Improving performance on the Mac

Improved performance      waxing and waning

It is clear that most of us will come up against the limits of GarageBand's performance on our Macs sooner or later. The timelime triangle goes orange, then red, and error messages start to appear. Below are many tips on improving the running of GB on your computer. Do not expect to solve ALL your speed problems straight away, but if you act on the tips below, you should see a marked, perhaps even dramatic improvement.
The key is patience; GarageBand is continually being improved and what it does it does fantastically well. It is as groundbreaking a piece of recording equipment as once was Edison's wax cylinder phonograph or the four track cassete recorder.
You can expect to see ongoing speed and memory improvements , as Apple engineers de-bug and fine tune the software components. In the mean time, with some patience and the work-arounds and tips below, you should be able to come up with a recording of just about anything you can hear in your head- and then some.....
Colored triangle                 seeing red

The triangle at the top of the time line: yellow means GB is running fine, orange means the processor load is getting heavy and red means GB struggles: you should turn off some tracks or effects. See the following tips and the checklist at the end of this chapter....
Switch off effects               cause and effect

Most of the loops and instruments have several audio effects (like reverb, delay,....) preprogrammed into them. When running several tracks, all these combined effects eat up a lot of computing power. To make GarageBand run better you can switch off effects you don't need. You'll be surprised how many you can do without in the song construction stage, because the instrument is somewhat hidden in the mix. How? Double-click the track, click the "details" triangle and uncheck unwanted effects.
The Master Track also uses considerable processing power for its effects. To switch some or all off, double click the Mastertrack, then the "details" triangle - and uncheck the boxes.
Locking Tracks

One of the best ways to improve a songs performance is to lock tracks. Not only will locking a track prevent accidental changes, it also renders the audio - saving it to your hard drive and freeing up RAM and processing power -so you can work with more real-time tracks. You can unlock rendered tracks and make changes at any time.

Optimum RAM                       quit it!

GarageBand loads what it needs into RAM. After opening and closing different files, some of the necessary data may have been shuttled out of RAM. Quit and restart should improve things.

And of course: ........
Make sure you have quit all other software, including programs that may run in the background, like fax software etc. I found that I was loosing 10% processing power to Speech Commands. Also make sure you have Filevault switched OFF: You don't want to encrypt and decrypt the band while they are playing in the garage!! (If you wish to leave FileVault on, be sure to keep your songs outside of your home directory. FileVault options are available in Security preferences).
Lack of Ram                           did you say "rack of lamb?"

If you are trying to run GarageBand in 256 MB of RAM, you will be experiencing performance problems. Upgrading to at least 512 MB, if not double that, will make the garage rock again.
Bouncing                                Power Unlimited

When GarageBand starts to struggle with the amount of tracks you are creating, you can free up computer power by "bouncing". Here's how:
1) Export the uncompleted song, say "MyMasterpiece", to iTunes. It is now a stereo AIFF file in the iTunes folder.
2) Create a new GarageBand project and drag "MyMasterpiece.aif" from the iTunes folder into the new project. You now have only two tracks running, using only a fraction of the processing power that was needed for the original.
3) Add more tracks and - bounce again, as many times as you like!!
Number of tracks                    automatic

GarageBand may cope better with multiple tracks if you set the number of tracks to "Automatic" in the Advanced pane of GarageBand Preferences.
"Manual" piano slows GB down             tickle the ivories...

A tip to improve performance in GarageBand : if you have piano on one or several tracks, check piano: details. If "manual" is checked, uncheck and select "grand piano". This takes a bit of pressure off the processor and GarageBand will run better.

By the way, did you know that the Garage band sampled grand piano is based on a Yamaha concert grand piano? The original is a magnificent nine foot instrument which I have had the privilege to play on one occasion. Yamaha makes two nine foot grand pianos, one in their normal grand production line and then the CFIIIS concert grand on a completely seperate production line. This instrument is handcrafted by Yamaha's best piano technicians. The Yamaha concert grand piano rivals Steinway and Bosendorfer as the preferred instrument among concert pianists.
Improve Performance - Summary          checklist
  • Download the latest GarageBand version from
  • Quit other open applications.
  • Turn some effects off.
  • Lock Tracks
  • Optimize for Better Performance. (in GarageBand Preferences)
  • Delete or combine tracks.
  • Fewer voices per instrument. (Preferences - Advanced)
  • Quit and reopen GarageBand.
  • Fax software, FileVault, Speech commands, etc. off.
  • Save project to iTunes and re-import as aiff track (stereo)
  • Buy more RAM
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