Create a Drum Break

GarageBand ships with an excellent set of drum loops. But using the same beat over and over again can get monotonous, and it really helps to throw in some fills to break up the repetition. The problem is, most of the GarageBand drum loops don’t come with fills or breaks. You could buy some third-party loop sets like Drums on Demand ( or Bandmates (, but you can also make fills yourself. Here’s how:

  1. First, find a beat you like. In this case, I’m using Effected Drum Kit 02.
  2. Drag it up to the timeline to create a new drum track.
  3. Now duplicate the drum track by selecting Track > /Duplicate Track (Command-D).
  4. Copy the drum region into the new track by copying and pasting or by holding down the Option key and dragging the region. The beginning of the new region should line up with the end of the existing one.
  5. Turn on the Cycle button. The cycle region should encompass both loops (see Figure 5).Garageband figure 5

    Figure 5: Cycling the two drum regions.

  6. Zoom in on the second drum region so you can see the whole thing. We’re going to slice the region up into smaller bits and rearrange them to make a cool-sounding break.
  7. Position the playhead in the middle of the region by clicking the beat ruler at the beginning of the fourth measure (where the “4” is). Drag the playhead back and forth a little, making sure it snaps to the beat. If not, choose Control > Snap to Grid (Command-G).
  8. Choose Edit > Split (Command-T). You should now have two regions of equal length (seeFigure 6).Garageband tips figure 6

    Figure 6: Splitting the drum region.

  9. Continue to split the second half of the region before each major drum hit. The second half of the loop should be in five parts now (see Figure 7.Garageband tips and tricks figure 7

    Figure 7: After splitting the second half of the loop.

  10. Now comes the fun part: rearranging the regions into a funky break. Sometimes I like to do it fairly randomly at first and see what I end up with. Then I’ll fine-tune it so it flows naturally. Other times I have a specific idea in mind and I try to recreate it. Either way is valid, and both work in different situations.

It helps to drag regions between the two drum tracks—that way you can overlap regions without inadvertently deleting portions of them. Another tip: if the break sounds a little weird and doesn’t flow well, try lining some of the regions up with beats or half-beats. You don’t have to do this with all the notes, but lining one or two up to a beat will help ground your fill. See Figure 8 for what I came up with.

Garageband tips and tricks figure 8

Figure 8: The drum regions before and after repositioning. Notice that I used region 5 twice.

To create a paradiddle (a set of four sixteenth notes played on the snare drum), duplicate a few snare hits and shorten them to 1/16th-note slices. Line them up, but be sure not to use more than two of the same hit in a row. You want it to have some variation so it sounds like a real drummer. To create even more variation, you can play with the volume curves. The first hit should be the loudest (see Figure 9).

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Figure 9: Paradiddle with volume curves.