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GarageBand's main solution for adding drums and rhythm to songs appears to be through pre-made drum loops and the new session drummers. I desire more customizability with the beats I add to my songs. How can I create custom beats in Garageband?

  • By the way, if anyone would like to create a Garageband tag that would be superb. – intcreator Jul 28 '15 at 16:11
  • I think you've asked the wrong question for this site. I suggest you edit this and instead replace pretty much the whole question with "How do I create custom drum beats in Garageband?" It is possible on the OSX version, although not on the iOS version if I recall correctly. – Todd Wilcox Jul 28 '15 at 17:07
  • Okay I made some edits. Would you suggest that drum machine software recommendations/usage belong on Super User or a similar site? – intcreator Jul 28 '15 at 17:32
  • I'm not sure if any SE sites consider product recommendation requests on-topic. You might look for some more traditional forum sites for that. – Todd Wilcox Jul 28 '15 at 17:38
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    There is a software recommendations site, actually. softwarerecs.stackexchange.com – Matthew Read Jul 28 '15 at 22:39
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GarageBand employs loops as one way of creating drums, but you're right, it is very limited especially if your interested in keeping up to date with pop music (trap, EDM, etc). There are a couple of solutions:

Drummer Tracks
This was originally a feature with Logic Pro X and has since migrated to GarageBand (OS X only). As Dave mentioned in the comments below your question, you can select a drummer from a set of styles (R&B, songwriting, etc) and select from several drummers within each style. Each drummer can be further customized by decided how many fills they perform, what sub-set of drums they use and even more. I feel it is a large step above using loops, but can be limiting if you don't use it properly. If you have all of your drummer regions set exactly the same it can be very boring so make sure that for each region it is tweaked to account for the varying dynamics that are part of most songs.

Software Instrument
This by far is the most flexible way to create drums. Create a new software instrument track, select a drum kit and get to it! The one issue with this method is that you need to know how to create a drum beat. I teach a music production course at the high school that I work at here in Toronto and lesson one with drums is that for most styles of music, the most basic drum beat possible is playing the bass drum on beat 1 followed by the snare drum on beats 2 and 4. This is a good starting point.

Another technique that I employ with my students is getting them to copy existing drum beats (bass and snare only) so that they get a feel for how producers put beats together. Of course, there are other aspects to drum like using the hi-hat, toms and cymbals.

Of course, any time you create rules in music there are a ton of examples that break those rules. I think the ultimate rule is that if it sounds good, then go for it (very subjective, I know). Hopefully this gets you started.

EDIT - Extra Info
Beat Grids (Note: Not available in GarageBand)
There are some DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations, which is what GarageBand is) that feature a tool that I call a "beat grid". There may be a more correct term for this. Here's what it looks like in a DAW called FL Studio:
FL Studio Beatgrid

It allows you to toggle on/off each sound of a drum kit. Each row represents a sound in a drum kit and each column represents a point in time in which that sound is triggered. This allows the producer to hear what their beat sounds like in real-time without having to worry if they are playing properly because there is no playing involved, only clicking of the mouse on the grid. If you have the funds, Logic Pro X is almost a carbon copy of GarageBand, but under the hood it's much more powerful. It has an instrument called Ultrabeat that allows you to use a beat grid.

  • I'm thinking this is probably the best answer anyone will get on this site. I'll probably poke around for some plugins on Software Recs. – intcreator Aug 12 '15 at 5:12
  • You should definitely look into making them yourself. The problem with using tools that generate beats is that they are never as customizable as you need them to be. I'll update my answer, there is one last type of drum creation tool that is highly effective (beat grids) – 02fentym Aug 12 '15 at 5:14
  • Ideally I'm looking for a drum machine with high quality samples—something that provides better quality than drum kit instruments and more intuitive looping, but still lets me place every single hit. I doubt the GarageBand defaults are gonna cut it. – intcreator Aug 12 '15 at 5:17
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    Yup, what you just described is literally what that "beat grid" thing is. It's very easy to use. My students who do not understand music that well love using it! You do not have to have a good handle on what a 16th note is...you just need to use your ears and tweak your beat. Unfortunately, GarageBand does NOT have this feature (at least to my knowledge). I highly suggest Logic Pro X. – 02fentym Aug 12 '15 at 5:23
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    A drum machine is pretty much an instrument whereas a beat grid is a method of inputting note information in a very intuitive manner. Check out something like BPM by MOTU (it's a drum machine). It also contains a beat grid for creating beats. It's just one of many and one that I've used. MOTU website – 02fentym Aug 12 '15 at 5:33
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Another tip in GarageBand is to set up the Drummer to play something close to what you want. Then you can copy that track that it creates into a new Software Instrument Track. You can then edit that as you would like. This gives you a lot of flexibility, but also gives you a nice full sound to start off with.

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