Discover GarageBand’s hidden Sampler

Uncover the powerful AUSampler plug-in to map samples to keyboard


Quite possibly one of the immediately fun aspects of GarageBand on iOS is the Sampler. Whether musician or not, people’s faces cannot help but light up at the ability to take external voices before playing them back all ‘squeaky’ as it were. In truth a Sampler is a much more powerful instrument than it is novelty act, mapping sounds to keyboard and triggering useful synthetic textures. Some of pop, electronic and dance music’s biggest tracks have used this tuneful playback of all kinds of samples to stunning effect. The great news then is that GarageBand on OS X retains a ‘hidden’ sampler in the shape of the AUSampler plug-in. Blink and you might not know it’s there, so in this advanced guide we’ll first locate it and then examine the essential features.


1 Plug-ins menu

On a software track and within the Smart Controls Inspector, you’ll find the AUSampler. Within the Plug-ins section, click the Instrument box to navigate the pop-out menu.


2 Pick the Sampler

Within the pop-out Plug-ins menu, navigate AU Instruments>Apple to find the AUSampler option. Here you can choose either Mono or Stereo, for our example we’ll pick Stereo.


3 Sampler keyboard

The AUSampler window appears top-left. By default it shows a visual keyboard that can be clicked to sound notes or light up according to controller or musical typing.


4 Adding samples

Click the Show Editor arrow below to show the Grid Editor. In the Layers and Zones list we’ll add an audio sample by clicking the gear icon and choosing Add Samples.


5 Sourcing samples

In this example we’re adding a short vocal sample recorded and trimmed within Audacity. You can import any such audio as you wish, with concise clips working best.


6 Select the sample

Our sample is saved as an .AIFF file although you can equally add .WAV audio. Use the Finder window to navigate to your sample, select and click the Open button.


7 Sound the sample

The sample is added to the current Layer, so you can bypass/delete any extra zones. Press a key to hear the sample, checking the Looping box to loop while holding a key.


8 Layer and edit

You can add more samples or zones to layers and add multiple layers. With two layers, for example, you can edit settings independently such as Trigger for key up/down.


9 Shaping the sound

The Parameters tab in the right corner lets you toggle additional knobs for tailoring how the sample sounds, adding Delay, Attack, Hold, Decay, Sustain and Release times.