How to Use Your MacBook Pro as the Ultimate Recording Tool


Apple computers have gotten a lot of praise and customer satisfaction. The simplicity and functionality in a stylish fashion that modern Apple computers possess are one of the reasons for the never-ending approval. When it comes to recording and music production, MAC OS is very reliable because of its powerful processor and hardware integration.

To use the Apple MacBook as the ultimate recording tool, you must purchase one that has at least 8GB of RAM. Next, you need to download and buy the necessary recording software such as your DAWs and VSTs. Lastly, give time to learn how to use the software to your advantage. Getting a MacBook Pro with higher specs is a lot better, but as long as you have the Updated OS, it should be fine.

I may sound like an Apple fanboy, but I’m not. I am just amazed by how incredible these computers and devices perform when it comes to music production. These devices are not only excellent for recording music, but they are also suitable for live performances.

Despite being praised by a lot of satisfied customers, Apple still gets hate from a lot of people. Maybe it is because of how expensive their products are. For me, as a consumer, their prices are somewhat reasonable based on their aesthetic and more importantly, their performance.

The reason why I chose to talk about the MacBook Pro is because of how portable a music studio it can become. Being compact, you can record music almost anywhere inside and outside of your household. Inspiration comes to you when you least think about it. Imagine traveling to different locations when you are on vacation and being able to record music.

The critical point of this article is how you can use your MacBook and only your MacBook as the ultimate recording tool. I won’t discuss any other external equipment, such as Midi devices and audio interfaces. I want you to learn how you can create songs with just a computer. It is either by Midi piano roll editing or the use of pre-made samples.

SUGGESTED UNIT:

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

(Price starts at $1,299)

The best thing about the new MacBook Pro is the Touch Bar. You can use the Touch Bar to control some of the features in Garageband and Logic X Pro. You can use it as a Midi keyboard to play the notes of your virtual instrument for easy recording. On older generation Apple computers without the Touch Bar, you can still use the computer keyboard to play one octave of notes on a piano.

The MacBook Pro is one massive recording console stuffed into one powerful processing device. The internal processor of a MacBook gives it enough speed and reliability to run all the essential apps and plugins for recording.

As you know, DAWs and plugins require a lot of processing power and memory to run correctly. The MacBook Pro is designed for these kinds of applications. Keep in mind that you will have problems if you use low-spec computers for recording.

You can purchase this laptop in Space Gray or Silver.

SPECS

  • 1.4GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
  • 128GB Storage (You might want to buy an external hard drive because the recording will require more massive storage for project files)
  • 8GB memory (Good enough for recording purposes and much more)
  • Apple T2 security chip
  • Retina Display (protects eyes from the stress of spending hours in front of the screen)
  • Touch Bar (many functions for recording and in-software use)
  • Touch ID (Easy log- in and extra security)
  • Two Thunderbolt ports

PROS

  • Dominant processing power best for recording purposes
  • Minimal viruses
  • The sleek and straightforward style that meets its functionality
  • User-friendly interface that is simple and straightforward especially for new users

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Fewer compatible software such as DAWs and VSTs
  • Fewer ports for connectivity (you can always buy a powered USB hub)
  • USB-C instead of regular USB ports

The Pros weigh out most of the cons with this laptop. If you have the budget, I would suggest to always go for a MAC when it comes to music production. I say this not only because most modern professional music producers choose it but based on my experience and research.

MUSIC STUDIO RIGHT OUTSIDE THE BOX

Right after you purchase a MacBook, you can go straight to music production because along with other useful apps, Garageband will be pre-installed on your Apple computer. You can start playing around with the software and discover all the features.

GARAGEBAND

(FREE)

Honestly, most professional producers frown on using this software, but I love using Garageband for producing songs. Maybe the older versions are somewhat beginner software, but this app has improved a lot through the years.

This DAW has instruments, effects, and all the essential tools for mastering such as compression and EQ. It also has tons of samples from Apple loops. You can produce a whole song (without vocals) with the use of the free samples included with the software.

People should not hate on this software because it is free after all. This app is probably the best starter software for aspiring music producers. It has the tools that pro music production software has so you can master this and be familiar with pro-level software at first glance.

