Monthly archives: March, 2014

Infawmation

Another late post!

Finished FAWM is 18 days this year, this is the album. https://soundcloud.com/pantsoddeathfawm2014/sets/infawmation


Addicted to Drums

Rim shots and open hi hats dripping from its mottled flesh, the App clawed its way out of the shallow grave where it had laid putrefying for the past  4 months, it opened its milky unfocused eyes and looked about. Scenting a distant iOS musician on the gentle breeze it turned, let out a chilling series of paradiddles and lurched into the dark in search of brains and beats.

Dawn-of-the-Deaddrum

Yes, Stochastik is back. My favorite drum app has risen from the grave. We all thought iOS7 had killed it once and for good, my repeated pleas to the poor developer had gone unanswered, and then just weeks after DrumPerfect has seated itself comfortably on the stochastic-sample-triggering throne it reappeared, without warning, and with some new time signature updates as well.

It has been a good month for drum apps. DM1 has updated again with a dozen more kits, SynthDrum Pads gained a sequencer making it a pretty useful app now, DrumPerfect was released and Different Drummer had a sale bringing the price down to a record low of $15, a mere 5% of its original price tag, meaning that a lot of people have started looking at it with a lot more interest. I thought I would have a look at DrumPerfect and Different Drummer.

Different Drummer is deep and at first glance is virtually incomprehensible. That is not a criticism, merely an observation that to someone with a long history of ‘traditional’ drum sequencing the interface is very Er… Different.

wineandapps

I picked it up last year when the price dropped below $30 and my alcohol levels exceeded four glasses of wine. The perfect storm in app buying terms. I still think it was pricey, but I am offended by drum apps that I do not own. My first few dozen forays into DD were not a success, this is not the fault of the app but of my expectations, I wanted hard funky beats, DD had other ideas.

The idea of DD is this, imagine each drum sound is continuously set to ON, either as one continuous sound or as a stream of beats every 1/4/8/16th of a bar. Now that would be horrible and makes for a crappy beat so you can alter that sound/beatstream in a number of ways. Firstly (and most importantly) you can add rests/gaps to the stream. Now in a traditional drum app you would do this by switching off the beats on a grid, but in DD you create a wave bisected by a line.  Where the wave is above the line the beats will play, where the wave is below the line they will not. You can choose a bunch of wave shapes, and you can alter the shape of the wave with a load of sliders.

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restwave

Still with me? OK, good. Once you have your head around this idea you are on your way. You can move the wave up and down in relation to the line so that more or less of the wave is above the line. You can also create waves that alter other parameters along with the on/offness of the sound. You can add in a wave that controls ties (that is to say where the wave is above the line the notes are tied), a wave that controls panning (above the line for one side below for the other), velocity, and also note. Whether this note wave makes sense depends on the sample you are playing, good for bass, or bongos, or tablas, not so good for snares (in my opinion).  You can set a scale for your wave note, there are a large number of scales included, you can also program progressions from scale to scale, so 8bars of d minor, then 4 bars of F penta… Whatever.

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So you get the idea now, for each sound you have 5 waves controlling the parameters. Now to make things a bit more complicated you can alter the wavelength of each of these waves so, for instance, the wave for rests repeats once per bar, the wave for panning repeats every two bars, the wave for notes repeats every 16 bars and so on.

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Obviously the inclusion of scales and a large number of melodic samples makes this way more than a drum app, there are 8 voices that can be playing at any time. You can bring in your owns samples and there is a large library included.

There is an automation and randomization section included as well which can switch parts on and off at random change drum sounds at random, for a given number of measures before returning to the original pattern.

The thing to remember about DD if you are thinking of buying it is that you will not be programming funky breakbeats or chattery dubstep lines, if you want to do that there are a hundred other drum apps you can use. When using DD you are discovering beats, to more accurately you are discovering complex polyrhythms. Approach the app with no preconceptions of what you want to end up with, play about and see where it takes you. There may be people with a good enough musical/rhythmical/mathematical mind to approach an app thinking “if I take a bass drum with a rest sine wave slightly tweaked at the 4.0f level and add a snare with a saw wave just increased at the 6.0f point and having a wavelength of 3.5 measures I am going to get something really cool. At 160bpm” but I doubt it.

