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Making Music on a Mac
Did I mention the bundled creative software that comes factory installed with the OS X?-- namely Garageband and iMovie, not to mention freeware such as Audacity which is great to use with Macs also. This software, combined with the built-in hardware that is Mac-standard, is a powerful tool for novices, intermediates and even advanced musicians. The proof is in the ports. The abundance of ports makes for an impressive set of options for connecting peripheral devices such as real or electronic instruments as well as speakers and headphones.
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The Secret Sound Preferences Panel in Mac
You’ll want to go to System Preferences panel and go to Sound and make sure you are choosing the proper settings. If you have a USB audio interface that will show up on your devices there. This is the big secret of sound on computers—you’ll want to get to know this area of Preferences because this is key to recording and playing sound through your Mac. Remember: Go to System Preferences>Sound>and Voila! There is the secret sound panel.
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Mind-boggling, Infinite Possibilities
Garageband ever since Leopard 10.4 has integrated with iMovie so you can finally get around to scoring that soundtrack for that movie idea you’re working on and it will export a song directly into your video edit so you can sync it up. It’s enough to keep any budding film-maker or movie soundtrack scorer genuinely fascinated for a good while, and Garageband is hours of fun too—and it’s just user-friendly enough and intuitive to give any computer-savvy musician a real taste of recording, mixing and re-mastering too. You might say the Mac gives one almost too many options for being creative, because the options are mind-bogglingly infinite once you begin to realize the possibilities.
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If you’re not listening on headphones, you’ll want to get a basic set of PC speakers which can be purchased very cheaply, especially if you buy them used. I recommend PC speakers for when you want some light music to brighten your morning or jumpstart your day. The good thing about Macs is that most come with an eighth inch (1/8) size plug, which is also called an audio line-out port, which is standard for most earphones, earbuds, and PC speakers. You can also run a device through the USB port which may in fact give you better sound quality.
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Sound Recording 101
The built-in Mic can pick up quite a bit of noise, voice or acoustic instrument or anything else that makes a sound in the background. You can adjust the sensitivity of the microphone to pick up more or less, just the same way you can adjust the audio line-out for volume also. If you have an audio interface such as the USB M-Audio Fast Track you can plug a microphone or instrument directly into that instead, and you’ll get a much more professional sound, a very pure take of whatever instrument you are using, instead of the noisy built-in Mic. But the built-in Mic may work fine for a nice raw acoustic sounds. You don’t have to be a sound engineer to start playing around with sounds on the Mac. Garageband has digitally and officially replaced the four-track, okay maybe not completely but it’s sure lots of fun.
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Mac and Music: Who knew?
I recommend a USB audio interface if you want to get into some more professional quality recording. For podcasts and DIY song tracks that you can mix yourself in Garageband, you can probably use the built-in Mic. Now, you’ve got a host of editing equipment, from sound to video at your fingertips, which is surprisingly easy to use. If you want to enjoy some tasty tunes through your speakers or in hi-def sound quality through some cushy headphones, I recommend finding a radio station that you like. In case you didn’t know, iTunes has a ton of radio stations available. So go to it, do this now, Macs are made for music!