Join Garrick Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video Making a demo beat, part of Learning Songwriting: GarageBand.
When you want to put a song idea down quickly, knowing how to make a beat, or at least how to find a drum loop that fits the song is important. The feel of the drum part has a huge effect on the feel of the song, since along with the bass, it dictates the rhythm of the song. So in this movie, I'm going to give you a crash course on getting a beat into your song by either selecting from GarageBand's built-in drum loops, using the built-in drummer feature, or by tapping the drum parts in with a MIDI keyboard. I go into much more detail on these topics in GarageBand Essential training, but here, I'll cover the main things yo need to know.
Of course, if you are in fact a drummer yourself, you can just mic up your kit and play real drums into GarageBand. But even that can be pretty time consuming, especially if you don't keep your drum set up and mic'd at all times. If your goal is to get the song idea down quickly, you might want to use one of the other methods I'm going to show you here even if you do play drums, just to get the feel down, and then you can take your time to play or record real drums later. Alright, so let's start by looking at our loop options. As you probably know, GarageBand offers a large library of loops. Loops are brief prerecorded snippets of music that were performed by professional musicians, and there are more than a 1000 of these snippets included in Garage Band.
Each loop is designed so that its endpoint flows seamlessly back into its starting point. Meaning that you can endlessly cycle or loop them for as long as your song requires. The other centrally important feature of loops is that, even though they were created in certain keys and tempos, GarageBand makes it so that any loop you drag into your song instantly matches the key and tempo of your song. So let's open up the loop library by clicking this button up here, which kind of looks like a loop. Now, the number of loops that you see here is going to depend on whether you're working with just the basic install of GarageBand, or if you've purchased and downloaded additional loops.
The default view we're looking at here is this button view. And as you can see, in this view the loops are divided into types of instruments, as well as by genres and moods. So since I'm looking for drums I'll select All Drums. And in my case you can see this takes me down to 695 loops to work with. I might want to narrow that down a bit more by selecting say, rock slash blues. Which takes me down to 117 loops. Now to sample any of these you just click them. Now some of these you'll know right away won't fit with your song. Now you can also play the track while you're sampling the beats to see how well they pair up.
So if you find one you like, let me go back up to, I think it was Bar Band Basic, and I think I like number five here. All you have to do is just drag that into the empty area here where it says Drag Apple Loops. Just kind of scroll over a bit here so I can the beginning of the song. Just going to line that up with the beginning of the bass line, right there. And then place your cursor in the upper right hand corner of that region, so you see this little loop cursor. And then just drag it out to the length that you need. Hear how that sounds.
Alright so that's not bad. But of course the limitation to loops is that they're recordings. So even though they'll match the beat of your song, they're locked into the way those patterns were recorded, so there's no way to change the performance itself. All you can do is string multiple loops together to create some semblance of variety. Just go ahead and delete that for the moment. Now as I mentioned GarageBand also includes a cool new feature called Drummer. Drummer is a tool for adding realistic drums to your projects which you can then highly customize to fit with your song so you don't have to rely on just pre-recorded drum loops. With Drummer, you can instead choose a drum parts level of complexity in which drums or percussion parts are being played.
You can easily change the feel of each Drummer region, so you can have different parts for verses and courses, for example. If you recall from earlier when I selected this original song writer project template, one of the included tracks was a drummer track, but I deleted it. So I'll now add it back by clicking the plus button here and I'll double click Drummer. So you can see that creates a drummer track and places two drummer regions on that track. Let's listen once. So that's definitely on the beat, but it's not quite fitting with the bass track I recorded.
Now, in my case, I previously purchased the additional GarageBand add-ons, which included all the drummers. So I can click down here where it currently shows Kyle, and I can try out some different drummers. Before I do that, though, I'm just going to delete this second region. And I'll adjust the position of that first region so it begins when the bass line begins. That'll make it easier to judge how well the drum part fits with the bass. So under rock drummers here let's select maybe Anders and we'll give that a listen. Not quite what I'm looking for. Let's try Logan Okay, that's actually not too bad.
So I'll stick with that one. Now you can click where it currently says Rock here and select from three other styles to choose from several other drummers. But in this case I think I'll stick with Rock and Logan. So, unlike working with loops, you can customize your drummer patterns using the controls found here to the right. This area here is the grid editor. And here you can just either click around or drag this yellow dot to adjust the performance in terms of loudness and complexity. Notice it runs from simple to complex, on the horizontal axis and then loud to soft on the vertical axis.
So for example maybe in this first region of my song I want the drums to start with a simple beat and a little bit quieter. So I'll drag that to the left and I'll keep it a little bit lower than it was originally. And as I move this around notice you can actually see the wave forms in the region changing, telling me that this is a making a difference. To preview this, I'm going to click the Play button here in the drummer editor, which will automatically loop the selected region. That gives me all the time I need to adjust the sound without having to manually move the playhead back to the beginning of the region each time. You'll also be able to hear the difference as I move this dot around.
So, that's how this performance grid works. Now to the right of that, you can also specify which drums are being played. For example, maybe instead of the high hat in this region, I want the drums to be heavier on the rack and floor tiles. And now it sounds like this. And on the far right of the editor we have two dials. The fill style is for determining how often fills are played. The swing dial is for dialing in the how much the feel of the song will stray from a straight beat. I'll play this region again and adjust the dial so you can hear the difference. I don't really want any swing in this case, so let's just pull that down.
Let's add some more fills. So we've got a fill at the end of the loop there. I think we should have one in the middle too. So with the fill style at about at the noon position here, that leaves some nice fills at the end of the fourth and the eighth bars. So as you can see, it's possible to come up with some radically different sounding drum parts, just by moving some dials and sliders. Now of course in some cases you still might not be getting the feel that you want. For those times you might be better off playing the part yourself. Again you could do this by recording real drums if you can play them or you can quickly tap out a beat using your computer keyboard or by connecting a MIDI keyboard to your Mac.
So for example, I have a MIDI keyboard connected to my Mac and I am just going to mute the drummer track for now, in case I do want to use it later. Let's just close the editor so we can see what we are doing. And I'll click the plus button here and create a new softer instrument track. So with that track selected, I'll come over to the library and I'll select Drum Kit, and we'll just go with the same drum kit the drummer track was using, SoCal. So now I'll just take a moment to find the sounds on my keyboard that I want to play. Got my hi-hats, my kick, snare.
Alright, let's give this a try. Take this back to the beginning, make sure my metronome is on and here we go. So there I was just playing a kick and a snare and a high hat. If I wanted to, I could record another pass and add other parts, but I'll just leave it like that for now. Depending on your own level of skill, you might be able to play even more complex parts in one pass, or you might just want to lay down one drum at a time, like starting with kick, then recording the snare, then the high hat and so on.
One thing I know I definitely want to do here is to fix the timing of what I just played. So, with that region selected, or just by double clicking that region, I can open up the editor again. I can look here and see how accurate I was, and I was mostly on the beat, but you can see a couple points where I was ahead of the beat. So I'll just come over to the Time Quantize menu and I'll line that up with eighth notes. And of course that's the beauty of working with MIDI drums and instruments you can move notes around, add missing notes and remove wrong notes all without having to re-perform and re-record the part. Let's listen to that once. >> Okay, and I think I'll just get rid of this, these last two hits since what I'm playing really ends at the end of the ninth measure.
I can always add those back later if need be. Alright, so there you have at least three different options available in GarageBand for putting beats down in your song.
Want to learn about other tools for songwriting? Check out Songwriting in Pro Tools.