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How to use the Arpeggiator Smart Controls in GarageBand

Add extra notes to your MIDI tracks with powerful tools for triggering arpeggio effects in GarageBand on your Mac

MainFancy musical types love their lingo, spouting such phrases as staccato, legato and the like. One term you may have encountered is ‘Arpeggio’ – this refers to playing the single notes associated with a chord. So a guitarist might pick a pattern of G, B and D for the chord of G Major, for example. This rounds out the sound and makes it seem more intricate – but have no fear if you want to apply that effect without learning the music theory.

GarageBand has thoughtfully added an Arpeggiator option within Smart Controls that fills in the correct notes for Software Instruments. Here you can quickly control note order, rate, octave ranges and an assortment of pattern presets until you’ve achieved the desired effect. Follow our steps and refer to the supplied project files to become an Arpeggiator ace.


Step 1

1 Instant effect

One of the quickest ways to get acquainted with the Arpeggiator sound is to use the Arpeggiator patch. With a Software Instrument track selected, head over to Library>Arpeggiator.

Step 2

2 Arpeggiator patches

Within the four Arpeggiator types of Synth Basics, Bass, Bells and Chords you’ll find classic sounds associated with electronic music. Each has preset Arpeggio effects attached.

Step 3

3 Project tempo

The Arpeggiator effect changes as the tempo does. Tempo influences the timing applied to the playing of the extra arpeggio notes, so a slower BPM will produce a slower, spacier result.

Step 4

4 Smart Controls

You can also add an Arpeggiator to any Software Instrument. Show the Smart Controls for your track (press B) and click the Arpeggiator button on the far right of the panel to enable.

Step 4

5 Preset patterns

Access the Arpeggiator pop-up menu. The lower section has 30 preset arpeggio patterns, to illustrate we’ll pick Classic Groove 01 and record a MIDI region to our track.

Step 6

6 Switching patterns

With a new track selected, return to the pop-up menu and select Groovy Cycle 03. Play or record a new MIDI region to see how the note pattern alternates compared to the previous track.

Step 7

7 Note Order

At the top of the pop-up is a Note Order menu. This changes the way the arpeggio sequence is defined – going up, down, outside-in, random or as played. Each has a profound effect.

Step 8

8 Setting rate

The rate option below offers time signatures from 1/1 up to 1/128, dramatically changing the interval speed of the arpeggio. Raise it up to 1/64 and beyond to get rapid-fire effects.

Step 9

9 Octave Range

Octave Range determines the breadth of the arpeggio in terms of scale pitch. By selecting a higher number in union with Note Order, the Arpeggiator can move around the note octaves.

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