I have a toy piano that I would like to sample and use in GarageBand, but I have no idea where to start and what software to use. What’s a simple and cheap way to sample this instrument and then use it as a software instrument sound in GarageBand? See also: GarageBand 11 review.
Skip Edwards

You’ll need a microphone to sample the piano and recording software. Download a copy of the free Audacity (audacity.sourceforge.net), create a new file, place your microphone in a good position where it can capture the best your piano has to offer, start recording, and plunk out a note on the instrument. Name the sample (TP C3, for example) and save the file in AIFF or WAV format. Create a new file for each note you eventually want to play in GarageBand.

Launch GarageBand and choose a new Piano project. In the resulting window, select the Grand Piano track and press Cmd-I to produce the Info pane. In the first Browse column, select Sound Effects. In the Instrument column to the right, select Radio Sounds. Now choose Window > Musical Typing. Locate the samples you recorded of your toy piano and drag them into position on the Musical Typing keyboard – for example, drag the Middle C sample to the correct position on the Musical Typing keyboard. If you have more samples than will fit on the keyboard, choose a lower or higher octave from the keyboard at the top of the window and drag in your samples.

Click the Save Instrument button at the bottom of the window. You’ll be prompted to enter a name for your instrument. Type one and click Save. The instrument will now appear in the Instrument column when you select Sound Effects in the Info pane. Like other software instruments, the one you just made can be triggered by both GarageBand’s virtual keyboard and an external musical keyboard. You can use this same technique to create a keyboard full of sound effects. If you’d like more control over your samples, check out SonicAmigo’s $40 (£24) PolyPhontics GB (www.sonicamigos.com).