Launching Band-In-A-Box (BIAB)
Band-In-A-Box is one of the coolest programs out there! I love this program and use it often. It works on both Mac and PC. Basically, you just enter in jazz chord symbols from a lead sheet, and the program will construct a drum, bass, piano, and guitar part for your lead sheet. Depending on the style that you choose BIAB may also add a string part as well. This is a brief tutorial to get you up and running in BIAB.
The latest version includes what PG music refers to as
Real Tracks. These are audio files of real musicians playing! Because of the audio files, the program is rather large and comes on its own hard drive. I highly recommend spending the extra money for the full version of this program including Real Tracks.
BIAB and you will see the following window:
Band-In-A-Box launch window
Each number represents are bar of music. To start we are going to enter in one of the most common progressions in music, the ii-v7-I.
Click on the black rectangle in measure 1
Let's stay in the key of C Major, enter in the following chord symbols:
Once you have entered in a chord symbol, use the
Tab key on your computer keyboard to move to the next measure. Enter in the following:
Notice that as you enter in a chord symbol it will appear in the
Wz box in the upper right hand corner of the BIAB window.
Changing The Tempo
Notice the following window in BIAB:
Hold your mouse above or below the tempo number
image010 and you can change the tempo in increments of 1 or 5 up or down. Holding above the 140 will allow you to increase the tempo, holding below the 140 will allow you to decrease the tempo.
Try it!
Entering The Sequence Length
(1-32) This is the length of the sequence, going from measure 1 to measure 32.
Click on
32 and your mouse cursor will change to a + and start to blink. Next, click on measure 4 image011 in the BIAB work window. Notice that the measure length will now read 1-4
The number (3) to the right of the measure length (1-4) tells us how many times the sequence will repeat. If you click and hold your mouse on (3), you will see a pull down menu, this allows us to select how many times you want BIAB to play your sequence.
Let's set that to 1
Your window should now look as follows:
Entering A Title and Key
Click on the word
Untitled in setup window and you will see the following Window:
Click in the
Title box and title this Lesson 1. You can also choose your key and tempo. Since we are in the key of C major, we are just fine. To enter a minor key, you would type in Cm etc.
When you have entered in the title, click
Choosing A Style
We are now going to select a Style for BIAB to play our simple chord progression.
At first, this can be a bit overwhelming! Locate the
Style button on the left-hand side of the setup window.
Click on the
Style button. If this is the first time using BIAB, you may see the following message:
Just wait and let BIAB update the styles, it may take a while.
When BIAB is done, you will see the following:
OK, and you will now see the following window:
This window may at first be a tad overwhelming. The first column on the left is a list of all the styles by name. The second column tells us the tempo range that works best for the style. Understand that you can choose any tempo for any style, but if you stay close to a tempo range the style will sound better. The third column tells you a little about the style.
Select the following from the list:
Jazz [Real Styles] Bossap EV 8 140 Bossa with Piano (140 RS)
OK, and BIAB will automatically start to play your style.
Because we only had BIAB play through the sequence 1 time, BIAB will enter an end chord as well as an ending.
Notice the
Playback Controls at the top of the BIAB window:
These should be self-explaining. You can also use the
Spacebar on your computer keyboard to stop playback. BIAB will not allow you to start playback with the spacebar.
To start playing from you computer keyboard use
command-R and BIAB will start to play.
To start playing anywhere in a sequence just
double-click in the middle of a measure.
For this example I chose a
Real Style for playback. These are real musicians playing! BIAB uses prerecorded audio tracks for sequences! I don't know how the programmers came up with this, but WOW it sounds GREAT!
I have used BIAB on several jazz projects for clients and they never knew that I was not using real musicians (I guess in a round-about way I was though).
To view a brief tutorial on the concepts covered above, click on the following link:
BIAB Clip 1
Saving Your Work
This works, just like any other Mac program. Go to the
File pull down menu and select Save.
Using Chord Builder
If you are not familiar with jazz and pop notation, BIAB has a tool called
Chord Builder. Go to the User pull down menu and select Chord Builder.
You will now see the following window:
Chord Builder Window.
The problem with standard jazz/pop chord notation is that there
IS NO STANDARD! BIAB does a pretty good job trying to reach the middle ground with chord notation, but every once in a while you may enter a chord that BIAB does not like. Use the Chord Builder to help solve the problem.
More On Entering And Editing Chords
BIAB will allow you to enter 4 chords per measure. In general, when you hit the
Tab key you are moving forward in half-note increments.
For example to enter two chords per measure (Dm7 G7) you would enter the first chord (Dm7) hit the
Tab key once and then enter G7
To enter four chords per measure, use a comma between the first two chords, hit the
Tab key then enter the next two chords separated by a comma. Dm7, G7  Tab Ebm7, Ab7     Tab
If you are planning a tune in 3/4 time, I generally choose the style first (there are several styles in meters other than 4/4)
Delete a chord or series of chords, simply drag and highlight the chords you want to delete, and then go to the Edit pull down menu and select Cut.
BIAB really functions much like a word processing program. Feel free to experiment with using the copy and paste functions as well.
Style Markers
You may have noticed that some measures contain a blue marker.
These markers serve two functions:
Allow you to chose an
A or B feel within a BIAB style
or, tell the drummer to do a fill before the marker.
You have three marker options:
image032 This is an A Maker and will play an A feel on a BIAB style
image033 This is a B Marker and will play a B feel on a BIAB style
image034 No Marker, which plays the feel of the latest placed marker feel.
To change markers, simply click on the marker.
Let's hear what different
Markers sound like. Enter the following into BIAB
Make sure that your sequence is playing from measure 1-8
Play the sequence and listen to the two different styles.

