turn it up to eleven!
September 9, 2008 8:25 AM   Subscribe

What equipment do my teenagers need to start a garage band and record/edit using a macbook pro?

With christmas and a couple of birthdays coming up, I would like to get my kids set up with some basics for recording. Kid1 has an Ibanez electric guitar and Kustom Dart 10fx amp. Kid2 has a decent voice & stage presence. What they need to get started are a microphone, bass guitar, headphones, wah-wah pedal for the guitar, a means of recording onto the mac, and editing software. Drums/keyboards & video will come later but suggestions for those and other components I haven't thought of are welcome and appreciated. Also, kid1's guitar does not have a whammy bar so it's only a matter of time before he needs to upgrade.

I have been to two local music stores in our new city, and have found them to be surprisingly unhelpful. Maybe because I'm the mom? Or maybe because I'm not a school with 100 kids renting expensive horns. More likely because I don't even know enough to frame my questions intelligently.

There is some equipment advice in this AskMe but I need to know how to put the components together, and how to get them onto the mac, as well as what to buy.

So please type very slowly and hold my hand, as I am both a PC person and a (regular, old-school, acoustic) piano player. In fact not only am I a PC person but I am a corporate-type PC person who has always had access to a PC guy at work.
posted by headnsouth to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Garage Band software for the Mac is perfect to get them started.


This little tutorial should answer some of your questions: http://www.engadget.com/2005/02/08/how-to-turn-your-mac-mini-into-a-low-cost-recording-studio/
posted by ReiToei at 9:04 AM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: 1. Microphone: These days there are decent microphones at every price point, so for general use, and without a whole lot of recording experience, it's pretty much just like- pick a price point that you'd be comfortable spending. This is a decent general-purpose microphone from a reputable manufacturer for a hundred bucks. It's mainly designed for vocal recording and acoustic instruments like acoustic guitars and drumset. It could do a passable job on a guitar amp - but for an engineer with many options, it wouldn't be the first one for that particular application. This is the next one in the same line, and a highly regarded model, but it's three hundred bucks. This one is another old standby in the audio world for a cheap, all-purpose mic, but a totally different design than the one I linked above. I'm not sure really what your total budget is, but I'm guessing the sky ain't the limit. If there's one area where you should splurge a little (if possible), it's in a microphone. They get much much more expensive, but within reason, you pretty much get what you pay for - and they retain value/usefulness.

2. Interface / Software: You need an interface to plug microphones and other sound sources into - there's no way to directly plug a pro microphone into the Macbook. You also need software to record, edit, and mix together the songs. You probably already have a program on your Mac called Garage Band, which is a basic, but capable application. By FAR the most popular system for computer recording is called Pro Tools. The basic Pro Tools systems combine the required hardware AND software, and are fairly affordable. Pro Tools is a great combination of ease of use and compatibility (you can share tracks with most other home recordists and just about any pro studio). Personally, I'm a fan of a competing program called Logic Studio. It lacks the one-stop-shopping element of Pro Tools (you have to buy a separate interface) but is a much slicker program with way more creative options.

3. Bass: There's alot of options, but for just starting out, get something cheap. Like this. or this. Nothing for a hundred or two hundred bucks will be flawless or indestructible, but these days starter-type guitars and basses are surprisingly decent.

4. Headphones: Headphones are a matter of personal preference, but you should get ones that have closed backs - so the sound doesn't leak out and get picked up by microphones. These are extremely affordable, from one of the top headphone manufacturers, and should work just fine. They're definitely not going to be totally neutral, which isn't ideal, but as a starting point they should be fine. Expensive headphones can get easily damaged too- so spend as if they will get broken.

5. Wah Pedal: Nice. Many people like the Cry Baby, I like the Vox. Personal preference! If you think your kid(s) are going to explore different kinds of effects and sounds for guitar/bass, you may want to check out multi-effect devices. They usually have a ton of stuff in one unit.

What else... don't forget about cables. You'll need a 'balanced xlr' cable for using the microphone, and a few more standard guitar cables for using the wah or any other effects.
posted by tremspeed at 9:57 AM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: ProTools, even at an amateur level, is rather expensive. I wouldn't suggest throwing it at them, as it has a relatively high learning curve, and the technical details of the program might discourage them. Garage band is definitely a great tool for them. It's capable of a lot of complex tasks, but makes them very simple and friendly (like any good piece of mac software). It also has software-instrument capabilities, which means they can program in keyboard lines, drums, or anything else they could think of by either drag-n-drop, or sequencing it themselves.

Using GarageBand as your starting point, you'll want to branch out to an 'interface' to get the audio in and out of the computer (and in and out of GB). These days, all you need is a simple USB interface, like the M Audio Fast Track. Simple, affordable, and plug-n-play. It has RCA outputs (the red and white plugs) so that you can hook up virtually and stereo speakers to it, also has a headphone out. It also has a line-in (for instruments) and a XLR input for microphones. However, it doesn't have phantom power (an added boost to power condeser microphones, which are higher grade- you shouldn't need one to start them off).

Speaking of microphones, you can buy a SHURE SM-58, a vocal derivative of the go-to dynamic microphone for the entire industry, with a stand and mic clip for about $130 from ZZ sounds. The quality and durability is perfect for teenagers in their initial steps of bedroom recording.

With GarageBand, The Fast Track USB, the SHURE SM58, a decent pair of cans, and some sort of speaker set up (if the mac has external speakers with a subwoofer, those will do just fine), they'll be well on their way to laying down some killer tunes.

It's how I got started.

By the way, you're an awesome mom for doing this for your children, and if I had been working at any of those music shops, I would have been more than happy to help.
posted by self at 10:48 AM on September 9, 2008

Best answer: And yes, don't forget the cables!

To clarify a few things (I should have previewed):

1) The Line-In on the Fast-Track USB is for instruments like guitar, bass guitar, and keyboard (with one of these running from it- caveat: don't buy monster cables, they overcharge. Any 1/4 inch cable will do, really).

2) For future reference, you can get a Midi-Keyboard to plug into the mac, and it will control the GarageBand software keyboards, eliminating the need to buy a stand-alone keyboard (which can be much more expensive for a decent sounding one).

3) You're a way awesome mom.
posted by self at 10:57 AM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys, you've got me headed in the right direction and I appreciate it. Self, of course I know I'm the awesomest mom evarr, but the truth is, if all their heavy equipment is here, then they & their friends will be here too, and relatively safe [or at least I'll keep telling myself that].
posted by headnsouth at 7:26 PM on September 9, 2008

« Older Cheap copy shop in Manhattan?   |   Good Silestone Vendor in New York City Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.