What DD gives you is a very different way of sequencing. The samples included with it are pretty good but they will never be the selling point. Experimental and ambient artists are going to get the most out of this. trance, funk, dubstep, jungle, d&b, RnB, EDM, EBM artists will probably feel their money could have been spent better elsewhere. The developer must win some award for being the hardest working dev in the industry as scarcely a week goes by without some improvement of new feature added.

Drumperfect.

Drumperfect is the app I was always waiting for, combining the multi-sample abilities of DrumTrackHD with the stochastic abilities of .. Er .. Stochastik.

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Ignoring the probability based stuff for a moment (“Jon, ignoring probability based drumming! the world has home mad, buy canned food and guns!!”)  as a drum sequencer DrumPerfect provides a mass of cool functionality.

 

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To start with each kit can have up to 16 voices/drums, but each of those voices can have up to 16 samples that can be triggered from it. So mathematicians, that means a possible 256 samples per kit. For each voice you have a left hand high/low velocity samples and right hand high/low velocity samples, so 4 basic choices, but you can load 4 samples into each of those sections and when you play, say, a LH low velocity kick, it will pick at random one of the choices you have loaded into that section. While this alone breaks new ground in the field of coolness ther dev is not finished there, you can create patterns of any time signature you like and for each beat you can have up to sixteen subdivisions.  Speeds are from 20-180 BPM

The app is shiny new and is still being polished in some places, the Dev was very quick to repair a bug with low volume sample imports, and ideally I would like to see both sample auditioning and an easier way of assigning multiple samples to a voice, but these are quibbles.  Voice muting/choke groups are also in the works. I am now in the DP beta testing team so I can say with some confidence that there is a lot of work happening.

Added to the impressive multi sample ability (here it comes, you can calm down now) is the stochastic abilities too, so that every hit for every voice may have a probability of striking (or not). This is set by a bar along the bottom of the pattern editor and not by dragging the bar length (as in Stochastik), in DrumPerfct the velocity of a hit is represented by the height of the bar in the pattern editor, the probability is represented by the brightness of the colour.

And so to the question on everybody’s lips* is whether there is still a place for Stochastik? Has DrumPerfect superseded it completely? (Especially since some drum obsessed iOS bloggers who will not be named have copied all their Stochastik samples into their drumperfect sample folder)
In a word, yes. DrumPerfect is a very excellent app, but it is an advanced one. Anyone not experienced in drum programming and anyone not practiced in stochastic programming is going to find DP difficult, at first at least. Stochastik may not have any of the multisample, time signature or subdivision functionality of DP, and it is not as attractive as other apps, but it is a very good drum sequencer and a great place to get your head around stochastic sequencing.

Make no mistake stochastic sequencing can be difficult. I have lost count of the number of people who have contacted me and told me that they couldn’t get on with Stochastik, that they didn’t like the results and that they couldn’t see what I saw in it. And I understand, my early experiments with it were dismal, but that wasn’t the apps fault, it was an issue of using probability in a pattern, I am sure that Robotic Drums users have similar issues. When you use this sort of app programming is a fine balance. Too many parts with too much probability and you get clusters of drums playing simultaneously and that sounds horrible, too few and you find sudden alarming gaps in your patterns that are very jarring. DP gets around this by having the random multisample sand also by having the two-handed option, by which the app looks at the parts playing for a given beat/subsection and makes a decision about what a real drummer with 2hands And 2feet could be playing at that time, picks a possible configuration at random and ignores everything else.

My opinion. If you are not an experienced drum programmer and you haven’t tried probability programming before, or if you simply work very fast (as I do) you will probably find Stochastik an easier app to understand and master, once you are there then DrumPerfect is the next level.

 

* if your sample group only includes people in the iOS community who love drum apps and/or know me.