Key Features:

  • Touch Bar Features for MacBook Pro

Garageband has more straightforward functions and shortcuts if you have the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. The Touch Bar is a nice feature that works as an extension of the keyboard and Trackpad.

The Touch Bar can be used to play the current patch and selected software instrument track. You can use it as a keyboard to play notes and use it to adjust octaves.

  • Tons of Helpful Recording and Editing Features

Edit your track from right down from the note and decibel. You can fix any issues with rhythm with a click. A wide variety of effect plugins is included to finish and master your track like a pro with compression and equalization.

  • Sound Library with Instrument Presets

It includes a whole library that is full of instruments such as violins, pianos, world instruments, and drums. In addition to this, the sound library consists of a sampler, unique effects on each device, and master track.

  • Guitar and Voice Effects

Garageband has tons of different amps and effects for the guitar you can use to create tones for different types of genres. It includes amps from vintage clean sounds, jazz, ambient, to heavy metal. It also provides guitar pedals such as overdrive, delay, reverb, chorus, compressor, and many more.

You can record vocals like a pro with different effects, such as pitch, reverb, and even harmonization. To get the most out of these effects, you will need an excellent AUDIO INTERFACE.

  • Intuitive Modern Design for Optimized Workflow

The user interface has a design that is very easy to understand and use. The recording process is very straightforward so that you can produce music and podcasts conveniently. The design may look easy to use, but you can create music like a pro.

You can polish your performance and fine-tune the sounds with the easy to use piano roll editor that works with the virtual instruments.

  • 28 Beat Making Drummers

Creating drum tracks will not be much of a problem with a choice of 28 different drummers with different musical styles. You can change the pattern of each drummer to fill in your entire song.

The drummers included play in different genres like rock, EDM, hip-hop, Latin, metal, dubstep, and many more.

  • Powerful Synths with Shape-Shifting Controls

Garageband includes Alchemy Synth, which is a sound module that has a library of powerful synths that sound fantastic. You can edit each of the synths in real-time with features like the transforming pad and X/Y pad.

The synth includes arpeggiators, octave shifters, and bright punchy lead tones. There are over 100 editable presets such as leads, synth bass, and pads inspired by EDM and Hip-hop sounds.

  • Easy Share and Rendering Tracks

One-click sharing and rendering of your tracks is a nice feature so you can share your records straight to your sound cloud and file explorer. Have your friends and followers listen to your produced track or podcast with one click.

LOGIC X PRO

(Price: $199)

Logic Pro Xis next-level software for you after mastering how to use Garageband. It is like the Pro version of Garageband. Logic X Pro and Garageband are pretty much the same because the same company develops them. Garageband is the lite version, and Logic is the full version. If you thought that GB has it all, wait till you see Logic.

Logic Pro X has tons of features and instruments that make it a music production onslaught. This powerhouse of a DAW is the all-around virtual studio that you need to for your MacBook. Imagine thousands of dollars worth of instruments packed in one digital audio workstation.

This software turns your MacBook into a full-blown professional studio that enables you to handle all your projects. The recording and editing features of Logic X Pro is extremely broad.

  • Smart Tempo

This feature is mostly used by DJ music producers for live performances. It helps them improve their track transitions to make it more seamless. The feature makes mixing and matching musical tracks and beats without worrying about going out of tempo.

  • Extensive Loop Selection

Logic X Pro has over 7000 royalty-free samples for creating songs quickly. You can mix and match these apple loops without worrying about pitch and tempo. Just set the key you want your song to be in, and the rest is all downhill from there. Creating songs has never been this easy.

  • Flex Time

This feature is like the quantize feature in most DAWs. By simply moving individual beats around the project timeline, the tracks automatically align with each other. For example—when you move a vocal track adjacent to a guitar track, the waveform automatically aligns itself without slicing the tracks.

  • Flex Pitch

Don’t worry about making slight vocal mistakes within a take. Flex pitch gives you the ability to precisely adjust the pitch and make all your tracks stay in tune.

