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Arranging the Drum Track

In this exercise, you will lay out the whole song structure and continue editing drum regions for each section, still using the two Drummer regions you edited for the verses and choruses.

Using Markers in the Arrangement Track

Using the Arrangement track, you will now create arrangement markers for all the sections of your song. You’ll adjust their lengths, positions, and order, and fill all the new sections with Drummer regions.

  1. At the top of the track headers, click the Global Tracks button (or press G).

    The global tracks open, with the Arrangement track at the top. You won’t need the other global tracks, so you can hide them.

  2. Control-click a global track header, and choose Hide Marker. Also Control-click the Signature and Tempo tracks, and hide them.

    The Arrangement track is now closer to the regions in the workspace, making it easier to see their relationships.

  3. In the Arrangement track header, click the Add Marker button (+).

    An eight-measure arrangement marker named Intro is created at the beginning of the song. By default, arrangement markers are eight bars long and are placed one after the other, starting from the beginning of the song. Let’s rename the marker.

  4. Click the name of the marker, and from the menu, choose Verse.

  5. Click the Add Marker button (+) to create a marker for the chorus.

    An eight-bar marker named Chorus is created.

    You will now create a marker for a new intro section and insert it before the Verse and Chorus markers.

  6. In the Arrangement track header, click the Add Marker (+) button.

    An eight-bar marker named Chorus is created.

  7. Click the name of the new marker, and from the pop-up menu, choose Intro.

    A four-measure intro will be long enough, so you can resize the Intro marker before moving it.

  8. Drag the right edge of the Intro marker toward the left to shorten it to four bars.

  9. Click the marker away from its name (to avoid opening the Name pop-up menu), and drag the Intro marker to bar 1.

    The Intro marker is inserted at bar 1, and the Verse and Chorus markers move to the right of the new Intro section. In the workspace, the Drummer regions move along with their respective arrangement markers.

    As with regions in the workspace, you can Option-drag a marker to copy it.

  10. Press Command-Left Arrow to zoom out horizontally and make space to the right of the existing song sections. Option-drag the Verse marker to bar 21, right after the chorus.

    The Verse marker and the Drummer region are copied together.

  11. Option-drag the Chorus marker to bar 29, after the second verse.

    The Chorus and the Drummer region are copied together.

    The song is taking shape. You will now finish arranging the song structure with a bridge, a chorus, and an outro section. As you place the last three markers, continue zooming out horizontally as necessary.

  12. In the Arrangement track header, click the Add Marker (+) button.

    A Verse marker is created after the last chorus.

  13. Click the name of the new marker, and from the pop-up menu, choose Bridge.
  14. In the Arrangement track header, click the Add Marker (+) button two more times to create markers for the Chorus and Outro sections.
  15. Click each one of the last two marker names and choose the correct names, Chorus and Outro.

    Let’s shorten the outro section a bit.

  16. Resize the Outro marker to make it four bars long.

    The song structure is now complete, and you can add Drummer regions to fill out the empty sections.

  17. On the Drummer track, Control-click the background, and choose “Populate with Drummer Regions.”


    New Drummer regions are created for all the empty arrangement markers.

  18. Listen to the drum track, focusing on the new sections.

    New patterns were automatically created for each new Drummer region.

Amazing as his playing is, Kyle (the drummer) might not have guessed what you had in mind for each section. You will now edit the new regions to finish adjusting the drummer’s performance.

Editing the Intro Drum Performance

In this exercise, you will make the drummer play the snare instead of the toms. Later, you’ll cut the Intro region in two and make the drummer play the snare only during the first half. Then you’ll add the kick and hi-hat in the second half.

  1. In the workspace, click the background to deselect all regions, and click the Intro region to select it.

    The Drummer Editor shows its settings.

    Throughout this exercise you can click the Play button in the Drummer Editor to start and stop playback, or you can navigate the workspace by pressing the Spacebar (Play or Stop) and the Return key (Go to Beginning).

  2. Listen to the Intro.

    Let’s mute the toms.

  3. In the Drummer Editor, click one of the toms.


    The toms are dimmed to indicate that they are muted. In the Intro region, the toms disappear from the top lane.

  4. Click the snare to unmute it.

    In the Intro region, snare hits appear next to the kick hits on the bottom lane.

    To play the kick in only the first half of the intro, followed by the kick and snare in the second half, you will cut the Intro region in two.

