Using Drummer in GarageBand for Mac

The latest iteration of GarageBand for Mac includes the Drummer feature previously only available in Logic. Here you can learn how to use this excellent addition to bring a bit of rhythmic sparkle to your tracks.

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Apple has created a collection of individual characters, or ‘virtual session player’, that each bring their own flavour to the party. To start with you only have one rock drummer, Kyle, but for a £2.99 in-app purchase, you can download an additional 14 characters who cover an expanded range of styles, including R&B, Alternative, Rock and Songwriter.

Read next: Best free GarageBand for Mac plugins | Best Mac music software: alternatives to GarageBand

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Next Prev GBDrummer1

Apple has created a collection of individual characters, or ‘virtual session player’, that each bring their own flavour to the party. To start with you only have one rock drummer, Kyle, but for a £2.99 in-app purchase, you can download an additional 14 characters who cover an expanded range of styles, including R&B, Alternative, Rock and Songwriter.

Read next: Best free GarageBand for Mac plugins | Best Mac music software: alternatives to GarageBand

 

Step 2 of 10:

Once you have all of your new drummers installed, it’s time to put them to work. Create a new project and you’ll be given a choice of instruments to use. Select Drummer on the far right and GarageBand will automatically set up a track and fill it with a groove from Kyle. This usually amounts to 16 bars of the same pattern. Press Space to hear how it sounds.

 

Step 3 of 10:

You can also sample what the other players have to offer. Press Space to play the track, then while it’s going click on Kyle’s icon at the bottom of the screen. Four other players will appear, in this case Logan, Anders, Max and Jesse. Clicking on these will change the drum track to their style, giving you the chance to hear the differences in real-time.

 

Step 4 of 10:

To the left of the Drummer character icons there’s a large pane containing the various drum kits that you can use. Initially it’s set to Drum Kit > SoCal, but you can select any one on the list, again while the track is playing, to hear how it sounds. You’ll also notice that there are additional options such as Guitar, Piano, Mallet and so on in the far left column.

 

Step 5 of 10:

To the right of the Drummer character icons is a greyed out section in which most of the editing tools reside. To access this, click on the yellow drum track at the top. The first thing to look at are the Presets listed on the left. As you click on each one the track will change to a variation of a pattern, with more emphasis on certain parts of the kit and rhythmic choices.

 

Step 6 of 10:

The square grid with a yellow dot is the heart of the editing features in Garageband for Mac. You’ll notice there are the words Soft, Loud, Simple and Complex on the four sides. To change the way the drum pattern plays, drag the yellow dot towards the elements you’d prefer. The controls here are subtle enough to give you genuine control over the tone of your drummer.

 

Step 7 of 10:

To the right of the grid there’s a graphic of a drum kit, which highlights different areas as you move the cursor over them. This allows you to select which parts of the kit you want the drummer to use. Above this are three percussion options to choose between, and all of the elements can be fine tuned via the three sliders to the right of the kit.

 

Step 8 of 10:

Try creating some melodic tracks with other instruments and see how the drums fit in. In most cases it will be fine, but lack that human touch. Thankfully there are a few options to fix that. Above the Kick & Snare slider is a button marked Follow. Click this and a pop up box will appear. Now select which instrument you want the drums to follow closely.

 

Step 9 of 10:

The last two editing options are the virtual dials on the far right of the panel, marked Fills and Swing. The first of these controls the amount of flurries and flashy hits that the drummer will introduce into his or her pattern, and is very good for adding variety into the beat. Swing does what it says, with a jazzier laid back style of playing.

 

Step 10 of 10:

To avoid the drums sounding like loops it’s best to create a few different sections in your song. To do this highlight the drum pattern, copy and paste the new section alongside it on the timeline. Now when you highlight the new one, you can alter how the drummer plays, or even which one is active, just like you did before.

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