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How to customise chords for Smart instruments in iOS GarageBand

Don’t be limited by the default chords – create your own custom key signatures

GarageBand makes it easy to play instruments on your iPad, and with Smart Instruments, even people who have never played a note can tap away and create fantastic tracks in just a few minutes. Each Smart Instrument offers the option to tap on individual strings or notes to play the instrument normally, but flick it into Chords mode and you’ll get a selection of complementary chords that sound great.

However, with only eight chords on the screen at once, you might feel a little limited with what you can do. Don’t worry, though, because these chords are completely customisable. Whether you want to change the key signature for the whole instrument, or you just want to create a board of chords of your own design, it’s only a few taps away.

Step-by-step: Change key


1 Smart chords

First, tap Instruments at the top-left and pick a Smart Instrument from the menu. Then, make sure that the Chords button is flicked on, so the interface looks like this.

Step 1_web

2 Settings

Next, tap the Settings button at the top-right of the screen and tap Key in the menu to open up the options for changing the overall key signature of the instrument.

Step 2_web

3 Musical grid

From the grid at the top of the menu, tap on your desired note and select whether your chords will be in the major or minor key. The guitar display will change live.

Step 3_web

4 Song Key

If your track is recorded in MIDI (with no live recordings), leaving this switch on will edit all the other tracks in your project. Turn it off and only this track will change.

Step 5_web


Step-by-step: Editing chords


1 Edit

First, tap the Settings button again, and in the same section tap the Edit Chords button. For this option, you will be taken to another menu outside of the Settings panel.

Boxout 1_web

2 Pick or Revert

Tap a chord and use the wheels at the top to select different options for each chord. To return the chord to its original state, tap Revert in the top-left of the screen.

Boxout 2_web