access to this plug-in simply requires you to open up GarageBand and you’ll find your new plug-in in your Smart Control’s plug-in settings.
However, some people struggle with this part, because, for whatever reason, they have to turn their computer on and off in order for the plug-in to show up.
11) So turn your computer on and off just to be safe.
12) Now open up GarageBand.
13) Go into your Smart Controls and find the plug-ins in your options.
14) Open up the Available plug-ins.
15) If you’ve downloaded Catalina, you’re going to run into an error.
From here, you just have to hit cancel.
16) On account of the Catalina update, now, what you have to do is go into the System Preferences at the bottom of your computer’s dashboard.
17) Once this is open, go into the section that says, “Security and Privacy.”
18) You have to hit the option, “Allow anyway.”
19) Now open up Garageband, and go into the plug-ins and try and open it.
Garageband will give you this prompt:
Just hit “Open,” and then you’re good.
20) Then go into your plug-ins and open it up.
It should say, “Dynamic Guitars,” and you just click on the “Stereo” option that it brings up afterward, and now you’ve successfully uploaded your new plug-in and it’s ready to use.
16) In some instances, you might have to adjust the octave, otherwise, the plug-in won’t work correctly depending on the VST.
However, with this particular plug-in, you won’t have that problem because it’s a guitar, and the designer of the VST made it so that you can play the guitar at many different octaves.
With my DrumPro plug-in that I always use, that isn’t the case, and it has to be at Octave 3, or “C3,” as GarageBand refers to it.
Why aren’t my Plug-ins showing up in GarageBand?
Like, I mentioned above, most people can’t find their plug-in in GarageBand because they haven’t turned their computer on and off. I’ve noticed that other tutorials forget to mention this.
How To Install Lepou Plugins in GarageBand?
If you want to get your hands on LePou Amplifier Plug-ins, just click on this link here.
On the right-hand side of the page, you can scroll down and see where it says, “Amp Sim Pack,” and underneath that, “Mac AU (Universal Binary).”
You want to click on that, and then download the 5 different components listed in Google Drive. There’s a download button on the right-hand side of this page where you can download all of it.
After that, just follow the steps that I laid out above. Just as a quick refresher, you’ll have to unpack the downloaded ZIP file and then open up the file and drag and drop the individual “component” files into your library.
When I was having trouble, I turned my computer on and off, and then I had to reboot GarageBand in order for the LePou plug-ins to show up in the “Audio Units” file.
These are quite possibly some of the best Amplifier plug-ins that you can use in Garageband in my opinion. The Clean setting in the LePou plug-in is pretty great.
What Are The Best Plug-Ins for GarageBand?
Not everyone wants to sign up to the email list for exclusive freebies, which is fine. I’ve compiled a list for those people here, which includes some paid ones too.
It’s also worth stating that understanding the keyboard via a helpful tool like PianoForAll (from their site) will give you better control over some of the best virtual instruments.
Additionally, for this list, I polled users online and asked them what some of their favourite VSTs are to use, so I can’t vouch for all of them personally.
Without going too far off-topic, here’s the list (I provided links to where you can find some of them for free in the headings):
It makes the most sense to start with Native Instruments’ Komplete Start which is easily the best batch of instruments and samples that you can get for free in Garageband. I can’t sing Native Instruments’ praise enough. Komplete Start is the best batch of free instruments that you can get.
It’s hard to imagine how they could improve on it, however, they don’t disappoint with Komplete 13 which is basically the paid version. I’ve been crazy about Komplete 13 ever since I finally took the plunge and bought it from their site; just get it now, because it never goes on sale.
This is a synth plug-in made by U-he and based off of the Roland Juno-60 which came out in 1982. It’s a classic. This plug-in has quite a bit more functionality, however, and it’s powered by Amazona.de. U-he has a reputation for imitating analog models well.
This is a collection of 28 plug-ins that are extremely popular with not only GarageBand users but for other DAW users as well. You could also pay for the license on Plugin Boutique for the Complete Bundle, which will give you almost every plugin you could ever want with top-of-the-line features and functionalities.
This package includes reverb, mixing and mastering tools, modulators, filters, compressors, flangers, phasers, tremolos, tuners, vibratos, limiters, loudness analyzers, notepads, oscillators, and shapers.
This plug-in is known for its “classic” stereo reverb which is very simple to use but sounds great. It also has a bunch of different presets that you can use.
It’s not hard to understand why everyone loves FabFilter’s Pro-Q 3 EQ from Plugin Boutique. This is one of the coolest EQs I’ve ever seen and I love using it. What I do now is use some of the presets that Garageband comes with as a guide, but then I use the Pro-Q EQ to actually do the EQ. What’s cool about it is that you can actually isolate frequencies with it.
LePou guitar amplifier simulators are pretty awesome. However, I actually like the clean version of the amps they give you, rather than the distorted channel.
