Learning Guitar on GarageBand - What to buy starting from nothing?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by JoelMarcey, Jul 25, 2010.

  1. JoelMarcey macrumors 6502


    Jun 9, 2009
    Northern California
    First, I admit I have never really touched a real guitar in my life (obviously a Rock Band guitar does not count). But since I just got my new 27" iMac, I came to the realization that learning guitar with GarageBand might actually be pretty interesting.

    So, what is the minimum buying requirements in order to start learning guitar when you are starting with nothing (other than GarageBand itself, of course).

    Here is what I think I need at a minimum, but I want to make sure:

    • Acoustic Electric OR Electric guitar. A regular acoustic guitar won't work because it does not have a line output (is that correct?). I have seen some acoustic electric guitars on eBay for less than $100. What do I need to make sure the Guitar comes with before buying? [By the way, I have my eye on one acoustic electric guitar that comes with an Active Pickup ... is active pickup necessary?]
    • 1/4" to 1/8" adapater

    Here are some extras that might be nice for better tone, but are not required:

    • USB or Firewire Audio Interface. I think I have seen I can get one of these for $50-$100
    • A microphone to connect to the audio interface
    • An amplifier

    I was thinking of starting with the minimum requirements (assuming what I listed is the minimum) and if I decide I enjoy this, go for the extras I listed.

    Do I have this all correct?
  2. GoKyu macrumors 65816


    Feb 15, 2007
    New Orleans
    One thing to consider is how interested you are in wanting to learn to play guitar.

    The cheaper the guitar, typically the worse "setup" it has (i.e. the string action may be too high, tuning pegs may not keep the guitar in tune very well, etc.)
    These issues can make the guitar harder to play than it needs to be, and consequently may put you off from wanting to learn.

    This doesn't mean that you should just go buy a Les Paul for $2500 either (although that may be a nice guitar to work toward ;) -- Just try to get something a little better than the lowest end model you can find, and you should be ok.

    I checked GuitarTrader.com (where I bought my Epiphone Les Paul, which I love), and saw that starting prices for acoustic-electrics is about $200, so you may want to hit that range with electrics as well. Personally, I find the standard big body acoustics harder to play than a nice slim electric (and depending on the guitar, you can usually get a warm acoustic-type sound out of a decent electric anyway.)

    To save some additional money, you may also want to check the refurb models. They've usually been checked and given new strings, and you may be able to get a slightly better guitar than you had planned on.
  3. JoelMarcey thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jun 9, 2009
    Northern California
    I was leaning toward acoustic electric, but I may consider your idea about electric. I have not decided yet how serious I am, but I am interested in at least giving it a go. It sounds like I just need the guitar and adapter to start.
  4. jayducharme macrumors 68040


    Jun 22, 2006
    The thick of it
    I agree with GoKyu: don't go dirt cheap on a guitar. You'll regret it and may even just give up. If there's a local music store near you, it's worth it to go there and try different models. Some shops have guitar specialists who could advise you. I bought a Seagull. That company makes really nice acoustic guitars for very reasonable prices. Put a Dean Markey pickup in it, and you've got a decent sound. A lot of musicians I know like Ovation acoustics, which often have the pickup (and sometimes a tuner) built into them.

    As for mixers, I'm using a PreSonus FP10 Firewire model, and I love it. It works seamlessly with Garage Band and Logic. And there are no drivers to install on a Mac. I've tried lots of different mixer setups, and so far the PreSonus beats them all.

    I'm also using an AKG Perception 200, a great mic for the price. That's my primary vocal mic, but I have a collection of other mics for other uses.

    A good website for lots of digital music info is:


    Also, one of my all-time favorite multitrack programs has finally come to the Mac: n-track.

  5. pasipple macrumors 6502a


    Jun 12, 2009
    Like you I got interested in learning how to play guitar when I bought my MB Pro last June. GarageBand seemed cool so I bought an acoustical electric guitar and I'm really enjoying it. Got a kick ass Roland amp and I'm on my way.

    I figure I'll be on America's Got Talent next year if I keep improving....

    I do wish they would expand the GarageBand guitar series though. Great learning tool.
  6. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    I've got a nice Fender acoustic/electric that I paid about $250 for, though you can get a good one for about $200.

    I will recommend planning to go beyond just what GarageBand can teach you, however. It's a good start, but it's pretty basic. Figure on needing to find more lessons unless you just catch on quick and can teach yourself the rest.

  7. mchalebk macrumors 6502a

    Feb 4, 2008
    I would not recommend getting an acoustic/electric just so you can have a "line out" to run into the computer. As a beginner, you probably have no need for a pickup in an acoustic guitar. In order to get sound into Garageband, I would recommend using a USB microphone. There are plenty of good ones that run well under $100, such as the Blue Snowflake (which goes for around $50). It will sound much better and you can use it for stuff other than guitar (such as recording vocals).

    It is very difficult for a beginner to pick out a guitar. If possible, bring a guitar-playing friend along to help. They can tell you how the guitar plays and sounds and that way you're not totally at the mercy of the salesman. If you don't know anyone who plays, you'll probably just have to trust the salesman. Make sure you get the guitar set up (they might include this with purchase). Even high end guitars need to be set up properly and cheap Asian-made guitars rarely are set up decently from the factory. This will make a big difference.

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