Having BIAB Create An Intro
Keep the above file open and click on
Intro icon located at the top of the BIAB window on the right-hand side.
You will now see the following dialog box:
We are keeping this fairly simple, so the defaults will work just fine. On other projects feel free to experiment with different intro lengths, pedal bass etc.
Make sure you click on the
(Re)-Generate Intro Chords icon, then click on the Close button to close the dialog box.
You will now see a four bar intro added to your sequence:
Also notice the sequence length window has changed:
This tells us that our original sequence won't start until measure 5. This is especially handy when you tell BIAB to loop more than 1 time. BIAB will only play the intro once!
Play your sequence and see how the intro sounds!
You may also notice that BIAB does not do first and second endings! If you have first and second ending on your lead sheet that you want to enter into BIAB, just copy/paste or write out the chords like you were playing a first and second ending.
Lead Sheet Chord Notation
BIAB will also allow you to print out a lead sheet of the chords that you entered.
Make sure that you select the first measure of your sequence by clicking on it.
Click on the
Notation icon to enter the notation window
Your BIAB work area now shows lead sheet notation.
To print out your lead sheet, just select the
Print icon.
To exit the
Notation window, simply click on the Notation icon again.
Exporting Options
BIAB allows you to export your sequence in a variety of ways.
First, let's cover exporting as an audio file. This is great, because as long as you match up the tempos, you can directly drag these into GarageBand or another sequencing program.
To Export As An Audio File
BIAB will allow you export your sequence as a stereo audio file or as individual tracks that you can import into GarageBand for mixing, adding effects etc.
Click on the
Audio Export icon.
You will now see the following window
We want to make sure that we save our
Render Folder to the desktop for easy access. Locate the icon to the right of the Destination Folder:
Click on it, and make sure that you select
Desktop at the top of the window:
Once you have done that click on the
Choose button
Destination Folder window should now look as follows:
Select the following Options:
We are going to save as
Individual Real Tracks, this will give us a drum, bass, and piano audio file. Output Format allows us to select the type of audio file (AIFF is a Mac format and just fine). Auto Channels when selected will save each instrument automatically as the correct mono or stereo format.
Render and you will no see the following message:
You will then see the following:
Click on the
No button.
Then click on
Close the Render window
On your
Desktop, you should now see the following folder:
Open the folder and you will see the following audio files:
Single click on the
RealDrums file so that it is highlighted.
Hit your spacebar on your computer keyboard and listen to the drum track.
As long as your tempos are the same, you can directly drag each of these files into GarageBand to mix, tweak, and add melodies!
Saving As Standard MIDI Files
Another option in BIAB is to save your sequence as a
Standard MIDI File or SMF. You can import them into your sequencer for editing and the file sizes are much smaller.
Click on the
.mid icon
You will now see the following:
File On Disk
The following appears:
Make sure you select
Desktop so you can locate your file easily.
Again, you can import this file directly into GarageBand or any other sequencer program.
To view a brief tutorial on the concepts covered above, click on the following link:
BIAB Clip 2
Create a BIAB project using the lead sheet below. Chose any style that you want. Remember that you have to write out the first and second Endings! Extra points if you can guess the tune that uses these chords.

Lead Sheet
This tutorial was designed as an introduction to BIAB. I have only scratched the surface here. Dive into the program on your own. Use the BIAB help menu, look for other tutorials on YouTube. This is a GREAT program!

l arrow To Lessons Page