Changing a Track s Instrument

Changing a Track's Instrument

I originally composed this piece on my baby grand piano, then recorded the piano part into GarageBand using a MIDI keyboard and the Grand Piano Software Instrument. However, in the back of my mind I was always torn between recording it as a piano or as an acoustic guitar part. Fortunately, it's a Software Instrument region.

Not only can you edit Software Instrument regions, but you can also change the instrument itself. Imagine recording a music part like this one using a piano sample, then deciding that you would rather have a guitar play that partor vice versa. No problem. All you have to do is open the Track Info pane and change the instrument for the track. Really!


Double-click the top Grand Piano track header.

The Track Info pane opens for the selected track.


Select Guitars as the Software Instrument, and Steel String Acoustic for the specific guitar.


Press Cmd-I to close the Track Info pane.

The first track in the Timeline is now called Steel String Acoustic, and the track icon is a guitar.


Notice that the actual Software Instrument region is still called Grand Piano because that was its original name. You can always change the name of a region in the editor. At this time, it's fine to leave the original name as a reminder of how it was recorded.


Play the Grand Piano region in the Steel String Acoustic track to hear how it sounds with the guitar as the lead instrument.


Press Cmd-S to save your progress.

Fantastic! You'd never know it was originally recorded as a piano part.

Now you see how easy it is to change one Software Instrument to another. This is incredibly useful if you play keyboards but not guitar, for example, or the other way around.

I like the guitar as the lead for part of this song, but I miss the piano for other parts. Later on, when we work on song arrangement in Lesson 4, you'll learn how to break up a lead instrument part into different regions on different tracks. For now, let's stick with one instrument for the lead.


Changing the instrument of a Software Instrument track is a very handy technique for varying a piece of music, such as the theme music for movie, TV show, or even podcast episode. Theme music is often repetitive, yet by simply changing the instrument, you can change the feel to better fit a particular scene. For example, a song like this with a guitar lead could be used as the opening credits music, and the same song using the piano as a lead could be used later for a more emotional scene.

Changing Project Tempo

Tempo is pacingthe pulse or speed of the songand it affects how the song sounds and feels. Software Instruments and Apple Loops automatically change tempo to match the project. A project's tempo is always visible on the right side of the time display.


Locate the time display at the bottom of the window.

The time display shows the tempo as 100 bpm (beats per minute).

Before changing the project's tempo, let's solo the Jazz Kit for Timing track to hear it along with the Steel String Acoustic track.


On the Jazz Kit for Timing track, click the Solo button (looks like headphones).

Now both soloed tracks will be audible, and the unsoloed tracks will remain silent.


Play the song from the beginning to hear the Jazzy Rock Drums 01 region along with the guitar (Grand Piano) region.


While the song is playing, click the Tempo portion of the time display and drag the Tempo slider upward to the highest position.

Whoa! This tempo is wide awake and in a serious musical hurry.

I couldn't play the song that fast on a piano or guitar if I wanted to. Chances are you won't build a lot of projects at the tempo of 240 bpm, which is the fastest setting.


If a part needs to be played faster than you can physically play it, record the part at a slower tempo, then speed up the project's tempo after you're done recording.

Now let's try the opposite end of the Tempo slider.


Continue playing the song, or start again from the beginning if needed.


Drag the Tempo slider to the lowest, slowest level of 40 bpm.

How does it sound? Slow? Relaxed? Comatose? 40 bpm is slow even for a really slow song. It also sounds like someone learning how to play a part one…note…at…a…time.


Change the Tempo slider back to 100 bpm and listen to the first measure or two from the beginning.

This is the speed the song was intended to be. Clearly there are many variations in tempo you can choose for your projects. The default tempo for a new song is 120 bpm.


The drum part works OK with the guitar, but it was never intended to be part of the song. Chances are I'll never use it in the final song arrangement. I just prefer to record a part with feeling to a drum track rather than a basic metronome click track to keep the recording in musical time.


Pause playback.


Press Cmd-S to save the final changes to the project.

Now that you've had a chance to work with a Software Instrument recording, it's time to record a region of your own.