128 Instruments under the bonnet

The GarageDoor shows you many ways to add new instruments to GarageBand. A group of 128 has been there all along, right under your nose: they are the 128 General MIDI software instruments hidden within QuickTime. The trick is how to access them. We'll show you how:

The secret is an Audio Unit that is included with GB called the DLS Music Device. If you open the Track info window for a software instrument in GB, you can scroll down the list of generators to the DLS Music Device. Now click on the pencil icon for that device and it will bring up the interface for the DLS Device. Once there you will find a Sound bank pull down menu that should say QuickTime Music Synthesizer by default. You may have some other items in this menu if you have added SoundFonts to your library.
With the QuickTime Music Synthesizer selected, any MIDI controller you play would let you hear an acoustic Grand Piano. One that quite frankly sounds much worse than GB's default Piano.

This Grand piano is number one of a list of 128 General Midi Instruments. The way to selct the other 127 is to use your Midi controller's program change command. With such a command you can change the Quicktime Music Synthesizer from its default piano to something like a trumpet, which is sorely missed in the standard GB software instruments. Read your keyboard's documentation to see how to send a Program Change message. Set your Program Change number to Number 57 and there is your trumpet.....

The full list of General Midi instruments:

But... there is a snake in the grass: If you record your trumpet in GarageBand and then save the song, you will be in for a surprise when you reopen the song. The trumpet has turned back into a piano! Bummer.... The solution is to hit a quick note at the very beginning of your track - and then do your Program Change. This way the Program Change command is recorded in the track and will be there when you reopen the song.
You can take this further and record several Program Changes on a track, for example to change the number 57 trumpet to a number 60 muted trumpet on the same track.

The last thing to do is to save a Software Instrument and call it “DLS Device.” Make sure that you have the DLSMusicDevice selected in the Generator pull-down menu of the Track Info window. You now have an additional 128 software instruments for use in GB. In the next tip we tell you a bit more about some of them.
Ooh and Aargh

As described in the tip above, GarageBand can access the 128 General MIDI Instruments if you know how to send a program change to the DSL module. Here are the trumpet, vibraphone, strings, harmonica, French horn and banjo that you have been missing (just kiddin' about the banjo).
Just remember:
  • to never use #53 and #54, the Choir Aahs and Oohs because they are truly awful
  • that #24, "Tango accordeon" is a misnomer for the bandoneon
  • that the "sitar" sound #105 is a perversion of one of the most beautifully complex sounds of all, when heard live;
  • there is a much better sampled sitar available in JamPack | World Music
  • that #121 - "Guitar Fret Noise" was horribly overdone when General Midi first came out in the eighties, though it might be safe to start using it again...
  • that #33 Acoustic Bass and #44 Contrabass are the same instrument. The acoustic bass is the plucked sound, the contrabass is bowed.
GarageBand Unlimited              a generator under the hood

Do you know that GarageBand has incredible power to create new sounds?
You may have experimented with different effects - from reverb, chorus and flangers to distortion amps. You have done this by bringing up the Track Window (double-click a track) and going to the Effects details in the lower half of the window.

But GarageBand can do much more than this: it gives you complete control over its Software Instruments. You can sculpt synth sounds, re-create vintage instruments, change a seventies sound to an '80s instrument, create wonderful electronic sweeps and swirls in synthesizer pads, emulate your favorite artist's axe, etc etc.

You do all this with the Software Instrument Generators. (just below the Details.... triangle in the Track Info window). The Generator pull-down menu has an edit pencil button next to it. Click this, and you are given a powerful assortment of parameters to control, depending on which instrument generator you are using.

The sampled instruments (like piano, guitar, bass, strings, horns, drum kits, woodwind) give you about three or four parameters to play with: Volume, Cut-Off, Attack, Release
The non-sampled instrument generators - mostly keyboards and synthesizers - give you control over a whole array of settings, enough to create completely unique sounds for your project:
Mix, Tuning, Resonance, Sustain, Attack, Decay, Glide, Richness, Modulation, Character, Envelope, Animation, Sync, Harmonics, Timbre, Distortion, Balance, Duration, Tonewheel and Rotary Speaker controls, etc.) the MacAddict Guide to Making Music with GarageBand has thirteen pages with details about these parameters.

And while you are playing with GarageBand's generator sliders, spare a thought for those musicians in the seventies and eighties who had to take out an extra mortgage on their house to pay for even one of these synthesizers............

Adding sounds

A good pick                on request...

AMG ( has released several collections of brand new instruments for GarageBand.

An example is the Expansion Pack 1:
92 brand new instruments for GarageBand covering brass, vintage keys and even Celtic instruments. Instruments featured include:

12 string guitar
12 String Chords guitar GarageBand's  Jam Pack 1 add-on comes with a lot of great additional Software Instruments, Effects and Loops. One of the new instruments, the 12 String Chords Guitar, emulates a person strumming guitar chords instead of playing an individual note. There are a total of 24 chords, 12 major & 12 minor chords. The split between the major and minor chords is at the E key above the C3 key. Everything below the E3 key is Major, everything from E3 and above is Minor.

For details on the other Jam Packs and Sound packs, see   the GarageDoor | Your GB Studio
jam pack
Bösendorfer Grand piano             grand An important addition in   Jam Pack 1 is the Bösendorfer Grand piano. You find it in the Classical Piano presets. It sounds much better than the Yamaha samples in GB because it consist of longer multisamples. It is recorded in better acoustic surroundings and with more moderate gain (the Yamaha is designed to cut through in the mix), and has beautifully clear low bass notes.

Jam Pack 1 adds 100 instruments, and 44 of these are brand new musical instruments. These are the sounds:

For details on the other Jam Packs and Sound packs, see the GarageDoor | Your GB Studio

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