If you have a digital audio device that can connect your guitar to your Mac, there’s a library of open-source software you can access for recording, editing, and processing the signal. These powerful macOS apps for guitarists can be useful for any musician.
Basic Digital Audio Workstation: Audacity
The granddad of open-source audio-processing software, Audacity is a multi-track digital audio workstation for recording, mixing, and distributing your music. Thanks to its impressive capability, the power of expensive software recording setups has been made available to everyone.
Provided you can spend the time to learn the software, new users will find Audacity just as powerful as any professional-grade DAW. If you’re already an expert recordist, you may find that Audacity is less capable and harder to use than professional offerings, but bedroom recorders get the power they need.
Higher-End DAW: LMMS
If you’ve found that Audacity doesn’t fit the bill for your needs, LMMS is a fully-fledged digital audio workstation with support for VST, SoundFont, instrument files, and audio effects of any kind. It’s the best free DAW for the skilled recordist working on macOS, but its interface will quickly overwhelm newer recordists.
If you work professionally with ProTools, Ableton, or FL Studio, and you want something affordable for your home recordings, check out Ardour. It’s not a free download, but subscription fees can be as low as $1 per month or a single $45 payment, so it’s far more affordable than most commercial options.
Guitar Pro Tablature Reader: TuxGuitar
If you’re not familiar, Guitar Pro transcriptions are tablature-based song tracks that “play back” tablature in real time through a properly equipped app like TuxGuitar. It provides an audio track to go with your written tabs, creating a compromise between written sheet music and tabs. It’s the way people learn guitar nowadays, and a good tab player application is essentially a requirement.
Standard Notation: MuseScore
If you’re seeking an application for sheet music editing and composition, check out MuseScore. While the library of guitar tablature is enormous, there’s even more music available in standard notation. It also remains the best system for writing down your own compositions, providing the greatest accuracy in capturing your music ideas. It also supports tablature notation and Guitar Pro files, much like Tux Guitar. With custom Sound Font files, you can also adjust the software instruments used to play back your composition.
Multi-Effects Processor: ToneLib GTX
Your computer has more audio effects processing power than fifty guitar pedals strung together. Of course, it’s digital rather than analog, which can produce aesthetic differences that might sound false to a carefully attuned ear. A multi-effects processor provides audio signal processing for your connected guitar, applying a set of effects to change the attributes of the signal in ways that emulate popular guitar effects pedal boxes. If you’re open to experimenting with the power of digital signal processing, ToneLib GTX gives dedicated users the power to produce nearly any tone they can imagine. It also includes virtual amp emulators, and while it’s not as high-end as commercially-available effects processors, there’s plenty to explore and play with.
Chromatic Tuner: PitchPerfect
PitchPerfect is a free chromatic instrument tuner that works with any instrument, not just guitars. It does include presets for a variety of stringed instruments, so beginner guitarists can still use it without the risk of confusion. Options are limited, but it’s a simple, accurate tuning app that is pleasantly low on bugs and quirks.
Chord Sheets and Lead Sheets: OpenSong
OpenSong is a free, open-source application for creating and managing lead sheets. These can include melody, lyrics, chords, and basic timing information. It’s a great application for writing your own music if you don’t want to mess around with sheet music or Guitar Pro tablature. It’s the fastest way to create the bare bones of a song, which is sometimes all you need. It’s especially useful when creating music Clif Notes for an upcoming performance. Since everything is fully digital, you can export sheets to tablets or disk storage for easy reference. If you want something even simpler, Chordii is a web-based utility that creates chord diagrams from a text-only markup language.
If you are both a guitarist and a Mac user, the above list shows that you have plenty of options for creating/editing/recording/processing your music. Try them out and let us know your preferred application.
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