Smart Control types in GarageBand on Mac
GarageBand provides a wide variety of ready-made software instrument patches. Each patch consists of a sound in a particular instrument category, including effects. You can use these patches as they are, or adjust their sound using Smart Controls. For information about using software instrument patches, see Record software instruments in GarageBand on Mac and Intro to patches in GarageBand on Mac. Also take a look at the Use the Arpeggiator in GarageBand on Mac section for some fun with your instrument patches.
The basic layout of screen controls is similar for each category of instrument sound. Tone controls and other instrument controls are on the left, and effects are on the right. For example, the Saxophone patch provides Low and High tone controls and Ambience and Reverb effect controls.
Similarities between controls in the same instrument category make it easy to experiment with different patches and sound variations in your projects. This overview gives you an idea of the types of controls you’ll find in many patches in different instrument categories and how they affect the sound.
Guitar and Bass
Electric guitar and bass patches all provide Gain and Tone controls. Gain adjusts the level of the sound and can also introduce an overdriven effect. Tone changes the color of the sound, making it brighter or darker, or warmer or harsher, depending on the patch. Effects controls vary between patches, but may include Chorus, Delay, Reverb, and Flanger effects. See Effect types for descriptions.
Acoustic guitar and bass patches offer Low and High controls that boost or cut the bottom and top end of sounds, and can also add body and warmth. Effects include Compressor, Ambience, and Reverb. Ambience adjusts the size of the acoustic space and Reverb changes the reverb amount, or length of the reverb tail, but this can vary between patches.
Acoustic Drum Kit patches all provide Mix controls that let you mute or set the level of each sound. Compression adds punch to the sound. Tone changes the color of the sound, making the stick or beater noise more prominent and the attack portion of the sound brighter. Room changes the size of the simulated space your kit is in.
Electronic Drum Kit patches all provide Mix controls that let you set the level of each sound. Effects include Low and High Cut filters and the Crush and Drive distortion controls. These provide a lot of tonal control and can make a clean electronic drum sound gritty and harsh. The Reverb control changes the acoustic space your kit is played in.
Orchestral and Mallet
Most orchestral instrument patches offer Low and High controls that boost or cut the bottom and top end of sounds, and can also add body and warmth. Effects include Chorus, Delay, Ambience, and Reverb. Ambience adjusts the size of the acoustic space and Reverb changes the reverb amount, or length of the reverb tail, but this can vary between patches.
Some orchestral patches also include a Tune control that lets you adjust the pitch of the instrument. Some instruments such as brass or strings provide controls over the way the instrument is played, enabling you to turn on legato or staccato modes or to change the time it takes for a note to play, emulating slower bowing or blowing.
Vintage Electric Piano and Piano
Vintage Electric Piano patches all provide Bell and Drive controls. Bell makes the sound ring more and Drive adds a warm distortion. The Treble and Bass tone controls make the sound brighter or darker, or warmer or harsher, depending on the patch. Effects controls often include Tremolo, which adds a wobbling effect to the sound, or Chorus, which thickens the sound. Ambience adjusts the size of the acoustic space and Reverb changes the length of the reverb tail, but this can vary between patches.
Acoustic piano patches offer Low and High controls that boost or cut the bottom and top end of sounds and can also add body and warmth. Effects include Compressor, Delay, Ambience, and Reverb. Ambience adjusts the size of the acoustic space and Reverb changes the reverb amount, or length of the reverb tail, but this can vary between patches.
Synthesizers are so named because they can emulate, or synthesize, a wide variety of sounds—such as the sound of another instrument, a voice, a helicopter, a car, or a barking dog. Synthesizers can also produce sounds that don’t occur in the natural world. The ability to generate tones that cannot be created in any other way makes the synthesizer a unique musical tool.
The screen controls of synthesizer patches can vary significantly, because different kinds of synthesizers are better at producing different types of sounds. Many patches share the same advanced synthesizer engine and control method discussed in Use the Transform Pad in GarageBand on Mac.
Other synthesizer patches follow a simple traditional subtractive synthesizer layout, which runs from left to right.
Oscillators generate the basic signal, which is usually a waveform that is rich in harmonics. Many patches offer Timbre, Grit, Noise, Sine, or other waveform controls to set the basic tone. Some patches may include an LFO (low frequency oscillator) control that modulates the oscillator and filter components. Some patches can contain global controls that set overall characteristics of your synthesizer sound, such as tuning, glides between notes, and pitch bends.
