One of the best things about GarageBand is it is free on Apple devices. And you can expand the capabilities of this excellent audio recording app by pairing it with the best free plugins. There are a number of these plugins readily available.
I’ve been making and recording music for decades and have a lot of experience using various audio recording software and apps. I’ve tried out a bunch of different free plugins for GarageBand and know which of these are the best.
This post will highlight all of the best free plugins available for use with GarageBand. I’ll touch on what each of these plugins can do and how you might be able to use them to help you improve and expand your music projects.
Let’s get to it.
- Initial Thoughts
- Best Free GarageBand Plugins
- Free GarageBand Plugins for Vocals
- How to Install GarageBand Plugins
- Final Thoughts
Before you think about getting extra plugins for GarageBand, you need to understand the types of plugins that are available. You also need to know what works with the app and what doesn’t so you don’t download an incompatible plugin.
AU plugins are the type of plugins that will work with GarageBand. AU stands for Audio Units, and this is a specific type of formatting that works with the app. VST plugins will not work with GarageBand, so don’t try to download or install those.
Many plugins you can get for GarageBand have both AU and VST versions. Just make sure that you choose the proper format when downloading. Each app you’ll see in the sections below has an AU format. But if you look at others, double-check that they are in AU as well.
Best Free GarageBand Plugins
Here are some of the best free GarageBand plugins you can find:
1. Komplete Start
Komplete Start by Native Instruments is one of the best free GarageBand plugins you can get your hands on. This option will expand your capabilities with the app immensely and allow you to take your recording to another level.
This is the free version of Komplete, which is also worth exploring if you move on to a paid digital audio workstation. But the free version still gives you a ton of customizable sounds to choose from, like synths, acoustic instruments, and pads.
I also like all the pro-level effects that come with Komplete Start. You get tube compression, several cool guitar amps, and some other solid choices to help tap into your creativity. All of this for free is such a great deal.
Synth1 is another fantastic plugin you can get for free and use with GarageBand. This is a simple plugin that gives you amazing synth sounds right at your fingertips. If you like to create your own sounds and enjoy what a good synth can do, this plugin is for you.
This plugin looks kind of old-school, which might throw some people off at first. But a fancy design isn’t needed to dial in sweet synth sounds. The plugin features two oscillators, four types of filters, and 128 presets that you can expand on if you want more.
3. 808 Bass Module 4 Lite
For all the drummers and percussionists out there (or anyone who likes a good beat), the 808 Bass Module 4 Lite is not to be missed. This free plugin will let you get some amazing drum sounds and contains 15 presets that are ready for action.
This is an easy-to-use drum machine simulator that will help just about anyone get in the groove, and it has a lot of different features to tweak things into your mix. The demo version is somewhat limited, but you still have quite a bit you can do with it.
In the world of digital music, it’s sometimes all too easy to get caught up in high-end software and endless modifications. Sometimes you just need to simplify things and bring it back to the good old days, which is where Vinyl by iZotope comes in super useful.
This plugin is designed to give your recordings a lo-fi sound that strips away their digital cleanliness and gives you that trusted analog feel. It’s nothing like recording on tape, but it’s still pretty sweet for a free plugin.
Free GarageBand Plugins for Vocals
Here are a few solid free GarageBand plugins for vocals.
5. Vocal Doubler
Vocal Doubler is another free plugin made by iZotope that you can get for free and use with GarageBand. Doubling vocals is a great way to add depth and texture, and it’s a technique that’s been used for decades in the recording industry.
I like this one because it shows you how simple recording techniques can really improve your recordings. You don’t need the most high-end equipment to make things shine; you just need to add a bit of depth.
Vocal Doubler adds a natural doubling feel, even when the vocals aren’t actually doubled. It’s an incredible thing for new musicians and audio engineers to play around with.
6. TDR Nova
TDR Nova is a sweet parallel dynamic equalizer plugin. This one can really help make your vocal tracks stand out by giving them more density and crispness. You can dial in your EQ and get that mix to stand out.
This plugin can also be used on instruments, but I think it really comes in useful when you are working with vocals. Using it on a guitar track can also be effective.
How to Install GarageBand Plugins
Once you have decided which free plugins you want to use with GarageBand, you need to install them onto your computer or device.
Follow these steps to install plugins in GarageBand:
1. Open the plugin file once you have it downloaded. Most plugins will have some sort of installation process, and the installer should walk you through this automatically.
2. Next, open up GarageBand. Go to Preferences by selecting it from the main drop-down menu.
3. Select the Audio/MIDI tab from this window and then click the Enable Audio Units checkbox to allow third-party apps.
4. Select the track you want to apply your plugin to in the main project window and then open Smart Controls.
5. Click on the Plugins drop-down menu and select the installed plugin you want to use on the track.
Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions relating to the best free GarageBand plugins.
Does GarageBand allow 3rd party plugins?
GarageBand does allow 3rd party plugins. You just need to make sure that they are compatible with the app for them to work. There are a number of these plugins out there to choose from, and they can all expand the app’s capabilities.
Do VST plugins work in GarageBand?
VST plugins do not work with GarageBand. So you need to ensure that you only try to use AU plugins. You don’t want to end up paying for a plugin that won’t work or downloading something that you can’t actually open up.
How do I get more plug-ins for GarageBand?
You can download more plugins for GarageBand from third-party vendors and then put them directly into GarageBand. You need to make sure the plugins are compatible with the app, but they are easy to add once downloaded.
Plugins can give you a lot more to work with when using an audio recording app such as GarageBand. And what better way to get a little more out of a free app than by using some of the best free plugins mentioned here?
Do you have any favorite free plugins for GarageBand that I didn’t mention here? What are they, and what do you like about them? Let me know in the comments below.