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Band-in-a-Box® 2020 for Windows® User's Guide

Chapter 1: Welcome to Band-in-a-Box!

Congratulations on your purchase of Band-in-a-Box, the favorite of musicians, students, and songwriters everywhere.  Get ready to have fun!

What is Band-in-a-Box?

Band-in-a-Box is an intelligent automatic accompaniment program for your multimedia computer. You can hear and play along to many song ideas and go from “nothing” to “something” in a very short period of time with Band-in-a-Box as your “on demand” backup band.

Band-in-a-Box is so easy to use!

Just type in the chords for any song using standard chord symbols (like C, Fm7, or C13b9), choose the style you’d like, and Band-in-a-Box does the rest, automatically generating a complete professional-quality arrangement of piano, bass, drums, guitar, and strings or horns in a wide variety of popular styles plus live audio tracks with RealDrums and RealTracks.

And that’s not all...

Band-in-a-Box is a powerful and creative music composition tool for exploring and developing musical ideas with near-instantaneous feedback.  Over the years many features have been added to Band-in-a-Box – Notation and Lyrics, Piano Roll, 16-channel MIDI multi-tracks, harmonization, the StyleMaker and StylePicker, a live performance Conductor window, Medley Maker, and 24 –substyle Multistyles.  The Soloist and the Melodist are popular “intelligent” features that generate professional solos or even create whole new songs from scratch.  RealDrums add the human element of a live drummer while RealTracks add even more live session musicians, bringing the entire Band-in-a-Box arrangement to life.  You can even record your own UserTracks and Band-in-a-Box will play them just like RealTracks!  Or use the MIDI SuperTracks for MIDI tracks with a “real feel” that you can edit and arrange.  The Audio Chord Wizard has the amazing ability to analyze, extract, and show the chords from audio recordings on-screen and then write them to the Band-in-a-Box Chord Sheet.

The inclusion of digital audio features makes Band-in-a-Box the perfect tool for creating, playing, and recording your music with MIDI, vocals, and acoustic instruments.  Band-in-a-Box for Windows® can also record an acoustic instrument or voice to add to the composition, with processing through its own DirectX audio effects.  Its built-in audio harmonies will turn your audio track into multiple harmony parts or adjust its pitch.  Use the Mixer window to select parts, set levels, and create a polished final mix.

You can print out your finished creation with lyrics, chords, repeats and endings, DC markings, and codas, or save it as a graphics file for web publication or to e-mail to a friend.  And when you are ready to let others hear your composition, you can burn it directly to an audio CD.  Or save your composition as a Windows® Media File (or in any other compressed formats you have) for a file that’s “Internet ready.”

You will have even more fun making automatic medleys, playing your favorite song lists in the Band-in-a-Box Jukebox, and singing along to your Karaoke files with CDG graphics.

Let’s get started!

This is a comprehensive guide to the program, including information not included in the printed manual.  We will begin with the easy installation and setup procedure.

Installing Band-in-a-Box for Windows®

Minimum System Requirements

Windows® XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 8.1 /10 (32 or 64-bit)

Minimum 1 GB RAM (2 GB+ recommended)

Minimum 1.0 GHz processor (2 GHz+ multicore recommended)

1 GB free Hard Disk space for a minimal install.  More space is required for RealTracks, depending on which package you buy...

  • RealTracks & RealDrums: ~100-400 MB per set
  • Pro RealCombos: ~18 GB
  • MegaPAK RealCombos: ~28 GB
  • Full UltraPAK/UltraPAK+ when installed to internal hard drive: ~120 GB (another ~100 GB is required for the installation files when downloading the UltraPAK or UltraPAK+)
  • Hard Drive versions of the UltraPAK, UltraPAK+, or Audiophile Edition do not require any hard disk space when run directly from the external hard drive they are shipped on.

1024x768 screen resolution (1360x768+ recommended)

DVD drive for shipped versions of the MegaPAK or Pro version

USB port for the UltraPAK, UltraPAK+, and Audiophile Edition

A MIDI sound source is required.  This could be a sound card, a MIDI keyboard, MIDI sound module, or software synthesizer.

