GarageBand Tutorial for Podcasters: How to Setup, Record, and Edit a Podcast on a Mac
Few things have changed the landscape of audio production like Apple's GarageBand, released in 2005. As a free app included with macOS and iOS, it's been a crucial first step in the burgeoning careers of many future home studio pros (this writer included).
Together with other free sound apps like Audacity, GarageBand has helped fuel the meteoric growth of podcasting by lowering the barrier to entry for recording quality sound.
It's an intuitive and user-friendly app to record, edit, mix, and export podcast episodes with pro-level quality.
If you're a Mac user ready to start a podcast in GarageBand, look no further than this guide!
Note - This tutorial is for the Macbook/iMac version of GarageBand. This process will still work if you like to edit your podcast on an iPad or iPhone, just know that there are fewer editing functions available on the mobile version of GarageBand.
If you can't find GarageBand on your MacBook or iMac, you can download it for free in the App Store.
Step 1 - Set up a template
When you first open GarageBand, it will give you the option to create a new GarageBand project either from a Factory Template selection or as an Empty Project. You'll be creating a custom recording template, so choose 'Empty Project.'
Once the main GarageBand window opens, it will prompt you to add your first track from a selection of track types. Choose 'microphone' and select the input your mic is connected to, then tap 'Create.' Your track will appear in the workspace in the upper right (default name 'Audio 1'), next to Garageband's Library section and above the settings for that track. Feel free to close the library section for now. You can verify and, if necessary, edit your microphone input settings under the Recording Settings tab at the bottom.
How robust you make your template is up to you. If your typical setup includes multiple microphones, click the "+" icon at the top left and repeat these steps to create new tracks for each additional channel. Make sure to assign the correct inputs in Recording Settings for each audio track you create. You may also want to go ahead and include tracks for any music or sound effects you regularly use in your episodes. Do the same thing for these, adding an audio microphone track, but set the input to 'None' since you will not be recording to these tracks. If you want to customize further or differentiate your tracks, you can rename them by double-clicking on the track title, and you can even change the track icon by right-clicking on the default blue waveform.
Next, we'll turn our attention to the Transport section at the top. By default the Transport section displays music project information like beats-per-minute, key, time signature, etc. that doesn't apply to podcast recording. To simplify the display, choose 'Time' from the transport dropdown menu. You'll notice the workspace grid switch from beats to timecode. Turn off the metronome and count-in features to the right of the transport display simply by clicking on them – you'll see them gray out.
From here, you'll save your recording template to your desired hard drive location using File > Save As.
Step 2 - Recording in GarageBand
Now that your recording template is set up, it's time to put it to use!
When you open your template, you'll immediately want to 'Save As' a new file so that you don't accidentally change any settings or record audio into the template file. It can be helpful to think through your file organization before you get too many episodes in. Consistent naming conventions and folder structure will simplify your podcasting life.
Now that you've saved your new project let's get started. Depending on whether you're recording solo or with one or more guests, you'll use either a single track or multitrack setup.
Single track recording
If you're recording a solo podcast all you'll need to do is hit the record button in the transport (or use the keyboard shortcut R). Double-check that your mic settings for the track are correct and record a test to make sure your levels are good. If you're too loud or too soft, adjust the input gain on your interface to compensate. You want to be loud enough to hear yourself clearly, but not so loud that the meters are hitting yellow or red territory.
If you're recording a multi-person podcast you'll likely want to record each person on their own track. This allows for greater flexibility in mixing down the line by keeping each sound source separate.
To add an additional track, click the + symbol in the top left corner. You'll select 'microphone track' again, but this time you'll want to choose the appropriate input for each additional mic (input 2, input 3, etc.). Click 'create.'
With your additional track added, it's a good idea to rename each track by speaker – "Travis," "Rick," etc. – to avoid any confusion.
By default, GarageBand only records to one track a time. To enable multitrack recording, go to the menu bar and choose Track> Configure Track Header. You can also right-click on any track and choose Configure Track Header or use the keyboard shortcut option+T. In the dialog that opens, tick the box next to 'Record Enable' to toggle it on. This will add the record-enable button to each track.
When you're ready to start, toggle on the record-enable button on each track you want to record. They'll begin flashing, indicating that the tracks are armed. To disarm a track, click the record-enable button again. Any armed tracks will record simultaneously when you press the record button.
Note – if you are unable to arm multiple tracks, double-check your Recording Settings for each and make sure you have selected separate inputs. GarageBand will not record the same input to multiple tracks.
Make sure you have your outline or interview questions handy, take a sip of water, and start recording!
Step 3 - Editing in Garageband
Once your recording is complete, the next step toward finishing your podcast is to edit it. We'll focus on GarageBand-specific tips here, but check out How to Edit a Podcast: The Step-by-Step Guide for a more comprehensive overview of podcast editing.
In addition to simply dragging audio regions around in the workspace, there are a few bread-and-butter tools in GarageBand that will do most of the heavy lifting in your edit. Let's walk through them.
The trim tool allows you to shorten an audio clip by dragging in from the edge (to reveal previously trimmed audio, drag the edge back out). The trim tool in GarageBand appears when you hover your cursor over the lower right edge of an audio region.
An example use case might be that your intro music is longer than you need it to be. Using the trim tool, you can shorten the intro music region to an appropriate length.
Split Regions At Playhead
Another essential editing feature in GarageBand is the Split Regions at Playhead tool, accessible from the menu bar via Edit > Split Regions at Playhead or using the keyboard shortcut Command+T. With this tool, any selected region will split into two separate regions, which can then be independently moved, trimmed, etc.
