Dec 27

GB ScreenI wrote an article a few years back on basic audio recording on the Mac, While much of that info is still valid, a lot of it is out of date. So I thought I would update that article and I also plan to make a video tutorial as well, In the meantime here is the article.

We are going to assume that we are recording a simple mono or single channel microphone for the purpose of this tutorial, But the tutorial works just as well for any stereo audio source such as a turntable or a mixer.

First off, we need to get audio into the computer. There are several ways to get audio into your mac: You can use the analog inputs if your Mac is so equipped or you can use either the Optical Digital(SPDIF) input, or the Firewire or USB inputs via a Digital Audio Interface.

Lets look at the analog inputs first. Most newer Macs have 1/8″ stereo analog Line in and Line out Jacks, older iBooks being the exception. Often using these inputs is the simplest and most expedient way to get audio into your Mac  you can hook-up most audio devices using a male stereo mini to dual male RCA adaptor cable. This is great if you want to use a turntable or mixer as an audio source. When you use the analog inputs on your Mac you are using the Macs own internal analog to digital convertors, while these are actually pretty good nowadays using an external audio interface is usually preferable.

Audio interfaces range from the $40 iMic interface, to various USB mics and headsets with built-in convertors, to high end interfaces such as the $500 Apogee Duet interface or Multi channel interfaces like the $700 Prosonus Firestudio. Depending on the interface, these can have USB, Firewire or even optical connections to hook-up to your Mac. The advantages that these interfaces offer are things like higher quality sampling rates and bit depths than the Mac’s built-in audio and they can also offer such features as direct monitoring and digital effects. For the purposes of this tutorial we’ll look at a USB Headset and a iMic USB interface.

Once you have an audio source hooked up to your Mac, the first stop in the recording process is the sound control panel. To go to the sound control panel, go to system preferences under the Apple menu and click on Sound. Click on the input tab and you will see a list of connected audio devices on your Mac Our list has the Internal Microphone, Line-in audio (the Built-in audio), iMic USB audio system, and C-Media USB Headphone Set . We’ll select the C-media USB Headset. Next we want to set our initial Audio levels, to avoid distorting our audio recording later on. Speak or sing into your microphone at a loud level, or start playback of your audio device. Adjust the input levels using the input volume slider so that the input levels are at about 80% of the sound input indicator bar.
While we are in the Sound control panel. We’ll want to set an output device. Click on the Output tab. And we’ll choose Internal speakers as an output device. Click on the red close button to close the Sound control panel and save your settings.

Next, we’ll need to open an audio recording application. GarageBand comes with all new Macs as part of the iLife suite and even if it didn’t come with your Mac, you should purchase the iLife suite just for GarageBand even if you’re going to do occasional audio recording on your Mac. We’ll note that there are many free and inexpensive audio recording applications available for you Mac including the open source application Audacity available at But for the purposes of this tutorial we’ll just address using GarageBand ’08.

To do an audio recording using GarageBand, launch GarageBand. Again for the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll chose Create New Music Project and we’ll name our project “Recording test” and click on the Create button. In the GarageBand Window we’ll close the Keyboard window if it appears, since we don’t need that at the moment. Goto the GarageBand menu and select Preferences to open GarageBands’s preferences. Click on the Audio/MIDI tab. We’ll make sure that Built-in Output is selected under the Audio Output Selector, and that C-Media USB Headphone Set is selected under Audio Input. We could have selected from any of the devices that are connected our Mac or could have just used the system stings to use whichever device is selected in the sound control panel. While still in the Preferences window, we want to check our recording quality settings. Click on the Advanced tab. Notice the Audio Resolution selector. The selector has three options Good, Better and Best. We’ll choose Better to record in 24-bit resolution but export at 16-bit resolution for standard CD resolution files. Click on the red close button to exit the preferences panel and save our settings.

