Enabling Note Track playback on Mac

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Revision as of 10:33, 1 August 2017 by PeterSampson (talk | contribs) (corrected link - made it external (Manual))
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This page contains instructions for how to set up your Mac so that it can play MIDI files, Note Tracks, in Audacity.


  1. What is needed
  2. Software Synthesizer
  3. Virtual MIDI port
  4. Ready for use

What is needed

Basically you need to provide two things on your Mac:

  1. a software MIDI synthesizer, a synthesizer is the thing that actually makes sound from the MIDI instructions
  2. install and set up an IAC driver and make the software synthesizer listen to it

Software Synthesizer

As described above, a synthesizer is the thing that actually makes the sounds for you.

For Macs, typically the easiest solution is SimpleSynth. You can download and install this program and keep it running in the background at all times. This will give you a basic set of standard MIDI sounds for Audacity to work with.

You can download SimpleSynth for free from this external website.

Peter 24Jul17: I have grave reservations about us recommending a package like this whose website shows that it has not been maintained/updated since 5th September 2009.

Once you have installed SimpleSynth launch it and keep it running in the background.

Other MIDI software synthesizers are available - a common one, more complicated than SimpleSytnth, is sforzando, also available as a free download.

Virtual MIDI port

A virtual MIDI port is a piece of software that runs in the background to send/receive MIDI messages from other programs or hardware devices.

The IAC (Inter-Application Communication) Driver in macOS allows you to create virtual MIDI cables between applications in this case Audacity and the software synthesizer.

You are likely to have to install and configure the IAC Driver on your Mac: 1) quit Audacity

2) Open Audio MIDI setup using Applications > Utilities > Audio MIDI Setup   Mac AMS.png

3) You should see the drivers setup window

Mac Drivers setup.png
If you don’t see that window, go up to the top left of the screen and go to Audio MIDI Setup > Preferences and make sure the box called “MIDI Window” is checked on. Then close and relaunch Audio MIDI Setup.

4) Double-click on the IAC Driver icon and you should see:

Mac IAC Driver Properties.png
If the Ports list is empty, you don’t have any ports set up. To add a new port, click the “+” button. This port will now always be there (potentially unless you upgrade your OS version – then you might need to go through these steps again).

5) To use the IAC Driver, first you must turn it on. Click on the "Device is online" checkbox

Mac IAC driver checked online.png
And then click the Apply button.

Ready for use

This should leave you ready to relaunch Audacity, import a MIDI file and play it.

Bulb icon Don't forget to relaunch the software synthesizer each time you restart your Mac.
Don't ask me how I know this ... <blushes deeply>