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Export MIDI from GarageBand

GarageBand likes to keep MIDI data hidden and inaccessible. Here’s how to extract it anyway.

GarageBand icon with MIDI cable superimposed

Apple’s GarageBand makes it relatively easy to sketch out an audio demo, but it does have some severe, intentionally-crippled limitations.

One of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of built-in support for exporting MIDI data.

Performances are stored inside the session file in some sort of MIDI fashion, but Apple doesn’t give users an easy way to get that information out. Major bummer. *looks west towards Cupertino, squints eyes, shakes fist in air, mutters under breath*

However, a nice guy named Lars Kobbe has put together a workaround/hack that extracts MIDI data from the reluctant clutches of GarageBand. You can download his GB2MIDI Apple droplet script from his site: MIDI-Export in Apples Garageband. Here’s the direct download: GB2MIDI.ZIP

The article is in German, but instructions in English are found near the bottom of the article (just before the comments section). Getting the MIDI data out involves several steps. Here’s my summary of the process.

How to Extract MIDI Data from GarageBand

  1. Join (Command-J) regions of a track you want to export
  2. Convert that region to a loop via Edit > Add to Loop Library (NOTE: In GarageBand 10.1.0 this menu item is now located under File > Add Region to Loop Library )
  3. Find the newly created loop file (an .AIF with MIDI data hidden inside it) in the folder: Macintosh HD (or whatever your system drive is named)/Users/(your home folder)/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/User Loops/SingleFiles/
    or the abbreviated: ~/Library/Audio/Apple Loops/User Loops/SingleFiles/
  4. Drop that .AIF file on Lars’ GB2MIDI droplet
  5. Grab the freshly extracted .MID file, which should appear in the same folder where the .AIF loop was. If not, see the comment section below.
  6. Import the .MID file into a respectable DAW (basically almost anything other than GarageBand).
  7. Make next hit record.

That last step is optional, but I say go for it. 😉 Let me know if this helped you.

Locating The Files

UPDATE 2014-08-10

If you’re having trouble locating the loop file, it may be because your Library and/or Users folders are hidden, as later OS X versions have been wont to do.

To unhide the Library folder, open the Terminal application, which is found in the /Applications/Utilities/ folder. At the prompt type the following:
chflags nohidden ~/Library/

To unhide the Users folder, type this into Terminal:
sudo chflags nohidden /Users
Then enter your administrator password.

Look for the newly unhidden Users folder in your hard drive’s root folder. It should look something like this:

screenshot highlighting location of User folder

After running “sudo chflags no hidden /Users” you should see the Users folder (highlighted in red in the image above) appear under the root folder of your hard drive (often named “Macintosh HD” by default).

For more on the hidden Users folder issue check this article from The Mac Observer. It seems the problem was introduced with iTunes 11.2 when Find My Mac is enabled. Another blog suggests that updating to iTunes 11.2.1 fixes the issue.

GarageBand Alternatives

UPDATE 2016-02-04

This GarageBand MIDI article has regularly been one of the most popular posts on my site. That means there are a lot of people using GarageBand and discovering its unfortunate MIDI limitations. The best bit of advice I can give to any musician or audio engineer still using GarageBand is STOP. I know that may sound harsh, but GarageBand is intentionally made to be consumer-grade software. If you’re serious about recording, take the time to investigate other DAWs. Find an alternative solution. There are many to choose from and nearly every one of them is less limited than GarageBand. They range from super affordable to “professionally priced.” Here’s a list to get you started. (Some links are affiliated.)

Pick any of the DAWs above (or find another — this list is by no means exhaustive) and you’ll find it much easier to work with MIDI. Let me know what software you chose.

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You vs. The World

Feeling up for the fight?

altered image of earth

We are unsuited for the battle this world presents.

When it comes down to it, it’s us, each of us, the individuals, versus the world.

Mostly unwittingly, we pit our own knowledge, logic, and wisdom, against the collective knowledge, logic, and wisdom of the entire rest of the world. When any one of us does anything or makes a statement, we open ourselves to be potentially judged by the entire world.

When we post a tweet or Facebook status update that contains something ignorant, foolish, unvetted, or decidedly individualistic and singular, we cast our vote to the roughly seven billion other people living on the planet (and those yet to come). Then they get to decide what to do with us.

The odds are astronomical.

The chances of any one of us having it all put together into a package that’s approvable by all the other humans is next to impossible. It’s more probable that I’ll win the lottery than be a person who has all of my thoughts inline with the zeitgeist of this age (or any age, really).

The truth is this: none of us has it together.

Most of us are fortunate enough not to have the eye of public scrutiny upon us because we are essentially not “persons of interest.” Some of us are wealthy enough to hide the parts of us that we know won’t pass The Test™. But even those among us that are fortunate enough to be able to hire PR reps, editors, or life coaches can rarely pass either.

The unfortunate ones among us are those that get our laundry aired for all to see. You know the ones – they’re in the court cases we read about, in the tabloid pictures we see, and news broadcasts we watch at 6pm and 11pm every night. They’re made infamous in YouTube videos and lynched on Twitter.

We relish these Darwin Award moments, because “Haha, who would be that stupid?!”

Answer: regular folks like you and me.

We all have laundry. And it’s dirty.

It’s sad how much dirt I personally have on the people around me. God knows, many people have dirt on me.

We could divulge so much about the people we know. Luckily, most of them are not famous enough, nor “valuable” enough for society-at-large to have reason to tear us all down. If you’re reading this, it’s likely (both statistically and by association with me) that you are not worth destroying either. You’re probably not a powerful politician, CEO, nor Kardashian with an empire to lose.

Lucky you.

And lucky me.

Because you’re not “valuable,” you’re entire life will be spared the microscopic, fine-tooth comb of large-scale public examination.

But just because you’re not a congressperson, fat cat, or reality TV star doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty. You probably think you aren’t, act like you aren’t, and judge others like you aren’t, but guess what… you’re guilty of something and you wouldn’t survive the gauntlet.

If your life and history were scoured by journalists, if your friends and family were interviewed to get the dirt on you, if everything you posted on the internet made its way onto the evening news, the verdict would come swift and sure: “You have failed.”

Perhaps even: “You are a failure.”

I don’t care how sure you think you are in your own belief and reasoning, if you ever come to find yourself in the spotlight and the World (that beastly, collective entity of humanity) gets to do it’s thing, you can be sure that “they” will find the fault in you. They will spare no judgement, penalty, nor harsh word to put you in your place.

It doesn’t matter what good deeds you’ve done. We only need one false step, one moment of humanity, a split second of personal expression to tie the boat anchor to your neck and sink you.

We’ll love watching you drown. We feed on the gossip, believing we’re innocent. We’re humans. This is our sickness.

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