One-touch GarageBand sound effects

Congratulations! You saw the name GarageBand in the title of this story yet continued reading. That makes you part of an exclusive fraternity—those whose eyes don’t glaze over when they encounter mention of this oft-ignored iLife application. And it’s too bad that so many eyes do glaze over, because GarageBand has some very useful features that people miss because they haven’t taken the time to explore the program.

Take, for example, a colleague of mine. Just the other day he sent this message:

For a future special edition of a podcast I want to have an interface that lets me play a few sound effects/audio clips on demand by pressing a button. It’s too rapid fire for me to open a bunch of files and switch windows and press play — I need to hit a key and play a sound.

Do you know of any utility that lets you do that, map sound effects to keys?

The answer, of course, is GarageBand. I suggested he follow these steps:

1. Create a new podcast project.

2. Add a new software instrument track by clicking the Plus button below the track list and choosing Software Instrument track from the sheet that appears.

3. Click the Info button to expose the Track Info pane.

4. Select Sound Effects in the left column and choose any sound effect set you like in the right column.

5. Choose Window -> Musical Typing.

6. Drag the sound effects you want to use to keys on the Musical Typing keyboard. (You can also drag AIFF files from the Finder to this keyboard to add them.)

7. Click the Details triangle in the Track Info window and click the Save Instrument button.

8. Name and save your custom sound effects instrument.

GarageBand's Musical Typing keyboard.

You now have a system for triggering up to 18 sounds with the Mac’s keyboard. To call them up in the future, just create a Sound Effects track and choose the sound effects instrument you created. Should you forget which sound is mapped to which key, just click the Details triangle on the Musical Typing keyboard. Next to the name of each key you’ll find the sound effect mapped to that key.

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