  • Logic Remote

You can use your Apple mobile devices for extra multi-touch control for live performances and mixing. You can assign any of Logic Pro’s software instruments and effects to your iPad or iPhone for easier tweaking for workflow optimization.

  • Multi-Touch Mixing

Control your mix from anywhere in the room using your mobile device. You can assign your master mixer and faders to your mobile device.

  • Drummer

This feature is the extended version of the Garageband drummer plugin. Instead of adding a drum track, this feature is like adding a bandmate. Choose from dozens of drummers who each play different styles and genres. By simply playing different chords and dynamics, the smart drummer changes their drum feel and drum fills.

  • Extensive Acoustic Drum Editing

With this feature, you can customize your own drum kit. This feature allows you to customize your drum kit by swapping each of the pieces to shape the sound of your ideal drum sound.

  • Plugins and Sounds

Logic X Pro has over 1000 instruments and hundreds of effect plugins that you can easily shape with the smart control features.

  • Instruments
    • Alchemy synths
      • Studio strings and studio brass
      • ES2 Synth
      • Retro synths
      • Vintage keyboards
      • Arpeggiators
      • Drum kit designer
      • Samplers
  • Effects
    • ChromaVerb
      • Vintage EQ collection
      • Step FX
      • Compressor
      • Phat FX
      • Channel EQ
      • Space Designer
      • Ringshifter
      • Amp designer
      • Pedalboard
      • Bass amp designer
  • Loops
    • Urban loops
      • Hip-hop
      • Electro house
      • Dubstep
      • Modern R&B
      • Tech house
      • Deep house
      • Chillwave
      • Vintage breaks
      • Indie
      • Disco
      • Disco funk
      • Blues garage

VST INSTRUMENT PLUGINS

Musicians often have GAS which stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. We can’t stop buying new gear. It makes us musicians happy. Even if your DAW has all of the essential instruments built-in the software, most producers still like to play around with other unique virtual instruments. Downloading new virtual instruments is the GAS of the virtual studio world.

Here are some virtual instruments that are compatible with Garageband and Logic:

TYRELL N6

The Tyrell N6 is a German-made free synth plugin that contains futuristic tones and presets that are so good to be free. You wouldn’t think that the Tyrell N6 is free to download. The Tyrell N6 Features:

  • Virtual Analogue

It is a virtual analog synthesizer that works just like hardware synths. You can create your sounds by tweaking oscillators, waveforms, and ring modulation.

  • 2 oscillators, noise and ring modulation

It has two built-in oscillators that can create a powerful synthesis suitable for electronic music. You can generate distinctive rhythmic patterns, ambient tones, and cutting-edge leads and bass.

  • 2 LFOs and 8 waveforms

This free plugin has two low-frequency oscillators at eight kinds of waveforms so you can create different types of shapes for the tones you make. From saw wave to a triangle and just pure noise, this free plugin has it all.

  • Audio source mixer

The Tyrell N6 has its mixer so you can mix presets and user patches. The mixer can be adjusted so you can record the sounds to blend well in the current mix you are working on in your DAW.

  • Over 580 factory presets

Unbelievably, a FREE VST plugin can contain over 500 good-sounding presets. From dark, ominous tones, science-fiction sounds, to electronic music.

MT POWER DRUM KIT 2

This drum plugin is an amazing acoustic drum simulator. This plugin is excellent for creating rock and roll drum tracks. You can adjust the velocity of the drum tracks to make it sound more realistic. It comes with several drum patterns if you’re experiencing writer’s block.

The drums on this plugin are already pre-mastered and mixed to sound well in any mix.

This virtual drum kit sounds very realistic; it seems as if you recorded authentic organic drums. You can choose over thousands of different rhythms in the comprehensive groove library. Sometimes you need the right drum track to start recording, and the MT POWER DRUM KIT 2 has you covered. You can adjust the levels of the drums individually—for example, you can make the bass or kick drum louder and more distinguished in the mix.

I recommended this VST plugin for rock, jazz, funk, and metal music. If you are more into making electronic music, all the drum presets on Garageband will work perfectly for you.