It comes with five amplifiers: the Hybrit, Le456, LeCto, LeGion, and LeXtac. Each one is great for its own reason. I would say that my favorite, thus far, is the LeGion and the LeXtac.
Antares Auto-Tune (from Plugin Boutique) is the king of auto-tune. They are the ones who invented the term that is now associated with all kinds of pitch correction and audio editing software, including Melodyne which I listed down below. This is easily the best auto-tune plugin for Garageband if we’re talking about software that is meant for tuning vocals specifically.
When it comes to audio editing (not just vocals), there’s no question that Melodyne 5 Studio is better. That’s why I own both of them – because where one excels is where the other blunders. Frankly, I’d recommend getting both (which is what I’ve done).
This is an old-school synthesizer plug-in that has been around for a long time and comes with all kinds of effects. The effects, honestly, sound pretty authentic for a free VST. Some users claim there are better plug-ins and there probably are, but this is great for what it is.
Made by TAL, the purpose of this plug-in is for voice processing, but it can be used for a number of different functions. From what I understand, it’s not compatible for Mac’s that are 10.10 and higher, unfortunately. But I’m sure there is a way to make it work.
The Blue Cat audio plugin comes with a range of different modulation effects, including a 3-band equalizer, a gain-suite, a chorus, phaser, flanger, and a frequency analyzer.
The more I try BlueCat Audio’s products, the more excited I get about them as a company. Blue Cat Audio’s Axiom is an amplifier simulator that works right in Garageband, and it sounds much better than the stock amp sims.
You can download the free trial on BlueCat Audio’s website using the link above, however, I would recommend just getting the Axe Pack from Plugin Boutique which includes Axiom, the Destructor distortion unit, Hot Tuna which is their plugin tuner, and more.
This is an EQ plug-in that is now compatible with almost every DAW, depending on whether you get the professional version or not. It’s styled after the Pultec EQ.
Amplitube 5 (on Plugin Fox) is a great plug-in for many users because they have an official Mesa Boogie Amplifier pack, including the dual rectifier, the triple rectifier, the Mark-III, and the transatlantic TA-30.
It has more features than that, including a cabinet section where you can choose microphone placement and a bunch of other settings. Moreover, Amplitube has worked with a bunch of other companies, including Orange Amplifiers.
You can actually get a free demo version of Amplitube though with the purchase of an iRig HD 2 from Amazon, which you should get anyways (if you’re a guitar/bass player). With that said, Amplitube 5 isn’t my favorite; I prefer BlueCat Audio’s Axiom.
Also created by u-he in 2005, this is a fairly old plug-in, but is considered as a classic synthesizer that comes with a ton of different presets. It comes with a filter, an oscillator, an envelope, an arpeggiator, and a sequencer.
This is another legit synthesizer plug-in created by Archetype Instruments. It’s fairly simple to use, but can be used for a wide range of effects, including filters and distortion.
Another polyphonic synthesizer plug-in compatible for both PC and Mac. Modeled after an old Roland synth, the settings are adjustable with sliders rather than knobs, which some people prefer.
The SGA1566 is a virtual pre-amp that is used for boosting particular instruments and channels.
EZ Drummer (again, on Plugin Fox), like Superior Drummer, is also created by Toon Track, but it’s simpler, less expensive (about half as much), and doesn’t come with as many drum-kits and settings. However, what’s great about EZ Drummer 2 is that it has a free trial, so make sure to try that out.
The Nova-67P is another equalizer plug-in paired with a compressor. With this, you can input a side-chain signal.
This is akin to the Digitech Whammy Pedal, which you can see in the image for this blog post. Nonetheless, you can use this to make pretty bizarre sounds.
Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine is known for using the stomp-box from which this VST takes its inspiration. Essentially, the Pitchproof plug-in is a pitch-shifter and harmonizer.
I actually own the Digitech Whammy Pedal, and obviously, the real analog model is far superior to any form of a plug-in that you can use. It’s a great little piece of equipment for guitar playing. You can probably check it out on Amazon and get it for a good price.
For the longest time, I struggled to find a good 808 plugin for Garageband because many of them straight up just don’t work. Initial Audio’s 808 Studio II Synth is definitely the best 808 synth that I’ve personally tried and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
The presets sound awesome, the interface looks cool, it has the ability to slide and glide/glissando (my guide on this), and there’s a sampler as well, which means you can load whatever sample that you want to. You won’t go wrong if you get the 808 Studio II Synth from Plugin Boutique.
Multiply is a nice little chorus effect that I like to use for guitars, piano, and vocals, primarily. Garageband comes with a chorus effect, but it isn’t quite as good as this one.
The Voxengo Marvel GEQ is a 15-band equalizer that allows you to really take control of the EQ of your track. I actually own an MXR 10-Band EQ, and it’s very similar to this plug-in, albeit, superior.
You can also grab one of those off of Amazon if you’re interested in a legit piece of equipment.
