What is a third-party effect plug-in?

Let's begin by defining some terms.  A plug-in is a piece of software that's designed to work inside of another software program.  These plug-ins are designed to enhance or add to the functionality of the software program. Third-party simply refers to an individual or company that is not directly affiliated with the parent company.  In this case what we're talking about are individuals or companies not affiliated with Apple that create effects that can be used inside of GarageBand.  One of the most popular third-party effects ever is Auto-Tune which was made famous by T-Pain.

Audio Units

GarageBand supports the Audio Unit format of plug-ins.  Audio Units are the most popular plug-in format on the Mac platform.  An Audio Unit can be either an effect or a virtual instrument.  In this article we'll only be focusing on effects, we’ll leave the virtual instruments for another time.

Where do I find them?

It isn’t really too difficult to find commercial third-party Audio Unit effects.  If your budget can accommodate it, just walk into any Guitar Center or log onto Amazon.com and you’ll find plenty of effects available in Audio Unit format.  

For those without the budget for commercial effects plug-ins, there is a whole culture of free and shareware effects.  The first place I would start would be the KVR Audio website.  It’s a directory for third-party effect and virtual instrument makers both large and small.  Go to their Plug-in Database and search for free Audio Unit (AU) effects.  This will give you a huge list of possibilities to wade through.

How do I install them?

Installing your third-party effects for use in GarageBand is usually pretty simple.  Most come with an integrated installer so all you need to do is double-click it and then enter your administrative password.  The installer then installs the plug-in into its proper folder.
GarageBand Audio Units Effects FolderCredit: Bill Hartzell
For those plug-ins that don’t have an integrated installer, you just need to know where to put the proper file.  All Audio Units (which end in a .component) are stored in a specific folder on your computer.  More specifically, they are stored in the Components Folder, inside of the Plug-Ins folder, inside of the Audio folder, inside of the Library folder in your System hard drive.  If you found that confusing, just take a look at the picture above.

All That's Left Is To Have Some Fun

So by this point you should understand what a third-party effect is, where to find them and how to install them so that you can use them in GarageBand.  Now all that’s left is to find some, get them installed and start having some fun with them.  Third-party effects are accessed and used in exactly the same way as other effects in GarageBand so that shouldn’t be any problem for you at all.

I would encourage you to go out and find some new effects for your GarageBand songs.  Do you have a favorite plug-in effect that you’ve been using?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  I really appreciate your feedback.