Next we’ll select New Basic Track from the Track menu. With our new track highlighted we’ll click on the “I” or track info button in the lower right hand corner of the GarageBand window. In the bottom of the Track Info pane You’ll notice an Input source selector: Ours is showing Stereo 1/2 (C-media USB Headphone Set) and since there is no need to make a stereo Recording of a Mono voice, we are going to select Mono 1 (C-media USB Headphone Set.) We’ll also leave the Monitor selector to Off to avoid any chance of feedback. Next, we want to check our recording levels again. Although they should be good from our system settings it never hurts to double check levels. Make sure that the Automatic Level Control checkbox is NOT checked. Speak or sing into your microphone at a loud level, or start playback of your audio device. Adjust the input levels using the Recording Level slider so that the input levels are at about 80% of the track’s level volume meter. Once your level is set, you can click the “I” button to close the Track Info Window.

Now we are ready to record. Make sure that our new track is record enabled. This is indicated by the red record enable button. When you’re ready to record, click on the record button in the transport controls. To stop recording, click the play button to stop the recording and playback or click the record button to stop recording but continue playback. This is convenient if you only need to record vocals in certain parts of a song, for example. But in most case you’ll want to click the play button to stop recording. You can now click the Goto Beginning button to go to the beginning of the track and click the Play button to hear the playback of your recording.
We’ll address editing your audio in a future tutorial, but for now we want to show you some of the saving and exporting options in GarageBand. First off, save your project often to make sure you don’t lose any of your recordings or the changes you’ve made to your project. To save your project, click on Save under the File menu or use the Command and S key shortcut.

To export your recording you have several options under GarageBand’s Share menu. We can; Send song to iTunes, Send your song as a Ringtone, Send Podcast to iWeb, Export song to disk and Burn song to CD. Lots of options. The simplest is to save your recording (or song) to disk. With the Compress checkbox unchecked simply click Export to save your recording as a standard 16-bit AIF file to disk. If you check the Compress check box and it will bring up the audio compression options including the ability to export as an AAC (Apple Proprietary) file or as a MP3 file for playback on many devices.

In addition to the export to disk option, you may find the Send song to iTunes option useful. By using the send to iTunes option you have the same options to save your file either compressed or not but you also have the option to add meta data to the file and the file will automatically be added to your iTunes music library. After you’ve exported you audio file and Saved your project you can close GarageBand.

That’s how to do basic audio recording on your Mac using GarageBand ’08.

written by macaudioguy

18 Responses to “How-to Do Basic Audio Recording On Your Mac Using GarageBand ’08”

  1. 1. Julliet Lorenzo Says:

    awsome thanks alot..i was having trouble with it..especially with the micrphone …when i record….it sounds a bit lousy…as in with an echo..i really hate that

  2. 2. Damien Says:

    I just got the duet, and it says to turn off monitoring in garage band, but I get no sound on my guitar when I do that? I see the bars moving though, nothing is muted? not sure what that monitoring is for? why does the apoggee website say to click off monitoring?

  3. 3. macaudioguy Says:

    Julliette, Make sure that you are not recording from the internal microphone.

    Damien, I don’t think the Apogee Duet supports direct monitoring, so you want to turn off monitoring in GarageBand. This is so that you don’t hear a delayed playback of your guitar in your headphones. Turning off monitoring in GB just mutes the output of the track that you’re recording. Once you’re done recording the track it should playback fine.

  4. 4. jmusiz Says:

    i cannot drag my apple loops into the timeline on garageband 08 i can play the loop just can create a song

  5. 5. Mike Says:

    Thanks for the info. Just got an Imac I love it. I am liking this Garageband. When I spoke recording with the built in mic, the playback was a high ssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sound. I am certain that an external audio interface with a condenser mic would be the way to go Maybe there is a way to quiet that sound any ideas.

    Basically, I have a grasp on the things I need to get my creative ideas layed down but the question is “With all the products available to us for home studio recording, which brand and how much do I need to satisfy my particular situation. What I dont want to do is drop a considerable amount of money and then 4 months down the road run into a situation where I wish I would have got that other unit etc… I would like to know what brand and model of a audio interface to get I have read up on Lexicons Lambda seems pretty cool as well as some M-Audio stuff.

    Then there is the Mic. I read about a Nova mic I think its M-Audio condenser, I have an SM58 its Dynamic. Again which one what type is best.

    Then there are the reference monitors. This is where the money gets steep. Hundreds to choose from at various dollar amounts. What are some that are at the top of the list keeping in mind affordability?

    Finally, there is the controller. I am not a Pianist I am a lead guitar player so I dont need 88 keys. I was looking at M-Audios Axiom 49 anybody used this one before?