  5. Stop playback.
  6. Hold down Command to use the Marquee tool, and double-click the Intro region at bar 3.

    The region is divided into two two-measure regions. When a region is divided, the drummer automatically adapts his performance, and plays a fill at the end of each new region.

  7. Select the first Intro region.
  8. In the Drummer Editor, drag the Fills knob all the way down.

    Notice how the crash disappears from the first beat of the following region. Even though it is in another region, the crash is actually a part of the fill.

  9. On the drum kit, click the kick drum to mute it.


    In the first two measures, the drummer will be playing only the snare. Let’s have him play the snare very softly on every beat, as if he’s counting in the band.

  10. In the Kick & Snare slider, click the sixth increment.


    The snare plays every beat.

  11. In the XY pad, drag the puck all the way down and to the left.


    Now the drummer plays rim clicks at the beginning of the first Intro region, and hits the snare a few times at the end.

  12. In the workspace, select the second Intro region.
  13. In the Kick & Snare slider, click the second increment.
  14. On the XY pad, drag the puck toward the upper left.


    The drums play a straightforward beat with a fill at the end. Let’s add an open hi-hat to inject some energy.

  15. On the drum kit, click the hi-hat to unmute it.
  16. In the Hi-Hat slider, click the first increment.

    Now you will open the hi-hat to add energy to the end of the intro.

  17. In the Drummer Editor, click the Details button.
  18. Below the Hi-Hat knob, deselect Automatic.
  19. Drag the Hi-Hat knob up nearly all the way until the hi-hat sounds really open, but you can still clearly hear the individual hits.

  20. Click the Details buttons to display the drum kit again.
  21. Listen to the whole intro going into the first verse.

    Your have a short two-part intro. The drummer plays the snare on the first eight beats, and then a basic rock pattern with a very open hi-hat adds energy. At bar 5, a crash punctuates the fill at the end of the intro. The straightforward groove continues in the Verse section with the hi-hat a little less open to leave space to later add a singer.

Editing the Bridge Drum Performance

In a song, the bridge serves to break the sequence of alternating verses and choruses. Often, the main idea of the song is exposed in the choruses, and verses help support or develop that statement. The bridge can present an alternate idea, a different point of view. Departing from the main idea of the song increases the listener’s appreciation for returning to the chorus at the end of the song—almost like taking a vacation can increase your appreciation for going back home.

For this fast, high-energy indie-rock song, a quieter bridge in which the instruments play softer will offer a refreshing dynamic contrast. Playing softer does not mean the instruments have to play less, however. In fact, you will make the drums play a busier pattern during this bridge.

  1. Listen to the Bridge region.

    The drummer plays at the same level as in the previous sections, but he plays more here. You need to bring down his energy level.

  2. Select the Bridge Drummer region.
  3. In the XY pad, position the puck all the way down and to the right.


    The drummer is still playing a lot, but he’s much quieter. He no longer hits the snare’s skin but plays rim clicks instead. However, rim clicks are not the type of sound you’re going for; you want Kyle to play toms.

  4. On the drum kit, mute the snare, and unmute the toms.

    When you click the toms, the hi-hat is automatically muted. Aside from the kick and snare, the drummer can focus on the toms, the hi-hat, or the cymbals (ride and crash).

    Let’s choose a busier pattern for the toms.

  5. On the Toms slider, click increment 3.


    Kyle is now playing sixteenth notes on the toms, which create a mysterious vibe similar to tribal percussions. You will make him switch from the toms to the ride cymbal in the second half of the bridge to brighten things up.

  6. Command-double-click the Bridge region at bar 41 to cut it into two four bar regions.

    The drummer now plays a different fill at the end of the first Bridge region.

    While the second Bridge region is still selected, you can adjust the cycle area.

  7. Control-click the cycle area, and choose “Set Locators by Regions/Events/Marquee” (or press Command-U).

  8. Unmute the cymbals.


    The toms are muted, and the drummer now plays the ride cymbal. However, the groove still seems to be missing something.

  9. Unmute the snare.

    You can hear rim clicks.

  10. In the XY pad, drag the puck up just until Kyle switches from hitting the rim to hitting the head of the snare (about a quarter of the way up).
  11. On the Cymbals slider, click the third increment.


    The drummer hits the ride cymbal differently, giving it more of a bell-like sound. He plays a crescendo, thereby building up energy to lead into the next chorus.

