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Chapter 4. Getting Started > Writing a Drum Track

Writing a Drum Track

After setting up your work area and zooming in for a good view, you're ready to start writing drum notes. In the following example, you'll learn how to input a basic snare drum and kick drum pattern. If you haven't the faintest clue how to write a kick-and-snare pattern, don't despair—just copy the examples if you get stumped!

To input a basic drum pattern

In the Sequencer, select the Pencil tool (Figure 4.23).

Figure 4.23. The Pencil tool makes it possible to input notes by clicking the mouse anywhere on the track grid.

To input notes, click with the Pencil tool on the grid next to the desired drum sound. In this example, I've put some kick and snare notes into the track (Figure 4.24).

Figure 4.24. In this example, notes have been added for the samples BD3Dub.aif and SN1Dub.aif in a basic rock pattern.

Click the play button (press spacebar) to hear your drum pattern.

Add some additional notes in another row. In this example I've added notes in the hi-hat row (Figure 4.25).

Figure 4.25. In this example, the hi-hat is sounding every half-beat (eighth note).

If you need to delete some of your notes, select the Erase tool and click them.

Enhancing your beat

Adding variety to a beat can be done with techniques such as fills, hits, and note attack. These should all work together to lead the listener from one point in the song to another. Most drummers have a sense of this phrasing, but getting good beat phrasing into your MIDI tracks can be frustrating.

Adding fills: Additional notes, or “fills,” are easy to add to a pattern and can add or build a lot of energy into your beat. Even very simple fills can accelerate one measure into or through another (Figure 4.26).

Figure 4.26. Drum fills add energy. Here, some consecutive snare hits at the end of the second measure accelerate the beat back into the beginning of the loop.

Adding hits: Loud bright sounds, or “hits” (for instance, crash cymbals and sound effects like slamming car doors) can powerfully announce or emphasize the beginning of a loop (Figure 4.27).

Figure 4.27. Creating a cymbal hit at the beginning of the loop “announces” or emphasizes the beginning of the pattern.

Together with fills, hits can make a loop much more dramatic, and can provide a clean and punchy structure on which to add melodic instruments.

Accenting notes: Adding accents to some notes by changing the note attack strength (velocity) in the Velocity lane is another way to add variety (Figure 4.28).

Figure 4.28. Velocity bars display attack strength. In this example, note strength was raised at the beginning of each measure.

To edit velocity

In the Sequencer, hold down the Alt (Win)/ Cmd (Mac) key. The Select tool automatically becomes the Pencil tool.

Click the Pencil tool in the Velocity lane below the note you want to edit.

Click higher or lower on the velocity bar to alter the note attack value. Reason lightens or darkens the color of the note and raises or lowers the velocity bar indicator to show the strength of the note attack (Figure 4.29).

Figure 4.29. Adding a velocity crescendo to a snare drum fill magnifies the acceleration created by the snare hits.

✓ Tip

  • Since Reason layers the velocity bars of simultaneous notes on top of each other in the Velocity lane, it is often necessary to make velocity adjustments outside of the work area (Figure 4.30) before moving the notes to their intended place.

    Figure 4.30. When notes are simultaneous or close together, you may need to move them outside your loop in order to work with their velocity.

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