How can I get more instruments for GarageBand?

Well one way is to buy any of Apple's Jam Packs (Jam Pack: Rhythm Section, Jam Pack: Remix Tools, Jam Pack: Symphony Orchestra, and Jam Pack: World Music). These contain thousands of loops as well as new instruments and presets.

Yeah, I actually have all of them, and they're grand, but I want even more. SF2s!

Gesundheit. Huh?

I thought you sneezed. Oh, no, I was mentioning SF2's which are an instrument format that GarageBand supports. SF2 is the filename extension, and the SF part is short for SoundFont. You can think of it like a text font. Text Fonts hold all the characters in a particular style, and SoundFonts hold samples of the instrument it is intended to mimic.

Sounds complicated. You're in luck, it isn't. If you've read the article on Audio Units, a lot of this will seem very familiar to you

Okay, cool. So, um, where do I find these SoundFonts? There are literally thousands of SF2s available on the web. In fact if you open up your favorite search engine in your web browser and simply search for "SoundFont" you'll find more hits than you could probably look through in a lifetime! To get you started, check out our ever growing SoundFont links page. You'll find well over 5,000 SF2s via those links. One word of caution, not every SF2 works in GarageBand. The first 2 I tried didn't work at all, which at first made me think I was doing something wrong (as if THAT could happen), but the third and most of my subsequent downloads (D/Ls) worked fine. So if you find one that doesn't work, try to find another one of the same instrument you want.

Wow, that sounds like a lot, what kinds of instruments can I expect to find? A better question might be what you won't find, and to be honest, I don't know. I've found everything I've tried to find. From heavy metal guitars, chorded guitars (one key plays an entire chord) and 5 string Bass guitars to Orchestral strings and horns. Search hard enough and you could even get some bagpipes.

Awesome! So I've found an SF2 I want, what next? First, don't panic, we have to get through a couple of technical things, but I promise you it's not that complex.

Ummm, okay. First you must make sure the SoundFont is not compressed. If the name(s) of the file(s) ends with .zip or .sfark they are compressed files. Use Stuffit Expander on the zipped files, and get sfarkxt for the arked files. Unfortunately there is no Macintosh decompressor for files ending in .sfpack so do not bother to D/L those files on your Mac.

Once you've decompressed the files and their names end in .sf2, drop them into your Library/Audio/Sounds/Banks/ folder and they are ready for use in GarageBand.

I know we went through this with AUs, but my what/where? Go to Finder, open up your hard drive, open up the library folder. Open up the Audio Folder, Open up the Sounds folder, and finally, open up the Banks folder. Drop your .sf2 in there and Bob's your uncle, you've installed an .sf2 file. GarageBand soundfonts

Okay, it looks all nice and pretty in that folder, but how do I use it? Easy. I've installed an SF2 called "Echo Metal Guitar" on my machine.

First step is to select or create a Software Track. I'm just going to use the default Piano track and modify it, but you can create any software track you want and then change it to use your new sf2.
GarageBand soundfonts

Once selected, click the GarageBand soundfonts button to display Track Info. If the Details triangle GarageBand soundfonts is facing towards the right , click on it so that it points down and displays the Generator popUp menus:
GarageBand soundfonts

Next click on the first PopUp menu
GarageBand soundfonts

And you'll find all the installed instruments, plus the all important DLSMusicDevice choice towards the bottom. This is the selection you want:
GarageBand soundfonts

Once that is selected: GarageBand soundfonts

Click the GarageBand soundfonts button to edit the generator and a window will open that looks like this: GarageBand soundfonts

Click on the Sound Bank popUp menu to select which Sound Bank you wish to use. In my case it's the Guitar:
GarageBand soundfonts

And you've not only installed your SoundFont, it's ready to use. Close the DLSMusicDevice window.

The only thing left to do is change the track name, as it still thinks its a Grand Piano. It's only a label, but still, it really is a Metal Guitar, so I think it should know too. If the track isn't selected, click on it once to select it:
GarageBand soundfonts

Then click on the text once and do not move the mouse.
GarageBand soundfonts

In about 1 second the text will become editable:
GarageBand soundfonts

Type in a new Name and press the ReturnKey:
GarageBand soundfonts

And finally let's get a nice Guitar Icon. If you closed the Track Info, click the GarageBand soundfontsbutton to reopen it.
Click on the GarageBand soundfontspopUp menu, and choose your new icon:

GarageBand soundfonts

And you're ready to rock. Break out your MIDI Keyboard, or even one of the onscreen keyboards and let loose!
GarageBand soundfonts


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