VST EFFECTS AND EQ

Here are some additional effects of having fun with to enhance your tracks further:

ROUGH RIDER (FREE)

This free compressor plugin is free to download, but despite that, it works great. It adds a vintage and warm kick to your tracks. It is perfect for adding compression to drums, guitar, synth, and vocal tracks. It is essential to add uniformity to your sound levels.

IZOTOPE VOCAL DOUBLER

Recording excellent vocals can be tricky as it has to blend in well in the mix.  Vocals have to stand out in the mix without compromising the sound of the instruments. Good thing there is a free plugin like the Vocal Doubler. This plugin is perfect for recording vocals and adding a touch of spacey reverb. You can use this plugin to create multiple vocals and harmonies to enhance the sound of vocals on a track.

VINYL BY IZOTOPE

This free plugin is a vinyl simulator. It is excellent for creating lo-fi hip-hop tracks. It features advanced filtering, modeling, and resampling. It creates an authentic vinyl simulation. It’s like listening to audio straight from a record payer.

MFREE FX BUNDLE

Melda Productions offer a variety of modulation effects for free. Garageband may have most of the effects and plugins built-in, but it wouldn’t hurt to try something else. All the effects in this bundle are free to use, and you won’t believe how well they are.

 Here are some of their free effect plugins:

  • MAUTOPITCH

This plugin is an auto pitch software perfect for vocal tweaking. You can adjust the peaks of vocal tracks to stay in tune, so you do not have to go and record it all over again. It does not sound so robotic and digital that it would be obvious. It is not like the autotune. It has a more natural pitch correction.

  • MAUTOPAN

Auto Pan is an excellent effect for modulating the stereo sound of your audio track. You can make your records warp around from left to right or the other way around through surround sound or headphones. This effect adds a little spice to your tracks.

  • MBITFUN

This effect explores different textures and distortion. It is a distortion effect not only for the guitar but for other instruments as well. It is a fun distortion that has different parameters to explore, unlike the traditional distortion for guitar.

  • MFLANGER

The MFLANGER is an excellent free flange effect that creates spacey tones for your recording. This effect has several parameters like the mix, tone, pattern, and many more.

  • MPHASER

You can bring your monotonous clean tones to life with this phaser effect. It is not only suitable for guitar, but it is also great for vocals, bass, and synths as well. You can go and try to experiment with different instruments with this as well.

  • MTERMOLO

The MTREMOLO is an interesting tremolo effect that will sound great with guitar tracks. It can give your guitar tracks an incredible stutter effect.

  • MVIBRATO

You can add dynamic range to your tracks with this subtle vibrato effect. You can adjust the mix and level to match what you want to hear. Almost every effect of this free bundle sounds fantastic.

NOVA-67P

The Nova 67-P is a visual eq tool you can use for both compression and equalization. It is a suitable add on for Garageband and other DAW. This effect is not that easy to understand at first, but when you get the hang of how to use it, it will help you polish your tracks.

VST FOR MIXING AND MASTERING

Now that you have all your tracks dialed in, here are some plugins for the final tweaking and mastering.

iZOTOPE RX

(Price: $129)

The iZotope RX Elements is an Audio Restoration and Enhancement app that is perfect for improving the quality of our audio tracks. Unlike the simplicity of the ERA pack, the RX is much more precise when it comes to adjustments. Some of the features are the De-clip, De-hum, De-click, and De-noise. 

It works the same as the ERA, with many more options than just one knob. This plugin makes the process more comprehensive.

ERA 4 SOFTWARE BUNDLE

(Price: $149)

The Era Bundle is a collection of cleaning plugins that are very easy to use. The plugins have single knobs for simplicity. By purchasing this software bundle, it’s the easiest way to master your audio tracks hassle-free. For best results, the raw audio tracks must be error-free and recorded well.

 The bundle comes with:

  • Noise remover

The noise remover easily cleans up and reduces unwanted noise on your audio track, like electric hums, fans, and any other background noise.

  • Reverb Remover

The Reverb Remover easily removes the unwanted reverb from the room acoustics. The excessive reverb is quickly reduced to bring focus to your tracks.

  • Voice Leveler

This one-knob voice leveler easily compresses and limits the sound of your vocal tracks.