This is, basically, a super powerful and useful compressor that allows you to do more than the compressor that comes with Garageband. It’s pretty cool and worth checking out. In fact, I’ve talked about it before in my article on parallel compression and how to use it.
This, like the M-Audio FX Bundle, comes with over 20 effects and processors, 24 to be exact. It’s a fairly old set of plug-ins, but I’m sure it can be quite useful.
I use this one quite a lot whenever I can’t get ahold of my real acoustic and nylon string guitar. It’s superior to the guitars offered in GarageBand, but still, not quite as good as the real thing, of course. For what it is, it works great.
I use this plug-in almost every day, especially the Trap Kit setting it comes with. It comes with over a dozen drum-kits, which makes it pretty handy for hip-hop producers.
Melodyne, as I explained in my comprehensive guide, is a very advanced audio editing tool from the company, Celemony, and it’s easily the best pitch-correction software that’s compatible with Garageband (find it on Plugin Boutique).
What Plug-Ins come with GarageBand?
When you download stock plug-ins in Garageband, it comes with a plethora of useful VST’s, including all of the software instruments.
Garageband comes with 15 different categories of software instruments: bass, drum kit, electronic drum kit, guitar, mallet, orchestral, percussion, piano, synthesizer, vintage B3 organ, vintage clav, vintage electric piano, vintage mellotron, world, arpeggiator.
Each category has a number of different software instruments within it, especially the arpeggiator, which must have close to 50-70 models.
In the plug-in settings, there are 12 categories of plug-ins with a ton of different sub-categories:
Amps and Pedals, Delay, Distortion, Dynamics, EQ, Filter, Imaging, Modulation, Pitch, Reverb, Specialized, and Utility are the main categories.
Amps and Pedals – Amp Designer, Bass Amp Designer, Pedalboard.
- The Amp Designer has 26 different Models, 26 Amps, and 26 Cabinets. As I argued here, Garageband’s Amp Designer is actually pretty solid considering it’s a free program.
- The Bass Amp Designer has 4 different models, 3 amps, and 8 cabinets.
Pedalboard – The pedalboard comes with 36 different effects. It pretty much has everything you could need for playing guitar, including overdrive, wah, a whammy pedal, delay, chorus, overdrive, and so on and so forth.
Their quality isn’t quite as good as some of the plug-ins that you can download or buy, but they’re sufficient, nonetheless.
Delay – Delay Designer, Echo, Sample Delay, Stereo Delay, and Tape Delay
Distortion – Bitcrusher, Clip Distortion, Distortion, Distortion II, Overdrive, and Phase Distortion.
Dynamics – Compressor, DeEsser, Enveloper, Limiter, Multipressor, and the Noise Gate.
EQ – Channel EQ and Single Band EQ.
Filter – AutoFilter, Filterbank, Fuzz-Wah, and the Spectral Gate.
Imaging – Direction Mixer, and the Stereo Spread.
Modulation – Chorus, Ensemble, Flanger, Microphaser, Modulation Delay, Phaser, Ringshifter, Rotor Cabinet, Scanner Vibrato, Spreader, Tremolo.
Pitcher – Pitch Shifter, Vocal Transformer
Reverb – EnVerb, PlatinumVerb, SilverVerb, Space Designer
Specialized – Exciter and Sub-Bass
Utility – Gain.
Audio Units – This setting has a ton of different dynamics tools, including AUBandpass, AUDelay, AUDistortion, AUDynamicsProcessor, AUFilter, AUGraphicEQ, AUHighShelfFilter, AUHighpass, AULowpass, AULowShelfFilter, AUMatrixReverb, AUMultibandCompressor, AUNBandEQ, AUMultibandCompressor, AUNBandEQ, AUNetSend, AUNewPitch, AUParametricEQ, AUPeakLimiter, AUPitch, AUReverb2, AURogerBeep, AURoundTripAAC, AUSampleDelay.
Where are the Plug-ins in GarageBand?
When you first open the program, Garageband shows you all of the 15 software instruments on the left-hand side, and as I mentioned above, there are a ton of instruments and pre-sets within each category.
The plug-ins are located at the bottom of the interface in the Smart Controls area, including within the plug-ins option as well as within the Amp Designer, Bass Amp Designer, and the Pedalboard.
Whenever you download plug-ins through the way I showed earlier in the article, the plug-ins will often appear in the Audio Units tab.
The plug-ins are in several locations, but it also depends on how you define plug-ins. If we’re talking about the plug-ins that you’ve downloaded, then you’ll find these in the “Audio Units” tab within the Smart Controls plug-in settings.
Other Articles You May Be Interested In
- How to Install Plugins in FL Studio Mobile [EASY]
- ALL of the Best Plugins for GarageBand (Free and Premium)
- How To Add Plug-Ins To Garageband iOS
- Guide to Guitar Plugins For Garageband (Free and Premium)
- GarageBand: iOS Versus macOS (All You Need to Know)