How to make a GarageBand paper keyboard

Create a GarageBand paper keyboard with the Touch Board

The Touch Board can be used as a MIDI controller to send MIDI note data to Apple GarageBand. If one of the Touch Board’s electrodes is triggered, the board sends the data to GarageBand. Using the Touch Board is a great way to create a minimal interface to play your music.

You can either use GarageBand on your Mac or on your iPad or iPhone with the Touch Board, but for the iPhone or iPad, you will need the Lightning to Camera Adapter, to connect the Touch Board with iOS devices.

Step 1 Upload the MIDI interface code to the Touch Board

If you haven’t set up your Touch Board, then check out the setup tutorial. Upload the “Midi_interface” code to the Touch Board, making sure that you have selected “Bare Conductive Touch Board (USB MIDI, iPad compatible)” under Tools -> Board.

If you have set up the MIDI piano with the Touch Board before, then there is no need to remove the MIDI solder bridges of the Touch Board, you can keep them on.

Step 2 Connect the Touch Board to GarageBand

If you are using GarageBand on a Mac, you can simply open GarageBand, making sure your sound is on. Select “Empty Project” and “Software Instrument”. This opens “Classic Electric Piano” and if you touch the keys on the Touch Board, it will play the piano notes in GarageBand.

If you are using GarageBand on an iPhone or iPad, you first need to install the GarageBand of the iOS App Store. Additionally, you need a Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. Once you have downloaded the app, turn the Touch Board off and disconnect it from your computer. Then, connect the Touch Board to the USB Camera Adapter via the USB port and the Camera Adapter to the device. Open GarageBand on your device and create a new project by selecting “Smart Piano” in “Keyboard”. Make sure that you can hear the audio of your device. Turn the Touch Board back on. In GarageBand, it should detect the MIDI input from the Touch Board. Test the connection by running your finger across the Touch Board’s electrodes, you should hear the piano notes from your device

Step 3 Changing the notes

The default code for the Touch Board is set to play a scale from C3 to B3 in semitones. If you want to change the notes to play your music, you need to edit the MIDI code.

Step 4 Changing the instrument

The default instrument on GarageBand is the “Grand Piano” or “Classic Electric Piano”, but you can just change the musical instrument to something else you would like to play with your controller keyboard. Note that a percussion instrument uses a different MIDI note number system than MIDI melodic instruments, as they use percussion sound instead of notes. You can find an overview of which number corresponds to which percussion sound on the second page here.

Step 5 Create a paper controller

Now that you know how to connect the Touch Board to GarageBand, you can create a keyboard controller for your audio for the Touch Board. Either you can use one of the Printed Instrument Sensors as a MIDI controller, paint your piano keyboard with Electric Paint or connect other conductive materials to the electrodes to make a keyboard for GarageBand. Using the Touch Board as your interface allows you to create a simple interface that only has a couple of buttons to play the audio. The benefit of designing your own keyboard with Electric Paint is that you can create an audio interface that makes it easier to play your music by just using the necessary notes. So if you want to play only 3 notes, you can just paint 3 buttons.

Step 6 Further steps

You can also use the Touch Board as a MIDI controller to send MIDI data to Ableton Live on a Mac. You can find more about in our Ableton Live tutorial.

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