How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand [Step-By-Step]

MIDI Guitar 2 is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the world of music production in the last little while. It’s really an incredible tool that allows you to turn your guitar into a MIDI controller that way you don’t have to rely on a MIDI keyboard or drum pad all of the time. While I like both of these traditional methods, using your guitar is mad cool.

That said, getting things like this set up sometimes can be quite the nuisance, so I went through the trouble to really get into setting up MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand, and also some of the settings for getting it to really work as well as it should. Once you understand the process, MIDI Guitar 2 is easy to set up for GarageBand.

To use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
1) Connect your guitar with an audio interface
2) Open one audio track and one software instrument track
3) Use (Option + T) to Configure Track Header
4) Check the “Record Enable” box and enable recording on both tracks.
5) Ensure you’ve turned Monitoring on

This is the long and short of how you get MIDI Guitar 2 to work with GarageBand, but there’s another way too. In case you didn’t know, there is MIDI Guitar for GarageBand, which is the free version of the application that’s available for download in the App Store. I’ll make sure you understand how to use both MIDI Guitar for GarageBand and MIDI Guitar 2 as well. Let’s jump into it down in the section below.

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How To Set Up MIDI Guitar 2 in GarageBand

1) Download MIDI Guitar 2 from the Jam Origin Website

Download MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand

Head on over to the Jam Origin website to get your hands on the MIDI Guitar 2. Download both MIDI Guitar 2 and MIDI Guitar for GarageBand if you want to give both a shot. MIDI Guitar 2 is better though.

2) Open A New GarageBand Project and Connect Your Guitar

New Project - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand

The next thing you want to do after you’ve downloaded everything is open up a new project like what you can see in the image above. It’s important that you use an audio track.

3) Configure Your Audio Interface and GarageBand’s Preferences

The video I just showed above will show you how to connect your guitar to GarageBand using an audio interface like the Scarlett 2i2 (on Amazon). It’s a fairly straightforward process that you get used to very quickly if you haven’t done it before. If you don’t want to take the time to watch the video though, here’s a nice little image excerpt that’ll help you.

You also want to ensure you’ve turned on Scarlett 2i2 in the input section down in the Smart Controls, in addition to putting on the Monitoring button so you can actually hear what you’re doing.

4) Open MIDI Guitar 2 on the Guitar Track

Echo, Noise Gate, Reverb, EQ - How to Use the MIDI Guitar 2
What your GarageBand interface should look like when you’re setting everything up for MIDI Guitar 2

Apparently, it’s important that you turn anything off on the track that’s not necessary. Personally, I haven’t found much of a difference when turning some of this stuff off, however, it’s what Jam Origin recommends so that’s what I do.

Turn on Monitoring

The next thing you want to do is ensure you’ve turned on Monitoring. You won’t be able to use MIDI Guitar 2 without your guitar track’s monitoring option turned on.

Turn Off Master Echo, Master Reverb, the Channel EQ, Feedback Protection, and Any Other Effects

Turn off your Master Echo, Master Reverb, the default Channel EQ, and feedback protection. I would also click over to the EQ tab as well to make sure the EQ is really off. I used to recommend keeping the Noise Gate on, however, MIDI Guitar 2 has its own Noise Gate that you can use.

5) Open The VST You Want to Control With MIDI Guitar 2

Open the VST You Want to Control - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
Open up your desired VST, software instrument, or third-party plugin

MIDI Guitar 2 works for any VST, at least according to what I’ve seen thus far. That means you can use it for Spitfire Audio Plugins, Kontakt 6 instruments, and all kinds of sounds that I love to use (check my plugins guide for more great ones).

6) Use (Option + T) to Configure Track Header and Record Enable

Record Enable - How to Use the MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
Press (Option + T) to bring up the Configure Track Heading option, then select “Record Enable.”

The next part of the process that really took me a hot minute to figure out was the Record Enable function. Not that setting it up is hard, but I just didn’t realize you needed to do this to get the MIDI Guitar 2 to work.

That’s why I initially used the MIDI Guitar for GarageBand because you can send MIDI into GarageBand from outside the DAW as a stand-alone plugin. Using it as a plugin though, however, is way better which is something I talked a bit more about down below.

7) Turn On the Record Enable For the Audio Track and Instrument Track

How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 in GarageBand - Record Enable again

Turn on Record Enable for both tracks. You’ll know they’re all turned on because they’ll look something like this:

How Record Enable Looks - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 in GarageBand
As you can see, we’re controlling multiple VSTs with MIDI Guitar 2. Very cool.

How to Use MIDI Guitar for GarageBand

One thing I’ll say right off the bat about MID Guitar for GarageBand is that while it does work, it doesn’t work nearly as well as MIDI Guitar 2 when you use it as a plugin.

As a matter of fact, I had reservations about using MIDI Guitar for GarageBand until I finally figured out how to use MIDI Guitar 2. I thought MIDI Guitar for GarageBand was the extent of the software’s power. However, MIDI Guitar 2 is really taking it to the next level, as it works very well.

You can set it up so that there is hardly any latency at all (more on latency in my guide by the way), and it’ll actually function as a totally legitimate MIDI controller. It’s amazing and I love it.

That said, if you don’t want to pay the price for the full version, MIDI Guitar for GarageBand is a nice introduction to the software because it’s very easy to set up and use. So here’s how to do it.