Internet connection recommended for activation and updates.

Installing the Program

Use any of the following three methods to install the program files into the Band-in-a-Box directory.  By default, this directory is C:\bb, but you may choose another location.

Method 1 – Auto Run

  • Insert the program DVD-ROM into the DVD drive.
  • In a few seconds, a browser window will open with a list of the DVD contents.
  • Double-click on SETUP.EXE to run the installation program.

Method 2 – My Computer

  • Insert the program DVD-ROM into the DVD drive.
  • Access your DVD-ROM drive from the Windows® desktop by double-clicking on the My Computer icon.
  • Then, double-click on the DVD-ROM drive icon and double-click again on the SETUP.EXE program found in the root or main folder of the DVD-ROM.

Method 3 – Start Menu

  • Insert the program DVD-ROM into the DVD drive.
  • From the Windows® [Start] button, select Run.
  • Type D:\SETUP in the “Open:” command line box.  If your DVD-ROM drive uses another drive letter, type the appropriate letter, for example E:\SETUP.
  • If you don’t know the drive letter for your DVD-ROM, you can use the [Browse…] button to find it.

SETUP.EXE will copy all of the program files to your Band-in-a-Box subdirectory (usually C:\bb) and install icons to a Band-in-a-Box program group.  Click on the Band-in-a-Box icon or launch bbw.exe to open the program and configure the setup.

Band-in-a-Box External Hard Drives

Larger versions of Band-in-a-Box ship on portable USB hard drives.  You can run Band-in-a-Box and RealBand directly from the hard drive by using the program shortcuts.  Before you use the programs, you should double-click on Setup.exe.  This will set up any files that need to be installed/registered on your computer.

Note: Before unplugging the hard drive from your computer, make sure it is not in use, then click the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon in your taskbar.  When you plug the drive in, Windows® may prompt you to select an appropriate action - if so, select “Open folder to view files.”

MIDI Setup

Band-in-a-Box uses the multimedia drivers for your MIDI interface and/or sound card that are supported by the Windows® operating system.  To get sound playback you need to have a MIDI (and audio - for songs with digital audio, RealDrums, and RealTracks) driver installed.

To start using the program you will need to make sure that your MIDI interface, audio driver, and Windows® sound source are installed and configured.

Run the program by double-clicking the program icon.

To check your MIDI driver setup, press the [MIDI] toolbar icon and select the menu item MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup.  This will open the MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup dialog.  You can also go to Options | MIDI/Audio Driver Setup to open this dialog.

Select a MIDI Output Driver to use for MIDI sound playback and optionally a MIDI Input Driver if you are using an external MIDI controller keyboard or guitar.  If the setup is panned to mono, the program offers to change it to stereo.

Perhaps the easiest way to configure Band-in-a-Box is to press the [Run Driver Wizard] button in the MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup dialog.

The MIDI Output Driver Wizard dialog will take you step-by-step through the process of auditioning and selecting an appropriate driver.  This assumes that the appropriate Windows® sound drivers are installed and correctly configured.

Output to Software Synthesizers (DXi and VSTi)

Software synthesizers allow Band-in-a-Box to play high quality sounds directly through your computer sound card, without requiring any external MIDI hardware.  Most new software synthesizers are released as “plug-ins,” so they will work in a standard way with many programs.  Connecting Band-in-a-Box to the software synth as a plug-in provides several advantages over the previous method of connecting as a MIDI driver.  The plug-in allows Band-in-a-Box to merge/sync in any existing audio file (vocals etc.) with the synth output.  You can also directly render your performance to a .WAV file using the plug-in.  Sampler-based synths allow you to assemble a huge, customized library of instrument samples to use with Band-in-a-Box.

The current DXi or VSTi synth name is displayed in the button that launches the VST/DXi settings.

DirectX Instrument Synthesizer (DXi plug-in) Support

To use DXi with Band-in-a-Box, you should think of the DXi as a type of “MIDI Output Driver.”  As such, you either go to the menu Options | MIDI/Audio Driver Setup or click on [Prefs] [MIDI Driver] and select the “Use DXi Synth” checkbox.  When you do this, you can select the type of DXi to use (from a list of installed DXi, if any), and also will see a panel display of the DXi that allows you to make settings directly for your DXi synth.

