Connecting a USB MIDI Keyboard in iLife ’11's GarageBand

You can use a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) keyboard that connects to your Mac through a USB connector cable. In iLife '11, GarageBand can apply the MIDI information to any Software Instrument, effectively turning your Mac into a fully functional music synthesizer. This functionality in iLife '11's GarageBand greatly expands range of sounds you can create.

The MIDI specifies how musical instruments with microprocessors can communicate with other microprocessor-controlled instruments or devices. Two popular models are the M-Audio Keystation 61es, available from the Apple Store, or the Keystation Pro 88, available from M-Audio.

A USB MIDI keyboard is literally a plug-and-play keyboard. Just plug it in and start GarageBand. You can play your piano and organ riffs and have them translated into Software Instruments. Just follow the same instructions as though you were using the onscreen music keyboard.

If you don’t hear music from your USB MIDI keyboard, try these tricks to troubleshoot the problem:

  • Make sure that the keyboard is connected to the USB port and the keyboard is turned on. When you first start a new song in GarageBand, a Software Instrument track labeled Grand Piano opens automatically — make sure that this track is still selected by clicking the track header.

  • Check to see that your system has detected the MIDI device. If you still don’t hear music, choose GarageBand→Preferences and click the Audio/MIDI button to see the Audio/MIDI pane. The MIDI status should indicate that your system detected at least one MIDI input; if it didn’t, you may have to troubleshoot your connection by using the Audio MIDI Setup utility.

    The Audio/MIDI pane detects the MIDI keyboard and lets you assign sound input and output.
    The Audio/MIDI pane detects the MIDI keyboard and lets you assign sound input and output.
  • See whether your USB MIDI keyboard is playing by watching the LCD display in GarageBand as you play. The tiny green MIDI status light in the lower left corner of the LCD display should flash every time you play a note. If you still aren’t hearing music, make sure that the Volume slider for the track isn’t positioned all the way to the left and turn up the output volume for your computer’s speakers or your external speakers.

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