  • De- Esser

This fantastic app can quickly fix the speech of your vocal tracks. Sometimes the lyrics are hard to pronounce, and you over-pronounce syllables, but this excellent app can fix that problem.

  • Plosive Remover

This plugin minimizes the pop-ups and excessive thumps from your vocal tracks. Sometimes breathing on your microphone when recording is unavoidable. Good thing there is the plosive remover.

  • De-Clipper

You can instantly reduce audio clipping with the De-Clipper. The high volume can be chopped off, so you have consistent sound levels in seconds.

MAC VS PC

A long-time argument by consumers, which of these two operating systems are better than the other? As I said in one of my previous articles, both of them have unique characteristics that people can take advantage of to help them with their tasks.

As you have maybe noticed already, I prefer Mac over PC because of the simplistic look and maximum multi-tasking functions that it offers.  Windows computers are capable of doing the same purposes depending on the computer and the processor you chose. I have used PCs for as long as I can remember, but when I switched to MAC, I never came back.

Windows computers have several advantages over a Mac, and this is why a lot of consumers prefer PC. Here are some examples I can think of at the top of my head:

  • PC has extensive customization features
  • Hardware upgrades are more common in PC
  • A lot more computer developers and companies are licensed to use Windows
  • More variety of computers and devices
  • Lower price

RELATED INFORMATION

MAINTENANCE

Always maintain your MacBook by updating the OS regularly. Regularly updating the operating system enhances your computer’s performance. It is the same thing as your car’s regular maintenance, oil change, and tire rotation. The software developers are continually improving their software for customer satisfaction by releasing updates regularly. It is your job to install these updates.

To extend the life of your laptop’s battery, as much as possible, do not use it while it is charging. Do not overcharge. Some people might say that it automatically stops charging when the battery is full. In this case, the computer consumes battery power when it still on or on rest mode, and it will continuously charge until it is complete. In many instances, this instance will damage the battery and will not last long.

To extend the life of your computer’s battery, you can access the energy-saving settings on the MacBook. You may also want to decrease the brightness and turn off the keyboard’s LED if not needed.

To maintain the speed of the MacBook, do not access any unsecured websites and you should always do regular cache and cookies cleanup on the browser. Another useful tip is to declutter your computer from unnecessary files and apps you do not use anymore.

DON’T FORGET TO BRING HEADPHONES

Headphones are essential when making music remotely. It’s a better way to monitor your tracks, especially when you are outdoors. The built-in speaker on a computer may not give out the low-end frequencies you want to monitor and edit.

Having professional headphones is crucial in music production. Sometimes your songs would not sound as good with other speakers, so having accurate studio headphones is vital for producing good-quality music.

Suggested Products:

  • Beats Studio3 Wireless

(Price: $280)

These headphones are excellent for studio monitoring. The long-lasting battery of these wireless over-ear headphones is perfect for hours of use. With wireless technology, these headphones are very convenient to use almost anywhere, just like your laptop.

Specs:

  • 12 hours of battery life
  • Fast charging (5 minutes = 1-hour usage)
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Sweat and water-resistant
  • Over-ear comfort
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

(Price: $140)

The ATH-M50x professional studio headphones are critically acclaimed and praised by pro audio engineers and producers for its accurate frequency playback. This set of headphones is durable because of the copper-clad aluminum wire coils. The frequency range on these studio headphones is exceptional.

Specs:

  • Clear sound and clarity
  • Excellent sound isolation
  • Professional-grade earpad comfortable for hours of use
  • 90-degree swiveling earcups for one-ear monitoring and portability
  • 45mm driver
  • 96 dB sensitivity
  • 1600 MW of power
  • Sennheiser HD280PRO

(Price: $100)

If you want a more affordable set of headphones, the Sennheiser HD280PRO is an excellent choice. Despite it being on the lower price range, these headphones have an extended and accurate frequency response and warm, natural sound production. It is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably.

Specs:

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Padded ear cups
  • Replaceable head padding
  • High ambient noise attenuation
  • Durable single-sided coiled cable
  • Additional stereo features

WHAT I WISHED APPLE COMPUTERS HAD

Sometimes I wish there were more compatible recording software with Mac OS. The compatible software and virtual instruments with Apple are fantastic, but I wish they had more. Windows computers have a wider variety of software and free software to choose from. The only disadvantage of having more choices is, sometimes the apps are not that great.