The DXi will convert the MIDI information to audio, which Band-in-a-Box will playback through your sound card to audio speakers.

You can select DirectX DXi Software Synthesizers as the MIDI destination, and also apply DirectX Audio plug-ins to the Band-in-a-Box audio track.

Check the Use VST/DXi Synth checkbox to enable DXi playback. While using DXi or VSTi, all playback information is routed to the DXi/VSTi, including the option to route the Thru track from your MIDI keyboard to the DXi/VSTi synth.

Note: To use this option, you must have a polyphonic DXi synthesizer installed on your computer, such as the CoyoteWT.  It will also be most convenient if your DXisynthesizer can use General MIDI or GM2 patches.

To select the DXi synthesizer, click the [VST/DXi Synth Settings] button, which will open the VST/DX Synths/Plugins window.

Select your desired DXi synth in the top plug-in Insert Slot 1. To apply DirectX audio plug-ins to the synth, insert DX audio plug-ins to Insert Slots 2, 3, or 4.  This can be useful to add EQ, Reverb, Compression, or Peak Limiting plug-ins, if the “raw sound” of the synthesizer needs sweetening.

VSTi Instrument Synthesizer (VST plug-in)

To add VSTi synthesizer plug-ins use the plug-in menu on the top synthesizer slot.

VST plug-ins appear at the bottom of the plug-in list below the DirectX plug-ins. VST plug-ins and synthesizers have the text <VST> prefixed to the name of the plug-in or synthesizer.

To select a VST plug-in for the first time, select the “Add VST plug-in...” item at the bottom of the plug-in Menu.  Select a VST plug-in .dll file in the following Select a VST plug-in dialog, and it is added to the plug-in list.  After you add each VST, the plug-in is permanently added to the list.  You only have to add each plug-in one time.

Note: Some VST host programs scan for all available plug-ins every time they start up.  We decided not to use that method, because the scanning can take a long time if there are many plug-ins on your system.  Additionally, a badly written or corrupt plug-in could cause program malfunctions.  Therefore, we feel the method of selecting only the plug-ins you wish to use is both safer and faster.

VST/VSTi Additional Panel Controls

VST is necessarily different from DirectX/DXi, and some extra controls are available for VST plug-ins.  DirectX/DXi plug-ins save their presets to the Windows® Registry and only one setting is “alive” at a time.

VST/VSTi plug-ins save their presets to disk files.  VST/VSTi plug-ins contain a bank of presets in memory.  You can switch between presets while editing, and each edited preset is remembered in the current bank.  If you save the bank, it will save all the presets you have edited.  You can save individual presets, or you can build a custom group by loading individual preset files into different preset slots, and then save the new group file.

Note: Some very nice plug-ins, including some advanced synthesizer plug-ins, may only have one preset, but that single preset can be a doozy containing many settings.  Even with single-preset plug-ins, you can Save/Load Presets or Banks.

Presets and Groups

Load Preset: A preset contains settings to a single slot.  VST presets are stored in .fxp files; DirectX presets are stored in the registry.

Save Preset: Save the currently selected Preset.  VST/VSTi preset files use the “.fxp” extension.

Delete Preset: Delete a saved preset from the selection list.

Load Group: A group is a .tgs (Trans Group Settings) file from the C:\bb\DX Settings folder. Load an entire group of presets for all slots.

Save Group: This saves all plug-in settings for all slots of a track to a .tgs (Trans Group Settings) file in the C:\bb\DX Settings folder.

VST Generic User Interface:

VST/VSTi plug-ins are not required to have a fancy graphic control panel.  There are many “faceless” VST plug-ins which have many adjustable parameters, but no fancy control panel.  When you open such a plug-in, the control panel will look like this example.  Band-in-a-Box presents one “generic” slider for each adjustable parameter in the plug-in.

Parameter Name: Simply the name of each adjustable parameter.

