For the past few months, I have been working on writing a song with the help of my music theory teacher. At the moment, we are trying to make the stock GarageBand string section sound more realistic and more expressive.
When you write out your notes in MIDI, GarageBand’s program may not play them exactly how you want them to. In our case, we first wanted to fix the timing of the notes because all of the notes were quite delayed and off beat. We ended up shifting all of the notes back a little bit to make sure that when you actually hear the notes they’re being played on time.
After that, we noticed how some of the notes were quieter or louder than others. This was because, in GarageBand, the default samples are played in a way where it takes a while before the note is played fully. This means that the beginning of a note is a lot quieter, making shorter notes quiet. To fix this, we changed the velocity of certain notes. Particularly the very legato and staccato notes, which are notes that are very smooth and notes that are very quick and sharp. For the legato, we lowered the velocity making them quieter than before, and for the staccato, we made them louder by increasing the velocity. We wanted to make sure that most of the notes are played at a consistent volume with no big leaps in dynamics.
Now that we had all of our notes being played correctly, we wanted to change the way they sounded in order to make them sound more realistic. Starting with the EQ, we looked for different types of frequencies that we didn’t like depending on the instrument we were using. For example, with the violins, we wanted to make sure that we didn’t have too many low frequencies since they weren’t apart of the instrument, but also getting rid of any sharp or buzzy high frequencies. Another small thing we added was some reverb, which is almost like the echo of a room that simulates the instruments actually being played.
Finally, we had all of our notes being played correctly and sounding good, but there was almost no expression, so they were all kind of flat notes. While they sounded like real instruments, they didn’t sound like real people were playing them. To fix this, we went back to the note velocities we used to change the volume of notes. We thought about which notes we wanted to put emphasis on especially in the staccato region. This helped a lot with the flow of the music, and it made the music sound more lively.
Overall, I was quite surprised with how well we were able to get the default GarageBand samples to sound. Before, they were pretty terrible and didn’t sound that good. However, we were able to create something that was usable that actually sounded pretty nice. Later on, we’ll be trying to record some guitar, and maybe even add some other instruments.