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How To create custom software instruments – Garageband Tutorial

This hidden trick lets you load your own sounds into a software instrument and play them back from your MIDI keyboard

The software instruments that ship with GarageBand provide a decent selection of sounds, but one element seems to be missing: a sampler. This is an instrument that places short chunks of audio onto the notes of a MIDI keyboard so that you can play them into your song as MIDI sequences. On closer inspection, GarageBand does harbour a nifty hidden feature allowing you to build your own software instruments. This can be used as a basic playback sampler, playing back a set of audio samples from keys that you can assign yourself. It’s an intuitive way of arranging short sounds such as drum hits or vocal hooks as it allows them to be played in alongside the track in a more musical context.

1: Collect files

In the Finder, make a folder of sounds to use to build your instrument. These can be anything you like, as long as they’re audio files in .wav, .aif or .mp3 format.

2: Launch GarageBand

Click the ‘New Project’ sidebar and choose ‘Piano’. In the next screen, give your project a name, choose where to save it on your hard drive and click ‘Create’.

3: Select base instrument

Over to the right-hand side of the screen, in the Track Info pane, select Sound Effects>Radio Sounds from the instrument list.

4: Open Musical Typing

Select Musical Typing from the Window menu, or use the Shift+Cmd+K keyboard shortcut to reveal the Musical Typing window.

5: Set octave range

The most popular starting note for sample-based instruments is C1, so click the upper keyboard display or press the Z key until the Octave display reads C1.

6: Drag and drop

From the Finder window containing your drum samples, drag and drop them one by one onto the required keys. This initial window contains 18 key slots.

7: 18 plus

If you fill up the first 18 key slots, access the next 12 empty ones by tapping the X key to shift the keyboard range up one octave.

8: Save instrument

After placing your samples, pick a category to save your instrument in from the list and click the Save Instrument button. Type a name for your instrument and click Save.

9: Pick and play

Your new instrument’s name should now appear in the list. Like regular instruments, it will now be accessible for all your future GarageBand projects.

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