Value Slider: Move the slider to adjust the parameter value

Value Indication Text: Displays the value of the slider, as interpreted by the plug-in.  In this example, Parameter 0: Bright is interpreted as an ON/OFF switch, but Parameter 1: Volume is interpreted as a value from 0 to 10.

Options: Remove VST Plug-In (from list)

This feature allows the removal of unwanted plug-ins from the Band-in-a-Box VST/VSTi plug-in lists.

Support for 64-bit VST Plugins using jBridge

You can use your 64-bit VST plugins and VSTi instruments with Band-in-a-Box, using jBridge.  Since Band-in-a-Box has built-in support for jBridge, you just use your plugins as you normally would, by selecting 32- or 64-bit plugins within Band-in-a-Box.  (Note: jBridge is a third-party product.)

To use 64-bit plugins with Band-in-a-Box, you:

 - Get and install jBridge,
 - Select and use your 64- or 32-bit plugins within Band-in-a-Box, without any further setup or configuration!


The 64-bit version of Band-in-a-Box allows you to use the VSTSynthFont64 as the General MIDI (GM) synth.

To use it, go to the menu Options | MIDI/Audio Driver Setup to open the MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup dialog and press the [VSTi/DXi Synth Settings] button.

Then, in the VST/DX Synths/Plugin window choose the "VSTSynthFont64" from the list of available plugins.

When the VSTSynthFont64ynth is selected, its name will show in the [VSTi/DXi Synth Settings] button in the MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup dialog.

Driver Latency

Software synthesizers have some inherent latency, which is the delay between the time a note is played and it is processed by the computer.  Older soft synths had noticeable latency, whereas a VSTi/DXi synth using ASIO drivers has very little.  This setting is used to synchronize the visual display (notation, chords, virtual piano etc.) with the sound you hear. 

Band-in-a-Box automatically sets the latency for VSTi/DXi and some other soft synths

The [Latency Adjust…] button opens the Soft Synth Latency Adjust dialog where you can manually adjust the latency.

Alternate Patch Maps

You can choose the patch map (instrument list) that matches your synthesizer keyboard or sound module.  Original equipment sound cards or integrated sound chips are General MIDI (GM) compatible.

We have made preset drum/patch files for many synthesizers and sound cards.  If your synth is not listed, you should use the General MIDI Instrument Misc. patch kit (default).

You can probably omit this step unless you are using an old synth that is not General MIDI compatible.  If your non-GM synthesizer or sound card is not listed, you can easily make your own patch map with the [Patch Map] button in Options | Preferences.

General MIDI 2 (GM2) Support

General MIDI 2 patches are supported for 128 additional instruments.  The type of GM2 support is set in this dialog. 

The GM2 support choices are:

  • General MIDI 2 support: If you’re using a newer Sound Canvas (i.e. newer than 1999, or newer than the Roland SC88), then choose this GM2 support.
  • Roland GS (older Modules): “Older” Sound Canvases (SC55/SC88) support GS, but not GM2.  The good news is that they have the same patches available, just at different locations.  So, if you choose this option, Band-in-a-Box will find the patches at the “GS” locations instead of the “GM2” locations.  If you have a newer GS module like the SC8820, it supports both GM2 and GS - you should likely choose GM2.
  • No GM2 support: Some sound cards don’t have GM2 support but they do support the original 128 General MIDI sounds.  Band-in-a-Box will use the closest instrument in these cases.

Audio Setup

The [Audio Settings] button in the MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup displays the current audio driver and status (WAS/MME/ASIO).

Band-in-a-Box performs the audio setup automatically using the installed system audio components. To restore or modify this setup, click on the [Prefs] button and then click on the [Audio] tab to launch the Audio Settings dialog.


Audio Driver Type

MME is the default audio driver type that is used in Windows®.  MME is good, but there is latency (delay) associated with MME drivers. ASIO is a faster audio driver developed by Steinberg.  It has much lower latency than ordinary MME drivers do. WAS (Windows® Audio Session) is an alternative driver to MME and ASIO and has ultra-low latency.

