Is GarageBand Used by Professional Musicians?


If you are just starting out with music production, it can be tricky to know what equipment you absolutely must have and what you could wait a little while to acquire. You definitely need a DAW if you need to record your music. But does that mean you need to use Logic Pro, Cubase or other feature-packed DAWs straight away? Or is GarageBand sufficient?

And is GarageBand used by the pros? GarageBand has in fact been used by many professional music producers and singers like Steve Lacy, T-Pain, Rihanna, and Oasis. You can install it on all your Apple devices, making it a very versatile DAW for music production. That said, GarageBand has some limitations and you will need to use other plugins and apps with it in order to maximize its potential. 

Let’s look at how you can enhance your experience of using GarageBand as your main DAW, as well as pointing out its limitations in this post.

GarageBand was Created for Everyone – Including Pros

First of all, I want you to ignore the people who say that you cannot use GarageBand for professional projects. Because those opinions certainly do exist out there. Those people have not spent enough time with GarageBand to justify their claims. 

Why do I want you to ignore them? Because I have done it myself, with surprisingly great results. I once worked on a commercial for a company that sold fireplaces, and I needed to use GarageBand. At the time I was a regular user of Logic Pro 9, but after the last software update, it was no longer compatible with the latest OS. And I did not have the time to do something about that issue. I had to use GarageBand. 

GarageBand is a DAW that comes with your Apple computer or iPad. As you probably know, Steve Jobs was the mastermind behind it. He wanted to democratize musicmaking for all music creators and it has been a free product ever since. 

So if you already have an Apple device, you already have access to your own little recording studio.

The only thing you actually would need to create and record music these days is a computer or just an iPhone! You can use your Apple keyboard as a MIDI keyboard and download fairly extensive amounts of free sample instruments like strings, pianos, guitars, and synths. 

You have actually waaaay more features put together in GarageBand than the music studios behind the famous hit songs you grew up with could ever dream of.

Oh, and again, it’s free.

GarageBand – your own little recording studio!

Pro Musicians who Have Used GarageBand

As I mentioned, I have delivered music to commercials that I made in GarageBand. 

But there are examples of much more famous musicians who used GarageBand to create music. I did some research on this, and I have put together all the information in a neat, little package for you.

Let’s kick it off with the one singer that every single blog post out there has to mention when speaking of this topic.

1. Rihanna
You have probably heard the massive hit Umbrella. The opening drum rhythm from this famous Rihanna song is actually a GarageBand loop called Vintage Funk Kit 03. Just test it out yourself by setting the tempo to around 90 BPM. 

So, if you have been thinking that the loops that come with GarageBand are not even worth considering using, think again!

It was certainly good enough for one of the greatest pop stars in the last decade.


2. Steve Lacy
In this interview with Wired, the young Grammy-nominated producer Steve Lacy revealed that he actually preferred to make beats on his iPhone, using GarageBand. He also uses an interface adapter called iRig to connect his guitar to the phone. If you are intrigued by this, remember that you need an iPhone with a headphone jack!

Again, what makes GarageBand so great is that you can install it on all your Apple devices from the MacBook to the iPhone. 

Personally, I always have my iPad Mini with me, and when I get an idea for a music piece, I sketch it down in GarageBand. If you too have an iPad or iPhone, you can download GarageBand for free from the App Store. 


3. T- Pain
The man with a very recognizable auto-tune voice made his 2005 debut album Rappa Ternt Sanga on his laptop using GarageBand.

GarageBand was released for the first time in 2004. And back then, it had limited editing and effect options compared to the version you get today. The number of virtual instruments, synthetic instruments and VST effects that are featured in GarageBand today is around 40 times higher now. 

So if T-Pain could create and release an album with GarageBand featuring way fewer options back in 2005, you can definitely do it today.  


4. Grimes
In 2012 the Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes released Visions. The album received lots of praise from critics and was recorded entirely with GarageBand. In addition, she used a Roland Juno G-Keyboard, vocal pedals, and a sampler. 

The album was mixed by other people though (La Brique Studio Space). Unfortunately, GarageBand does not have a dedicated mixer screen, as I will come back to later in this post.


5. George Pringle
Her single Carte Postale was recorded in GarageBand. She loves GarageBand and says that if you spend enough time with it, you will get to know it and you ́ll be able to make virtually any kind of sound.  

Which is something I agree with 100%.


6. Justice
The French House duo did not only record their debut album Cross in GarageBand but have continued to use GarageBand and have no plans of stopping. 

