GarageBand 2 multi-tracking

Macworld forum visitor Luther Vespers is interested in recording his band with GarageBand 2. He writes:

I recently purchased iLife ‘05 and installed GarageBand 2. It said it had multi-track recording capabilities. There must be some sort of device that hooks up to my computer that will split my band’s instruments. Do you know what this is called or where I can purchase such a device?

It’s true that GarageBand 2 can record up to eight real instrument tracks (digital audio) and one software instrument track (MIDI using the program’s built-in sounds) simultaneously. What you’re looking for is a compatible multi-input audio interface such as Mark of the Unicorn’s $795 828mkII FireWire audio interface.

$795!? Yes, you read it right. Multi-input audio interfaces aren’t cheap as they’re intended for the semi-pro and professional market.

The good news here is that GarageBand 2 handles this with aplomb. I plugged just such an interface into my 1.25GHz PowerBook G4 and was able to record those eight simultaneous audio tracks and one virtual instrument track with nary a hiccup.

If you’re a musician—and therefore, starving—you could do this the old-fashioned or old-old fashioned way. The old-old-fashioned way is to route all the instruments into a mixing board, come up with a live mix that works for you, and record the entire band into a single stereo track. If it was good enough for Elvis, Miles, and Ellington, it should be good enough for you.

The old-fashioned way is to create the tune one track at a time. With GarageBand you can make this a little easier by creating a virtual band with GarageBand’s loops to sketch out the song—laying down canned bass and drum parts should get you started. With the frame of the song there, replace your virtual tracks with real instruments a track at a time.

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