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Arranging the Drum Track

In this exercise, you will lay out the song structure and populate the Drummer track with Drummer regions for the whole song.

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 Configure Global Tracks (or press Option-G).

    A shortcut menu opens in which you select the global tracks you want to display.

  3. Deselect the Marker, Signature, and Tempo tracks, and click outside the shortcut menu to close it.

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

  4. 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.

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

  6. Click the Add Marker button (+) to create a new marker, and make sure it’s named Chorus.

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

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

    An eight-bar marker is created.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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

    A Bridge marker is created after the last chorus.

  14. In the Arrangement track header, click the Add Marker (+) button two more times to create markers for the Chorus and Outro sections.
  15. Make sure the two last markers have 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 the playing is, Kyle (the drummer) might not have guessed what you had in mind for each section. You will now edit some of the new regions to adjust the drummer’s performance.

Editing the Intro Drum Performance

In this exercise, you will make the drummer play the hi-hat instead of the toms. Later, you’ll cut the Intro region in two so that you can use different settings for the second part of the intro and make the drummer play a progressively louder and more complex pattern.

  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 make the drummer play the hi-hat instead of the toms.

  3. In the Drummer Editor, click the hi-hat.


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

    The drums are still a little too loud and busy for this intro.

  4. In the XY pad, drag the puck toward the bottom left.


    The drums are softer, but the transition into the first verse at bar 5 is a little abrupt. Making the drums play crescendo (increasingly louder) during the intro will help build up some tension leading into that verse. To make the loudness evolve throughout the intro, 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. Now let’s create the crescendo.

  9. Select the second Intro region, and in the XY pad, drag the puck up to make the drummer play louder.

  10. Listen to the whole intro going into the first verse.

The drummer automatically starts playing louder before the end of the first intro region, which transitions into the louder second region and creates a nice tension at the start of the song. 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 the energy level.

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


    The drummer is still playing a lot, but he’s much quieter. To take this bridge into a different tonal direction, you want Kyle to play toms.

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

    The hi-hat is muted automatically when you unmute the toms.

    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 creates a mysterious vibe similar to tribal percussion.

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

  6. In the control bar, click the Metronome button (or press K).
  7. In the Drummer Editor, click the Details button to display the three setting knobs.
  8. Try setting different positions of the Feel knob, and then listen to the results.


    Listen to the way the drums play compared to 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 it 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.

  9. Click the Details button to hide the three setting knobs.
  10. Turn off Cycle mode.
  11. 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 plays the bridge with a busy tribal pattern on the toms. 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 it 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.

  6. 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 finishing the 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.

  7. Resize the last Outro region to lengthen it by one beat (until the help tag reads Length: 4 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.

  8. Listen to the outro. The drummer finishes the 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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