Tech — 3 years ago

How to Turn Your Mac Keyboard Into a GarageBand Piano

by Keren P.

Mac Keyboard, GarageBand, GarageBand Piano

Mac Keyboard to GarageBand Piano Guide

If you’ve ever wanted to use your Mac keyboard to add elements to a GarageBand composition by playing the piano without using a MIDI keyboard you’ve come to the right place.

What is GarageBand?

GarageBand is a tool which is used to make music tracks. It has a lot of samples and ways to create a composition you’ll be happy with. You can also record audio from microphones as well as plugged-in instruments and accept MIDI input from keyboards with it.

You can choose which notes should be played by using a mouse. However, a lot of people find it more intuitive to perform the musical element using a MIDI keyboard. This is impractical for the vast majority because it requires a separate keyboard.

If you’ve ever wanted to dip your toes into the world of music creation but haven’t decided if you’d like to fork over the extra money for fancy equipment, you can make do with your Mac keyboard shortcuts. Apple has included musical typing which is a way for people to turn their Mac’s keyboard into a makeshift musical keyboard.

Mac Keyboard
Here’s how you can turn your Mac keyboard into a GarageBand Piano.

  1. Open GarageBand by using the Launchpad on the Dock or by double-clicking the application in the Applications folder.
  2. Click on File and then New in the GarageBand menu bar. Click on the button which says New Project. You should find it on the upper left corner of the window that opens.
  3. You will see an icon titled Empty Project in the central window. Click it and then follow up by clicking on the Choose button which you will find in the bottom right corner of the window.
  4. Next, a window will pop up. Click on Software Instrument and follow up by clicking on Create.
  5. You will see a list of instruments in a panel which will be on the left side of the screen. Click on any of the Pianos you’d like to use.
  6. A keyboard should then pop up underneath the window if the keyboard doesn’t appear, select Window and then Show Musical Typing which you will find in the GarageBand menu bar to display the keyboard.
  7. The Musical Typing window will display the Mac keys that match with the musical keys on a piano. You will also notice a keyboard above the keys. This shows which octave is currently in effect.
  8. You can now play the notes which are displayed onscreen by pressing the keys on your keyboard which match the notes in the Musical Typing window. You can also play each note by clicking the keys with your mouse. GarageBand will play the notes as well as record the track.

You can change octaves in a couple of different ways. (This applies to the standard Musical Typing keyboard)

  • You can move up or down an octave or multiple octaves by pressing the x or z buttons either once or repeatedly.
  • You can also change octaves by clicking on the highlighted area on the piano keyboard which is displayed close to the top of the Musical Typing window. After selecting the highlighted area on the piano keyboard, drag the highlighted part left or right on the piano keyboard. You can stop dragging it when you are at the highlighted section you’d like to play.

GarageBand is available as a free download on the Mac App Store as well as the App Store for iOS mobile devices. Try it out and see if music creation is for you before investing a lot of money into expensive equipment. You can save yourself a lot of money by dipping your toes into music creation before going for a swim.


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