Apple Garageband, like most Apple products, is a remarkable tool, but it does face some skepticism from amateur music producers who find its toolset somewhat limited. This digital audio workstation (DAW) does support plugins, but it exclusively uses the Audio Unit (AU) format, which sets it apart from DAWs that often rely on VST plugins.
For a long time, Garageband was known for providing all its additional loops and instruments for free on the App Store. However, things changed with the release of Garageband bundled with OS X Mavericks. Suddenly, half of the once-free instruments and loops became in-app purchases. To add to the complexity, many plugins became incompatible due to Garageband’s shift to exclusively support 64-bit AU component files. It took some time for users to adapt to the revamped user interface and discover how to access their beloved plugins from the previous version.
I’ve encountered similar challenges, but despite these hurdles, I’ve found it quite rewarding to work with Apple Garageband 11, especially when complemented with a selection of free Audio Unit plugins for Garageband. These plugins can be instrumental in helping you achieve the specific sound you have in mind. In the following sections, I’ll introduce you to a few of these free AU plugins for Garageband. Please keep in mind that each of these plugins has its unique strengths and applications, and their suitability may depend on the musical genre and style you’re pursuing.
This is a simple and straightforward plugin that has one big knob with two ends – Bitter and Sweet. With some dynamic compression and limiting effects, the plugin best works on drum tracks. You will be surprised to get those crisp cymbals and post-punkish snare shots even with the default drum-kit on Garageband. Add some reverb to the track and there you go!
Crystal is a synthesizer that gives you warm and soft analog tones to back your mellow work. Although you will also be surprised to find its extended collection of rather abrasive patches best suited to give your tracks an industrial edge during production. Either way, the envelope shapers give plenty of freedom to work with your tone. But I’m sure you’ll get to that only after you have had enough of its almost unending collection of presets patches.
3. SYMPTOHM / MELOHMAN PE
Melohman is another free synthesizer plugin with a number of analog options, but also includes some really cool bass tones as well as some electronic drum samples to get the perfect 2-step garage sound. While the plugin hardly offers freedom to modify your patches, don’t be deceived – the meta patch feature has some crazy modulation options that can turn around rather soft bass lines into heavily ring-modulated metallic drones.
Frohmage is an effects plugin whose working I’ve not yet figured out. I’m absolutely certain there is a filter among other things in there, but I’m not too sure what the other knobs do. Regardless, Frohmage is a plugin one must have in their arsenal if they’re looking for whacky sounds out of very regular instruments. Also works great for trip-hop production with the default jazz drum kit that comes with Garageband.
Each of these comes with unique additions to Garageband. Fiddle around with presets first, and then go on to craft your own tone once you get a hang of what each knob does. Oh, and don’t forget that the automation feature in the Garageband used with these plugins can do wonders with the dynamics of your music!