Adding a Drum Track Detail

A couple of days ago, I was bragging about how Apple Computer’s excellent curriculum and instruction helped me learn how to make my own recording studio and ultimately record a drum track. Today, you get to see how I did it.

First of all, here is a snippet of  a recording of Taking a Chance on Love that Heidi and I recorded a couple of weeks ago.

Yeah, I thought it was neat, too. Heidi has a great voice. So for starters check out the first figure below, which is a typical GarageBand window. If you examine it you will see at the top the four tracks in the song: Grand Piano, Female Basic, Drums and Upright Jazz Bass. Not to go into too much detail now, but I got the piano and the bass into the computer by playing them in on my midi keyboard, and Heidi’s voice went in through a condenser microphone. The topic of this blog, however, is how did I get the drums in? I certainly did not play them in, because I am NOT a drummer.


I sent my old high school buddy, Dee, an mp3 of Heidi and me performing this song and asked him if he would write out for me the a drum part. We used to play in quite a few bands when we were back in school. A couple of weeks later, this is the top half of what arrived attached to an email. On the musical staff, Dee was marking out the rhythm for the lead cymbal part, but also gave the instructions of “hi-hat on 2 & 4”. Here’s how I used this score.


As I said in the last post to this blog, I had to go out to Apple West County on one of my OneToOne sessions and let Steve show me a couple of things. But it was indeed simple and straightforward. If you look back at the first image of the GarageBand window, you will see on the bottom half, one long straight gray line and one dotted line below that. Still below that, you will see one gray bar over to the left and then a final row of three gray bars. Ok, now, question is, can I explain this to you.

Let’s take the dotted line of gray bars first. This line represents the hi-hat as the music moves through this portion of the song. This is what following the instruction “hi-hat on 2 & 4” looks like in this program. A hi-hat is a gadget that has a pedal on the bottom and two cymbals facing each other on top. Every time the drummer steps on the pedal, it causes the two cymbals to crash together. One way that drummers in a jazz band keep a steady beat is to make the hi-hat crash on 2 and 4. Ok, like 0ne TWO three FOUR. I was able to put each one of these gray bars into the score by clicking on this line with the mouse (and holding down the command key). Or once they were there, I could copy a whole section of them and paste them to the next section.

Let’s take the bottom row of three gray bars next. The guy who was tutoring me, Steve, had the idea of putting a bass drum beat in at appropriate times, like every four bars or so. This row of three bars represents how the bass drum sounds out in this section of the piece. I put these in the same way I did with the hi-hat, by clicking on the spot while holding down the command key.

Now let’s tackle explaining the hardest part, the so-called “ride cymbal.” The ride cymbal does exactly that, rides along with an interesting rhythm all through the piece. You can see this better if you look at the first measure of the score that Dee sent.


Here you can see kind of a standard pattern for a ride cymbal. We would say it like this: dah dut-ta dah dut-ta. That keeps rhythmic track of four beats in that measure: One—dah, two—dut-ta, three—dah, and four—dut-ta.

Now take a look at the same first corresponding measure in the GarageBand program:


Can you see that the top gray line is actually broken up into that same pattern dah, dut-ta, dah, dut-ta. Well, look close you can see it. And that is how I put that ride cymbal into the score. I just clicked on those points. Of course, I also had to adjust the length of each tiny bar so that it lasted the right amount of time.

And that was it. I told you how I put in the hi-hat, base, and the ride cymbal, but it is possible to do any combination of drums, just by clicking on the right line for the right sound.

Then once I had entered all the notes in the drum voice, I could here it right along with the rest of the tracks, vocal, piano, and bass. Play the piece again and see if you can hear not only the drum part, but the ride cymbal, hi-hat and base.

I sure had fun explaining this. Let me know if the explanation was ok, or if you had trouble following it.


Author: Jim Andris

Retired gay married early adopter. Cooking, cleaning, fixing. Makes good music occasionally; U name it. Churchy dude. Likes to think about things, too much, sometimes. Dump Trump. Trying not to do too much harm. Revisiting blogging. Looking for a new handle on things. Exploring genderqueer.