Just like Pringle, they say that it is not really about the software you use, but how you use it. The duo has definitely gotten people to raise their eyebrows when they have discovered that their songs are recorded in GarageBand. 


7. Oasis
On what would turn out to be their last album, the rock band from Manchester recorded some of their demos on Gem Archer ́ laptop. 

And what DAW did they use? 

– GarageBand. 

Oasis is not the only one that has recorded demos with GarageBand. Kate Nash, Nine Inch Nails, and Dum Dum Girls are other notable examples.


Pros & Cons of Recording an Album With GarageBand

Yes, you can use VST libraries from Native Instruments in GarageBand.

Pros

  • It comes with your Apple computer and is a free download on other Apple devices.
  • Has lots of free sample instrument downloads.
  • You can make the samples sound more realistic thanks to the reverb, compressor, and other built-in effects.
  • You can install it on all your Apple devices, so wherever in the world you find yourself, you always have the possibility to create music.
Garageband has its limitations, but there are solutions!

Cons

  • The user interfaces offers limited control compared to other DAWs. 
  • It does not have a mixer control screen, which again results in you having less control over your project. 
  • No track grouping.
  • It offers too little editor options for singers. The pitch correction tool is very limited and rudimentary compared to the Flex Pitch in Logic Pro. 
  • Some limits on editing MIDI tracks, like randomize velocity, applying fix note length, etc.

How to use GarageBand Like Professional Musicians

GarageBand has made music production available for everyone. And let ́s face it: a lot of the music made with GarageBand is never going to stand out in the jungle of music out there. 

To make your project stand out you obviously need a knack for well-made compositions. But there are also some free tools you can get to make your GarageBand tracks more polished, professional and authentic.

1. Get a mixer screen 

Some tools are missing from GarageBand however, and one of them is quite critical. The mixer screen

But if you have an iPad, there is a solution: Logic Remote. 

You would think this is only applicable to Logic Pro, but it is also compatible with GarageBand. Download the free app from the App Store and connect it to your Mac. 

How it works: Connect the app once you have opened GarageBand on your Mac. This is done either via your network or USB.

This is from my iPad. A similar message displays on your Mac. Accept the request and voilá! You are connected.

(The iPad and the Mac need to be connected to the same network in order for this to work).

Now your iPad has become a touchscreen mixer, controller and instrument interface!

It actually works on your iPhone as well, but with fewer options than you have on iPad. 

The Logic Remote app is an absolute must-have tool if you work on a computer and own an iPad or iPhone.

Alright, let’s move on to the next tip that really could enhance the quality of your music.


2. Download free VSTs 

LABS by Spitfire is a great free collection of various sample instruments like cellos, pianos, synths and much more.

Companies like Native Instruments and Spitfire offer some fantastic free VST libraries you absolutely must try with GarageBand.

Native Instruments: Download all their free stuff. There is nothing there that would disappoint you.

Spitfire: On their website, you can navigate to the LABS tab. There you can find everything from pianos, strings and charango samples. In addition, you can watch videos on how to install and use them. 


When do I Need to Upgrade to Another DAW?

The cons of GarageBand is that you do not have complete control over your project. Especially the limited user interfaces, lack of a dedicated mixer screen and lack of options on the MIDI editing part made me eventually ready to move on to the more featurepacked Logic Pro 9 back in the day. 

In your early career, Garageband is perhaps the best bargain out there. But at a later stage, you will get more serious with your music, and an upgrade to a more feature-packed DAW is a natural next step. 

And if you produce music with a lot of vocals, Logic Pro would certainly be a better experience for you, with greater control of the vocal editors. 

Even though you can use Logic Remote to have a mixer, GarageBand still falls short for singers.

Not so Rudimentary After all?

As you can see, Garageband is a popular DAW even among professionals. One thing that is important to note though, is that almost every single one of these musicians work with more advanced tools as well.

Because Garageband does have limitations it is important that you find ways to enhance its potential.

For example by using your iPad as a mixer.

One thing is certain: depending on whether you need all possible features out there or not, you can without a doubt see Garageband as a great introduction to working with more advanced DAWs on a later stage. 

Recommended Further Reading

Thomas Leypoldt

Hey there! My name is Thomas and I have been a film composer for over 10 years, delivering music to feature films, documentaries, video games, and commercials. I share everything I have learned on this website, to hopefully be of help to your own development as a musician.

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