Windows® Audio Session (WAS)

Band-in-a-Box supports Windows® Audio Session (WAS) driver, an alternative to ASIO (a driver with low latency, but usually can be used by one program at a time) or MME (an older driver with worse latency).  The WAS driver has ultra-low latency (< 25 ms on a typical Windows® PC), so audio operations like playing or sending out information via MIDI happen with no noticeable delay.

When you boot up Band-in-a-Box, it will be already set to use the WAS driver.  If you want to change the settings, open the Windows Audio Devices dialog.

The dialog will open if you press the [Audio Drivers] button in the Audio Settings dialog when the “WAS” is selected for the audio driver type.

Input Device: This is the audio input device that will be used for recording a voice or an instrument.  If you have multiple devices installed in your system, you can choose a device from the list.

Output Device: This is the audio output device that will be used for playing sound.  If you have multiple devices installed in your system, you can choose a device from the list.

Use Default Device: If this option is enabled, the playback or recording device selected as the default device in your Windows® Sound Control Panel will be used.

Resampling Quality: You can choose a quality level for resampling.  “Low” will improve performance if necessary, but “High” will sound best.

Exclusive mode: Use the exclusive mode if you want Band-in-a-Box to take full control over the audio device(s).  In this mode, other applications might not be able to use the audio devices, so we recommend you do not use this mode.

Output always on: If this is enabled, sound will always be sent to the device.  If this is disabled, sound will be sent to the device only when the song is playing.  Enable this option if you want MIDI plugins to work when the song is not playing.

Latency in MS: This is the delay between when sound is sent from Band-in-a-Box and when you actually hear it by the audio device.  Increase this setting if you are hearing sound glitches during playback.

[Open Windows Sound Control Panel]: This button will open the Windows® Sound Control Panel.  You can change your device settings by clicking on [Properties] > [Advanced].  For the “Default Format,” a setting of 16 bit, 44100 Hz is best for Band-in-a-Box.

ASIO Audio/Software Synth Drivers

ASIO drivers allows for much lower latency than ordinary MME drivers do.

Note: Most low-end sound cards do not include an ASIO driver, so you may not have an ASIO driver yet.  In this case, you need to get an ASIO driver from the Internet.

This ASIO Audio Drivers dialog lets you choose an ASIO driver. 

The Select one ASIO Driver list box lets you select an ASIO driver to use.  You can only select one ASIO driver at a time.

Once you have selected an ASIO driver, you will see the Input Port and Output Port list boxes filled with your driver’s input and output ports.  By default, the first of each will be selected.  You are allowed to select different ports (but only one input and one output port at a time can be selected).  The ports you selected will be available for output within Band-in-a-Box.  If you do not hear input or output, then you may need to try different ports than the defaults.  You may need to read your sound card’s instructions to determine the correct ports to use.

Tip: The ASIO4All driver sometimes cannot connect if the Microsoft GS Wavetable synth is being used as a driver.  So, if this happens, you will get a message that ASIO will be silent, and the solution is to de-select the ASIO4All driver.

The [ASIO Driver’s Control Panel] button launches the Control Panel for your driver.  This usually lets you adjust the latency by letting you choose different buffer sizes in milliseconds.  Some drivers might let you choose the buffer size in samples, which is less convenient than milliseconds.  The smaller the buffer size, the lower the latency, and the faster the response.  Smaller buffers require more CPU power and if you hear dropouts or artifacts, you may need to increase the buffer size.  See the Understanding Latency section that follows.

Since many ASIO drivers do not support multiple sample rates, Band-in-a-Box has a built-in resampler which lets you play and record songs that have a different sampling rate than the rate(s) directly supported by your ASIO driver.  For example, if the driver does not support 44.1K sampling rate, but supports 48K, then Band-in-a-Box will use the resampler to convert to 48K when playing back, and to convert FROM 48K when recording.  The Resampler Quality combo lets you choose Fast, Good, Better, or Best.  Fast is the quickest but is the lowest of the four levels of quality.  Best is the slowest (uses more CPU time), but the most transparent and accurate quality.

The [ASIO Driver’s Control Panel] button launches a settings dialog specifically provided by your driver manufacturer.  This usually lets you adjust the latency, and usually you will have a choice between buffer sizes in milliseconds.  See the following section on Understanding Latency.