Another thing I wish that Apple had is the option of upgrading hardware within a laptop or desktop. Unlike Windows PC builds, you cannot update the hardware like the RAM, Processor, or Motherboard. However, the design of Apple hardware is integral and works perfectly without any upgrades. The only downside to that, you have to buy a new computer when your device gets outdated.

Having to buy a new computer every five years or so will cost a lot of money. That is why it is best to maintain your equipment properly and back up all your files on the cloud or external hard drives.

MOBILE DEVICES

Aside from your MacBook, it is also possible to produce music using your iPhone or iPad. If having a portable studio on your lap is not enough, imagine a studio in your pocket. You wouldn’t get the same quality as you would on a computer, but it is still surprising that mobile recording is a possibility nowadays.

You can still produce quality music on an iPhone or iPad if you are a skilled producer. The apps on mobile devices almost have the same functions as the virtual instruments and effects on a computer.

MOBILE APPS

Recording software such as Garageband and FL studio each have their mobile app counterparts that are functional for producing quality music. The iPhone is full of quality DAWs. In my opinion, recording on a computer is a different ball game than mobile recording. It is because of how you

use the apps and how you can use the touch screen of a mobile device to your advantage

Here the features of Garageband on iOS:

  • GARAGEBAND iOS

(Price: FREE)

Garageband is one of iOS’s staple apps, and it comes free for when you purchase your iPhone. It comes with a variety of different instruments and loops, Garageband will surely astonish you with its features. Some features like the live loops are a fantastic addition to the mobile app that Garageband for Mac does not include. Producing music on this app is very simple and straightforward.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Live Loops– One of my favorite features in Garageband is the live loops feature. With this feature,  you can tap cells to launch beats and layer them. You can use it at parties to impress your friends and pretend you’re a professional DJ. With the live effects, you can easily manipulate the sounds with its filter, reverb, delay, and chop effects.

You can also arm the loops and record a sequence on the timeline. It is an excellent technique for faster recording. This technique is suitable for recording a normal song with a lot of repetition—for example, intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-outro kind of songs.

  • Drum Sequencer- This fantastic feature lets you make your drum patterns with perfectly measured time. It is so easy to use even if you are not a drummer. You can still create awesome drum patterns. It includes presets and randomization.
  • AMP Collection– Garageband features a list of fantastic guitar and bass amps. From dreamy space reverb amps to your ROCK-AND-ROLL hi-gain amps, to your clean jazzy amps for whatever you’re in the mood to create. You can also use these for live guitar performances with the amp and effects simulation. Make sure you connect it to a reliable audio interface.
  • Synth Collection– Garageband includes Alchemy, one of the world’s most advanced synthesizers. Apple has hundreds of editable presets you will surely enjoy plus the classic synth sounds of the ’80s. Each of the included presets are editable to its core.
  • Sound Library- Apple introduces the sound library. It contains over eight sound packs from different genres that are free. It features world music from Japanese instruments to your classic Roland 808’s. The sound library is updated regularly, and developers add a lot of new tools and live loops for your enjoyment.

The iPhone has tons of amazing apps and audio unit plugins for music production. If you want to learn tips for iPhone music production, click here.

RECORDING VOCALS

You can record vocals with the built-in mic on your laptop, but it will not sound professional even if you do it in an isolated area. Getting a suitable microphone is the best way to capture accurate vocals on your computer.

You will need an audio interface to record vocals with a separate microphone. However, you can purchase a USB microphone so you won’t need an audio interface.

CONCLUSION

I am amazed by the fact that it is possible to produce and record high-quality music with a laptop. Back in the day, bands had to work hard to get studio time or a record deal. These days anyone can share their music with the world in a day’s work. Music production is truly advancing because of modern technology so people like us, who love to create music, should grasp this fantastic opportunity!

If you are a beginner you should definitely start with Garageband, then move on to using Logic X PRO if you decide to step up your game.

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