    Then I would like to raise the point on the software that comes with the Audio Interface. Whats the learning curve, does it marry well with Garageband. You can produce edit and burn a professional sounding CD with just Garageband cant you? Or do you need to load the software that comes with the audio interface and maybe even the controllors software or do controllers come with software? Whats the experience for those of you that have purchased all this stuff? If you load the audio interfaces software how does it intertwine with garageband to where you are using the two simultaneously? Man I know this is a lot of info to cover but I am doing as much research as I can before I spend my hard earned money and simply put I need professional advice from anyone who really knows this stuff inside out and can ask the right questions and say okay here is what you need to get and you should be good to go for awhile. I would like to spend around 1000 dollars for this stuff give or take a little + or – probably more + lol.

    Any advice is appreciated and thanks just for reading all this.


  6. 6. Philip Says:

    I want to do some remote recording……have some sort of audio recording device to record talking to people, environmental sounds and the like and then bring it back and put it in garageband to put it together. Do you have any recommendations for what type of a device/recorder and microphone would be good? I don’t want to spend a great deal of money to experiment for now.

  7. 7. macaudioguy Says:

    Check out the Zoom H2. It’s a really cool field recorder.

  8. 8. Michelle Says:

    Is it possible to record system audio (digital audio)
    using Garageband?

  9. 9. macaudioguy Says:

    Yes you can! But you have to download “Soundflower” a free utility from
    SoundFlower lets you route your system sound to GarageBand as an Input. It’s also handy for about a million other things :-) . There is also Audio Hijack Pro from RougeAmoeba and Ambrosia’s Wire Tap Pro But these cost money.



  10. 10. carmen Says:

    thanks so much!! I was completely frustrated with having bought this apparently “great” little mic… now I’m happy again.

  11. 11. Kyle Says:

    When I play notes on my midi piano in GarageBand, every time I release a piano key, I hear a click. How can I turn this off?

  12. 12. Steve Says:

    RE: Soundflower

    Jay informed me about using Soundflower on my macbook pro. I use it when recording with Audacity. I was flustered to find that my mac, unlike a windows unit, will not record direct sound streams, or interviews, clips from movies. I think it’s the way the mac is built. Anyway, soundflower allows me to do what I could do with my PC. It buzzes, though, until I click something from the icon menu.. No Problem…THANKS, JAY!

  13. 13. Bruce Says:

    Here is a totally newbie question, so forgive me in advance…All I want to do is plug in an instrument into my iMac audio input, play along with iTunes, and monitor the whole thing via the iMac audio output. No recording, just monitoring input and iTunes at the same time. What is the simplest/cheapest way to do that?

  14. 14. Bruce Says:

    Here is a totally newbie question, so forgive me in advance…All I want to do is plug in an instrument into my iMac audio input, play along with iTunes (or FrontRow), and monitor the whole thing via the iMac audio output. No recording, just monitoring input and iTunes at the same time. What is the simplest/cheapest way to do that?

  15. 15. Sam Says:

    Awesome walk thru. Just followed it step by step and made my first recording.

  16. 16. Jamie Says:

    Thats, this was a great article. I record a show as a podcast. I havea mixer connected to my mac and input channels on the mixer include 2 mics and 2 cd players. So basically we record a show as it would be live. When the recording is finished, it’s a bout an hour show. I compress it, about 96 kps, and then upload it to podomatic. But when I compress it I notice the sound quality of the CDs we play on the show not as clear as the originals. But our voices are pretty much the same. Any suggestions on how to increase the quality of the CDs without the file size of the final product?


  17. 17. Paula Says:

    Hey I am trying to play around a bit with garageband I want to record using my stage piano and vocals. I bought a 3.5mm adapter so my jack lead to piano can plug into it only the 3.5mm adapter doesn’t fit? its that normal or is something wrong with my Macbook or the adapter? any help would be great! just want to record a better sound than using just the external mic

  18. 18. Joey Says:

    Hey mac guy! I’ve been recording solo audio on Garage band for a while and only needing the basic functions. However, I haven’t figured out yet how to adjust volume on certain sections of the same track. For instance, if my voice “pops” I know how to isolate the section with the “split” function, but have no clue how to adjust the volume only in one section of the track. Advice?