Show Warning for Untested Soundcard Formats is an optional setting that shows a warning if your ASIO driver format has not been tested in Band-in-a-Box.  It does not necessarily mean your driver will not work.

The Driver Info field shows various characteristics of your driver.

The Name is the driver’s name.

The Version is the version number of your driver.

Input Channels is the total number of mono input channels that your sound card has.

Note: Band-in-a-Box groups each Input and Output channel into a stereo pair.

Output Channels is the total number of mono output channels that your sound card has.

The Allowed Sample Rates field shows the sample rates are allowed by your sound card’s ASIO driver.  Band-in-a-Box has a built-in resampler which lets you play and record files that aren’t directly supported by your ASIO driver.

The Buffer Sizes In Samples shows the range of allowed buffer sizes.  The “Pref” is the preferred size, and this is the size that Band-in-a-Box uses.  Your driver may alter the preferred size if you’ve launched the ASIO Driver Control Panel and have selected a new buffer size from within the driver’s Control Panel.  If your driver changes the preferred size, then Band-in-a-Box will be aware of the new preferred size.

MME Audio Drivers

.MME is the default audio driver type that is used in Windows®.  MME is good, but there is latency (delay) associated with MME drivers.

Choose MME as the “Audio Driver Type” and click on the [Audio Drivers] button to select which audio driver to use.  This launches the Audio Drivers dialog.

The “Output always on” option allows you to use VST or Canyon GM DXi at all times, so MIDI can be routed and heard using these Plugins when the program is stopped.

Understanding Latency

Latency is based on the buffer sizes.  The smaller the buffer sizes the lower the latency.  Lower latency allows you to hear mixer volume changes very quickly, as well as hear MIDI thru echoed out via a DXi soft synth practically in real time.  The latency, in MS is determined by the buffer size in samples, as well as the driver’s sampling rate.

Note: If your ASIO driver’s control panel lets you select the buffer size in MS, then you don’t have to pay much attention to the part of discussion below about converting samples to MS.

Converting Samples to MS

For example, suppose the driver’s sample rate is 48K.  A 48K sampling rate means that it is playing at 48,000 samples per second.  If the buffer size were 48000 samples, then the latency would be 1 second, or 1000ms (which is very large and slow, and usually not allowed in ASIO).  If the buffer size were 4800 samples, which is 1/10 second, then the latency would be 100ms.  If the buffer size were 2400 samples, which is 1/20 second, the latency would be 50 ms. If the buffer size were 240 samples, which is 1/200 second, the latency would be a mere 5ms which is incredibly low and very fast.

Normally, you can change your driver’s latency by pressing the Launch ASIO Driver’s Control Panel button.  Normally, the driver specifies the buffer sizes in milliseconds which is equal to the latency.

Low latency is faster and more responsive but uses more CPU power.

Depending on the speed of your computer, you may find that the playback has dropouts, clicks/pops, or other artifacts if you set the buffer sizes too small.  This is because smaller buffers use more CPU power and if your computer can’t handle the low latency you will hear artifacts.  If this happens, you would need to use larger buffer sizes.  You may need to experiment to find what works well.  You may be able to use smaller buffers with songs that don’t have a lot of tracks and effects but may find that you need to use larger buffers with songs that have more tracks and use more effects.  This is because more tracks and more effects use more CPU power, which leaves less CPU power available for the audio routines to keep up with lower latencies.

Sample Rate Detection Warning

Windows 7 has a peculiar issue where if you choose Windows® Start button - Control Panel - “Sound,” right-click on your output device, choose “Properties” and then “Advanced,” you can see the default format.  It should be 16 bit 44100.  Unfortunately, some apps change this setting without your knowledge.  When it is set like this, all of your audio gets “resampled” and this can create obvious audible artifacts and make some things sound “bad.”

Band-in-a-Box detects this setting when you exit the MIDI/Audio Drivers Setup dialog, and will give you a notification about it, and that’s a clue for you to visit this dialog and set it back to 44100.

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