Wednesday, February 02, 2005

GarageBand 2

I just couldn't wait any longer, and plunked down my hard-earned 79 bucks for iLife '05, mainly for GarageBand 2. It is too much fun. After doodling around a number of times using mainly an M-Audio USB keyboard and some of the supplied loops, I finally ransacked the house to find my old microphone and headphones. It was time to find out if Bobby McFerrin is a thousand times better than me, or merely a hundred.

Well, the first try sounded terrible. Not just my voice; I expected that. The recording sounded like an old 78 that had been used as a Frisbee for several summers at the dog park. I fiddled around with the levels for a bit, with no improvement. Hmm. My mic can't be THAT bad. I ended up cranking the noise gate so high, it dropped some of the quieter bits of the vocal. This is a problem for a singer like me with such an expressive dynamic range (yeah, right...).

I unplugged the headphones, intending to fire up iTunes while I Googled for some advice. Uh-oh! Feedback! Better switch the mic off. Huh? The feedback didn't stop. Oh -- forgot to switch the audio input. It had been using that little pinhole mic on the display of the iMac -- no wonder it sounded terrible. I had expected it to switch inputs automatically when I plugged in the mic, like it does for output when I plug in phones.

Anyway, headphones back on, and back into GarageBand. I kept the lousy vocals I'd already recorded, and prepared to add some backing vocals. A little "test, test, one, two," and another head-scratcher. I cranked the level up to 11, and still the meter barely blipped. Oh well. Here goes. As I recorded, the editor window showed a flat line -- nothing. I finished up, played it back, and couldn't hear a thing. I played back just that one track, and I could hear it, but only just.

Back to the OSX audio preferences. This time, I actually took the time to read what was on the screen. Of course! It's a line-level input, not mic-level. I wouldn't have guessed that.

I'll just have to get one of these gizmos, or something, except that I'm all out of USB ports. I had hoped to avoid getting a USB hub. I see the G5 iMacs have three USB ports, the same as the G4 had. Were I the product manager at Apple, I'd push for about eight. Well, at least five.

I also thought about hooking up my old Portastudio, which would solve the mic level problem, but it's just to big. It's an old 424mkII, and more "studio" than "porta" vis-a-vis our small, cluttered office.