1) Download MIDI Guitar for GarageBand from Jam Origin

Download MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
Do the same thing as before if you haven’t done so already.

2) Open GarageBand and MIDI Guitar for GarageBand

This is pretty self-explanatory.

3) Select The Instrument You Want to Control

Again, open up your instrument of choice and remember that you can use MIDI Guitar for almost anything that can trigger samples in the sample library. You can even use it to play around with samplers and other tools.

4) Select “External MIDI Output” In the Center Console of MIDI Guitar for GarageBand

External MIDI Output - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
Basically, you just have to set the EXTERNAL MIDI OUTPUT setting in the center of the MIDI Guitar for GarageBand interface. From there, you can control any instrument.

Tips for Optimizing MIDI Guitar 2 and MIDI Guitar for GarageBand

Before we begin, understand that all of these tips are hardly even like tips – I would say they are essential tactics for getting the most out of MIDI Guitar 2. The first one we’ll talk about is how tuning your guitar, which is honestly pretty important.

1) Make Sure You’ve Tuned Your Guitar

Hot-Tuna-Best-Plugins-for-Garageband-2-
I either use my Snark clip-on tuner or the Blue Cat Hot Tuna

You already know how to tune your guitar. So I won’t lecture on that, but what I will tell you is that I recommend either the Snark clip-on Tuner (on Amazon) or Blue Cat Audio’s Hot Tuna. A combination of both is usually the secret for me because sometimes I leave my Snark on a different guitar that’s across the room.

Snark Tuner - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand

The Hot Tuna steps in for those situations where I don’t want to get out of my recording position and grab another tuner. You can get it for a great price on Plugin Boutique. One thing I should mention is that you can adjust the tuning of MIDI Guitar 2 so it matches de-tuned and alternate tunings, as well.

2) Turn On “Bends: Range 4” and “Legato: 5ms”

Bend Range 4 / Legato 5MS - How to Use the MIDI Guitar 2 in GarageBand
The bend and legato feature is important to have turned on.

Some of the reviews I’ve read online on the MIDI Guitar 2 say that you can’t do bends or anything like that, but they’re wrong. The bending function works surprisingly well considering what people have derisively said on the internet.

MIDI Guitar 2 is more than capable of picking up on the bends that you can to the strings. Vibrato is a different story because it doesn’t pick up on it at all as far as I know, but it does pick up on bends, and quite effectively too.

3) Turn Up the Audio Interface Gain As Hot As It Can Go Without Clipping

Gain on A/I - How to Use the MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
This is the setting I have my Scarlett 2i2 at when I use MIDI Guitar 2 with PRS SE Custom 24, my favorite guitar which I got on zZounds years ago.

Turn Your Pickups All The Way Up

If you have to, turn the gain down on the audio interface a bit to compensate for any clipping that you run into. I find this is the best way to go. You want the signal from the guitar as audible as possible so the audio interface gets all of it.

Understand That Some Guitars Have Hotter Pickups

ESP Eclipse II - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 in GarageBand
My ESP Eclipse has EMGs in it and they’re pretty hot.

For instance, if I use my blessed ESP Eclipse II (also on zZounds), it has active EMG 81/60 pickups I believe which output a much, much hotter signal. For that reason, I would probably have to drop down the gain on the Scarlett by just a bit.

Try Using the Bridge Instead of the Neck Pickup

Try your bridge pickup instead of your neck pickup if you’re struggling to get the control over the MIDI you’re looking for (more on MIDI in my guide, by the way).

4) Use the Plugin Version Instead of the Stand-Alone Version

Plugin Version - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
You also want to have MIDI Guitar at the very top of your plugins as shown here, and you don’t want any other plugins running on it.

I already said this before, but make sure you’re using the plugin version of MIDI Guitar 2 instead of the stand-alone version. It’s much better.

5) Use MIDI Guitar 2 to Control Many Tracks at Once

Recording Multiple Tracks - How to Use The MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
Yes, MIDI Guitar is capable of multi-track recording which is amazing.

Use MIDI Guitar 2 for recording many different sounds at once. I haven’t tested how many it can control simultaneously, but I imagine if your computer can take it, the MIDI Guitar 2 can probably do it. This brings me to my next point.

6) Ensure Your Computer is Powerful Enough

Computer Specs - How to Use MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand
As seen originally in my article on RAM and music production

When it comes to your computer, the more powerful you go the better. That said, computers are getting quite powerful these days, so a laptop should be able to take care of most music producers’ needs.

I’ve heard great things about the new MacBook Pros with the M1 chips in them which you can get on Amazon. IAmAMusicMogul did a YouTube video on them that’s worth checking out if you’re interested.

Important Things to Note About MIDI Guitar 2 for GarageBand

1) MIDI Guitar 2 is a Controller and Not A VST

Surprisingly, people get confused sometimes about what this thing actually is. MIDI Guitar 2 is a controller, like a MIDI Keyboard, and not a guitar amp simulator. You use it as a way to send MIDI information into a DAW for controlling other sample libraries and sounds.

Gear Mentioned

1) Scarlett 2i2 (on Amazon)

2) Snark clip-on Tuner (on Amazon)

3) Blue Cat Audio’s Hot Tuna (on Plugin Boutique)

4) PRS SE Custom 24 (on zZounds)

5) ESP Eclipse II (on zZounds)

6) MacBook Pro M1 16″ Laptop (on Amazon)