An excellent time-saving feature to use in conjunction with this is Edit > Delete and Move. Let's say you have a few seconds of an interview that you want to delete from your edit. You could isolate the offending region via Split Regions at Playhead and delete it, then close the resulting gap by dragging everything that follows to the left. Delete and Move performs those two steps at once, both removing the region you don't want and moving the regions that follow automatically.
Once you've trimmed an audio region or used the Split at Playhead tool, the result may be a truncated clip that stops abruptly. GarageBand doesn't have a Fade tool like many other DAWs, so you'll need to use automation to create volume changes.
To access volume automation, use the keyboard shortcut A or from the menu bar choose Mix > Show Automation. GarageBand defaults to show volume automation, but you can also automate many other parameters by selecting from each track's dropdown menu.
With automation visible, click anywhere on a region in the workspace to create an automation node. A bright yellow line will appear, and you can add additional nodes. Drag a node down or up to decrease or increase the volume level for that track at the given moment.
Editing Music in GarageBand
GarageBand is, first and foremost, a music editing software. You can apply each of these techniques to royalty-free music tracks (think Intro and Outro segments) and also create your very own music tracks as well.
You can record real instruments (like a guitar or drum kit) or use one of the virtual instruments that come with GarageBand (like synth, keyboard, or one of the software instruments). Just add a new instrument track for each layer and experiment with creating your very own theme music.
Pro Tip - Apple Loops are prerecorded musical phrases or riffs in the Loop Browser that you can use to easily add drum beats, rhythm parts, and other sounds to a project. These loops contain musical patterns that can be repeated over and over, and can be extended to fill any amount of time.
We recommend composing any music tracks in a separate GarageBand project so you can focus on dialing in the perfect tune without it being impacted by the other parts of your podcast episode.
Step 4 - Episode Assembly and Mixing in GarageBand
Once you've edited your recorded content to your liking, you'll need to arrange and mix the tracks into a cohesive episode. There is no uniform way to do this, but it's generally a best practice not to put multiple types of audio on the same track. Music, sound effects, and each voice, for example, should be kept on their own tracks.
Arranging Your Tracks
One option to get you started is to arrange your audio tracks chronologically, beginning at the top. In this example, we have an intro clip taken from the interview that starts the episode, followed by theme music on a track just below, then intro narration, then the interview itself, and so on. This arrangement affords a level of visual organization, with audio cascading from top left to bottom right.
Another option is to use one track per audio source so that any track-level effect processing you do (EQ, compression, etc.) only has to be set once. In this setup, the intro clip would be on the same track as the interview, since they're from the same source. Intro and outro narration would be on one track, assuming both segments were taken from the same recording. Intro and outro music could potentially be on the same track if you're not using different processing on them. In addition to track-level effects, this approach can minimize the number of tracks you use in your mix and save vertical real estate in your workspace.
Mixing Your Tracks
At its heart, mixing is simply the process of striking a good balance between the levels of your different tracks. You want to avoid extreme differences in volume as your listeners move from intro music to narration to the interview, etc. We recommend using the voice level of your recording as the baseline for setting other levels – music, sound effects, etc.
In GarageBand, each track has a metered volume slider in the track header. Listen to your episode content and make sure the voice levels are triggering a healthy green on the meter. If they're reaching yellow or red, turn them down accordingly. Next, set any intro or outro music to a level that sounds consistent with the voice level – not significantly louder or softer. Do the same with any sound effects, narration, and so on. Balancing the volume of each track in this way will give you what's called a static mix.
Once you've set your static mix (overall volume for each track), you can leverage the power of automation. Add volume automation to music to dip it under your intro narration or to fade the level out smoothly and gradually. If there are any cuts in your audio that cause a pop or click, you can use the GarageBand automation "crossfade" trick to eliminate them.
Next, you may want to use audio processing plugins like EQ or compression to shape the tone or dynamic range of your material. Don't go overboard – a "less is more" approach is recommended in most cases. Make sure that any effects processing doesn't add or subtract volume from your static mix – those levels you liked at the outset are your true north. Some plugins include an output control to raise or lower the volume back to its unprocessed level, but you can also use Garageband's Gain plugin, located under the 'Utility' section of the plugin list.
If you're looking for even more mixing and mastering capabilities, consider upgrading to Logic Pro X, Apple's pro-level audio editing software (available in the app store).
Step 5 - Export your podcast
Before you export your final episode, hit the play button and listen to each segment of the episode to look for any mistakes you might have missed during the editing process. When you're pleased with the mix, the next step is to export it as a single audio file to upload to your podcast host for distribution.
In the menu bar, click Share > Export Song to Disk. A dialog will open where you can name your file, choose a destination for it, and select your export format (wav, mp3, etc.) and file quality. Click 'Export,' and GarageBand will export your mixed file to disk.
It's worth noting that mp3s are a preferred format for podcasting because of their compressed file size. Smaller files = quicker downloads and a better listener experience. However, to ensure the best audio quality, you should still export an uncompressed .wav file. Your host and mastering services like Auphonic will automatically transcode your file to mp3 during their process, so if you're unsure of the ins and outs of file formats, it's best to upload at a higher quality and let them handle it.
With your file exported, go for a cup of coffee or a walk to refresh your ears. Come back when you're ready & listen through the episode for quality control. Once you're satisfied, upload to Auphonic or directly to your host for distribution and wait for the fan mail to hit your inbox.