    Kyle plays slightly ahead of the beat during the bridge. However, the timing nuance is subtle, and difficult to hear without any other instruments to compare with Kyle’s timing. Let’s turn on the metronome and experiment with the feel of his performance.

  12. In the control bar, click the Metronome button (or press K).

    You will be editing the feel of both Bridge regions simultaneously.

  13. In the workspace, select both Bridge regions, and press Command-U to set the locators.

    At the top of the Drummer Editor, the ruler, Play button, and playhead are replaced by the message Multiple regions selected. You can now adjust the settings of all the selected regions at once.

  14. In the Drummer Editor, click the Details button to display the three setting knobs.
  15. Try setting different positions of the Feel knob and then listen to the results.


    Both regions change their “feel.”

    As you experiment with different feels, listen to the way the drums play compared to the steady, precise beat of the metronome. Don’t be afraid to drag the Feel knob all the way up or down to hear the effect of extreme Feel settings.

    • Dragging the Feel knob toward Push makes the drummer play ahead of the beat. He sounds as if he’s rushing, thereby creating a sense of urgency.
    • Dragging the Feel knob toward Pull makes him play behind the beat. He sounds as if he’s lazy or late, and the groove is more relaxed.

    Settle on a Feel knob position more toward Pull to realize a reasonably relaxed groove.

  16. Click the Details button to hide the three setting knobs.
  17. Turn off Cycle mode.
  18. In the control bar, click the Metronome button (or press K) to turn it off.

You have radically changed the drummer’s performance in that region. Kyle now starts the bridge with a busy pattern on the toms, and then moves on to a bell sound on the ride. He uses restraint, hitting softly and behind the beat, with a slight crescendo toward the end. The quiet and laid-back yet complex drum groove brings a welcome pause to an otherwise high-energy drum performance, and builds up tension leading into the last two sections.

Editing the Chorus and Outro Sections

You will now finish editing the drummer’s performance by adjusting the settings of the last two Chorus and Outro Drummer regions in your workspace.

  1. Select the Chorus region after the bridge and listen to it.

    That Chorus region was created when you populated the track with Drummer regions earlier in this lesson. It doesn’t have the same settings as the previous two choruses and sounds busier, except for Kyle playing the ride cymbal instead of the crash.

  2. On the Cymbals slider, click the first increment.

    The drummer now plays the crash, and this last chorus is more consistent with the previous two choruses.

  3. Select the Outro region at the end of the track and listen to it.

    The drummer plays a loud beat, heavy on the crash, which could work for an outro. You will, however, make him play double-time (twice as fast) to end the song in a big way.

  4. On the Kick & Snare slider, click the last increment (8).


    Now it sounds like you’ve unleashed Kyle! Playing double-time at that fast tempo makes the sixteenth notes on the kick drum sound ridiculously fast.

  5. On the XY pad, drag the puck toward the left until the drummer stops playing sixteenth notes on the kick drum.


    The performance now sounds more realistic while retaining the driving effect of its double-time groove.

    Let’s finish the song with a longer drum fill.

  6. Drag the Fills knob all the way up.

    The drum fill at the end of the outro is now longer. However, raising the number of fills has the undesirable effect of adding a new fill in the middle of the outro. To remove that fill, you will cut the Outro region in two.

  7. With the Marquee tool, double-click the Outro region at bar 55.

    You now have two two-bar Outro regions.

  8. Select the first Outro region.
  9. Drag the Fills knob all the way down to remove the fill in the middle of the Outro section.

  10. Listen to the last chorus and the outro.

    The outro has the required power to drive the last four measures; however, it seems like the drummer stops abruptly before he can finish his fill. Usually drummers end a song by playing the last note on the first beat of a new bar, but here a crash cymbal is missing on the downbeat at bar 57. You will resize the last Outro region in the workspace to accommodate that last drum hit.

  11. Resize the last Outro region to lengthen it by one beat (until the help tag reads Length: 2 1 0 0 +0 1 0 0).

    A moment after you release the mouse button, the Drummer region updates, and you can see a kick and a crash on the downbeat at bar 57.

  12. Listen to the outro. The drummer finishes his fill, punctuating it with the last hit at bar 57.

You’ve laid out the entire song structure by creating section markers in the arrangement track, populated each section with Drummer regions, and edited each region’s settings to customize its drum pattern. You are now done editing the drum performance and can focus on the sound of the drums.

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