How to Generate a Software Instrument in GarageBand in iLife ’11

By Tony Bove

The advantage you have in using a Software Instrument track in GarageBand in iLife ’11 is that you can change the note’s pitch and length, for example, almost as though you were changing typos with a word processor. (GarageBand offers the Track Editor to make this type of change.) You can therefore record an iLife performance that’s less than perfect — even sloppy — and easily fix it.

The following steps walk you through the process of choosing settings for a Software Instrument:

  1. Make sure you have created a track for the instrument you want to define.

    If you choose Piano to start your project, the GarageBand window appears with a single Grand Piano track in the timeline.

  2. Click the Info button (look for the i icon) to open the Info pane for that track on the lower right side.

  3. If the Browse tab isn’t already selected, click it to browse instruments and settings and change the Software Instrument.

    Browse the left column of the Info pane to select a type of instrument, such as Organs, and choose a specific instrument in the right column (such Classic Rock Organ). As you pick an instrument, the track name changes to the name of that instrument.

    You can change the instrument for a Software Instrument track at any time, before or after recording performances or adding loops.

  4. (Optional) Play the keyboard to hear what the Software Instrument sounds like.

    To hear the different instrument settings, choose one and then play the onscreen keyboard, the Musical Typing keyboard, or a MIDI keyboard connected to your Mac.

  5. (Optional) To change the settings for that instrument, click the Edit tab at the top of the Info pane.

    Use the Tonewheel Organ sound generator for the Classic Rock Organ.
    Use the Tonewheel Organ sound generator for the Classic Rock Organ.
  6. (Optional) To change the Sound Generator preset, click the icon in the Sound Generator section to open the specific settings for that generator.

    The instrument’s Sound Generator is the code that creates the Software Instrument. The Sound Generator section’s pop-up menu is set to Tonewheel Organ; after you click the icon in the Sound Generator section, the Tonewheel Organ settings appear.

  7. (Optional) Adjust settings for the effects modules.

    Effects modules, which appear underneath the Sound Generator section, change depending on which instrument you pick. You can adjust effects as described in this list:

    • Adjust settings: Click the icon for the Compressor section to open its Settings window and change the settings.

    • Turn an effect on or off: Click the rectangle to the left of the icon for the effect to turn it on or off.

      Adjust the Tonewheel Organ settings (left) and Compressor settings (right).
      Adjust the Tonewheel Organ settings (left) and Compressor settings (right).
    • Arrange effects to adjust their impact on the sound: The order in which the effects appear in the Effects section determines how the effects work. You can rearrange the effects modules and thereby change the way they affect the sound, by dragging them up or down in the list.