The filter section alters the basic oscillator waveform signal by filtering out (removing) portions of the frequency spectrum. Many patches include Cutoff and Resonance controls that let you subtly or dramatically alter the sound.
Some GarageBand synthesizer patches also include amplifier envelope controls that set (oscillator and filter) levels for the beginning, middle, and end portions of your sound. These are called Attack, Sustain or Decay, and Release.
Effects controls are found to the right of synthesizer patch controls and may include Chorus, Delay, Reverb, and Flanger effects, for example. See Effect types for descriptions.
Vintage B3 Organ
All B3 organ patches provide drawbar controls that let you adjust the levels of different harmonics in the sound. Drag a drawbar down to make its harmonic louder, or drag the drawbar up to make its harmonic softer. The Acceleration controls below the drawbars determine the speed of the built-in Leslie speaker cabinet emulation. Leslie speaker cabinets were often paired with the original B3 organ and are considered an essential element of classic B3 sounds.
The Chorus switch adds a chorus effect that sounds different than modern chorus effects. The Percussion switches add second or third harmonics to the beginning of a note. These harmonics very quickly fade out, leaving the chosen draw bar tones. Choose Soft or Normal to control how the harmonic fade-out responds to your playing.
Vintage B3 effects include Distortion, Click, Organ Verb, and Reverb. Distortion simulates a tube amplifier used to drive the Leslie speaker cabinet and can make the sound both warmer and more raucous. Click sets the level of the characteristic keyboard click sound of the original B3. Organ Verb provides a simple reverb that emulates room and spring reverbs. Reverb changes the amount of reverb, but this can vary between patches.
All clavinet patches provide Filter switches that emulate the original tone control switches of the D6 clavinet.
Brilliant: Makes the sound nasal with a strong bass cut.
Treble: Makes the sound sharper with a gentle bass cut.
Medium: Makes the sound thinner with a slight bass reduction.
Soft: Makes the sound softer or more muted.
The original D6 features two electromagnetic pickups, much like those found in electric guitars—one below the strings (lower) and one above the strings (upper). The Pickup buttons change the sound of these virtual pickups. The Low and Up sliders change the position of the pickups. Try moving pickup positions while repeatedly striking a note to hear the effect this has on the overall tone.
Vintage Clav effects include Drive, Phaser, Flanger, Wah, Ambience, and Reverb. Drive can provide warm overdrive or aggressive distortion. Phasing and flanging add a whooshing or sweeping type of sound. Wah colors the tone by emphasizing certain frequencies in response to your playing. Ambience adjusts the size of the acoustic space, and Reverb changes the reverb amount, or length of the reverb tail, but this can vary between patches.
Vintage Mellotron recreates the features and a number of sounds from this famous keyboard instrument that has featured on dozens of classic rock and pop songs from the 1960s, ‘70s, and beyond.
The Mellotron is considered a precursor to modern sample-playback instruments. It has instrument sound recordings stored on individual magnetic tapes for each keyboard note. These tapes are drawn across a tape head when each key is pressed. This method of sound playback has a distinctive tonal quality and sonic charm.
Sound 1 & Sound 2 pop-up menus: Choose instrument sound 1 or sound 2.
Sound 1 & Sound 2 Transpose pop-up menus: Set an independent playback octave for instrument sound 1 or sound 2.
Blend knob: Set the level balance between instrument sound 1 or 2. Set to the full left or full right position to hear sound 1 or sound 2 in isolation.
Attack knob: Set the time required for the sound to fade in.
Tape Speed knob: Set the tape speed. This mimics the tonal fluctuations caused by this control on the original instrument.
Release knob: Set the time it takes for the sound to fade out after you let go of a key.
Tone knob: Turn to the right to reduce bass and to make the sound brighter and more nasal. Rotate to the left to reduce brightness, making the sound warmer and more mellow.
Vintage Mellotron effects include Phaser, Delay, Amp, and Reverb. Phaser adds a sweeping type of sound. Delay adds an echo effect. Amp can provide a warm overdrive and subtle distortion. Reverb changes the reverb amount, or length of the reverb tail, but this can vary between patches.