How to record multiple simultaneous instruments in Garageband

If you’re a musician who is coming from the world of analog to digital, or are a beginner to music the very first thing you’re going to want to do after you master a basic program like GarageBand is to add more musicians to the mix and record the gang all at once without spending a small fortune on equipment.

Enter the largely undocumented world of beginner Firewire interfaces. Music ubergeeks are unable to simplifly all their techspeek to explain how simple these actually are and the music beginners don’t know enough about them to post a sensible explanation so let me help to fill the gap with three simple images:

This is the Presonus Inspire. It is a fairly inexpensive ($200 on average) box you can use to plug your band into your computer via a FireWire cable. It has 2 pairs of inputs that can be used simultaneously: pre-amped XLRs for microphones and 1/4″ line-levels for a guitar and a bass. You can use one from each pair simultaneously.

The Presonus gear is the only stuff in this price category that I’ve seen documented sufficiently (both reviews and forum discussions with honest feedback) on the web so this is the one I bought to try. The Inspire “1394” is usually the model you’ll find but if you’re lucky you can find the “GT” (pictured) which is basically the same thing for the same price but with flames engraved on the top and a software package that includes Cubase LE.

This little Mac-Mini-sized box is compatible with the Firewire standard so on an Apple computer with OS 10.4 you won’t need to install *anything*. Just plug it in and open GarageBand.

In Garageband go to your preferences and set your Presonus Inspire as your input and make some new “real instrument” audio tracks as you normally would.

You will see in the properties of the track your 4 inputs. Just choose the right one for each instrument and that’s it.

You can install the Presonus control panel if you want more control over microphone popping, gain and other controls. The Presonus control panel is also useful if your microphone uses an XLR to XLR cable which requires that power be sent to it to operate. If your microphone cable is XLR to 1/4″ you will not need the 48v “phantom power”.

You can “daisy chain” multiple Presonus boxes together via a Firewire cable to add more band members to the mix.

One Thought to “How to record multiple simultaneous instruments in Garageband”

  1. Joe Johnson

    Thanks for the images. As a beginner I had overlooked the Garageband audio midi input setting. Frustrating…. but now I am excited to get some recording done.

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