Yeah, I know, I am supposed to be doing Drum Programming part 2, but I got a little distracted, and so you got this (not entirely) unrelated post.
With the audiobus update to SynthDrum and the release of Kraftpad this week I realised I suddenly have a whole load of apps that allow drum synthesis. I am pretty obsessed with my drum sounds, I have gigabytes of drum samples kicking about on my hard drive and ipad, I continually collect them, but I love the idea of being able to synthesize my own.
In the world of iOS drum apps we have, very broadly, apps that sequence the triggering of samples (DM1, d-pad, drumstudio HD, funkbox, stochastik, Drum On, EasyBeats3, Drumstudio, iMPC, Voxkit, Nanostudio’s TRG pads, Beatmaker2′s drum machine, DrumJam etc ) and we have drum apps that allow you to create your own drum sounds using some form of synthesis, and those are the ones I am going to look at today. The distinction is not as clear as it first seems however.
This isn’t a how-to on Drum Synthesis, partly because I am not yet an expert on the subject and partly because this article on the soundonsound website already explains drum synthesis in great detail.
There is one point this article makes that I would like to re-iterate here though and that is that almost any analog (or emulated analog) synth/monosynth can be used to make drum sounds. In fact any of you who already own iPolySix or iMS-20 should know this already because those synths are being used to generate their drum sounds, there is no special ‘Drum Module’ built in, the drum sounds are made using the same architecture that you use to make all the other sounds.
It isn’t just Analog synths though – FM synths are also extremely good at creating drum sounds, and way better than analog synths at creating Cymbals and other metallic crashes. In other words if you have synths on your ipad you already have all the functionality you need to synthesize drum sounds.
What Drum synths do is take those elements of a synthesizer you would use to make drum sounds and discard the rest, leaving you with a subset of tweakable parameters. This is essentially what all those old analog drum machines did, 606, 808, 909 etc, each drum sound is a little mono synth and for each sound type there are a small number of parameters you can change to edit the sound…
.. and this brings me to the first of my “grey areas” between sample based apps and synthesizing apps: if I am using a 808/909 emulator (Rebirth, Tabletop, Rhythm Studio, nineOnine) am I dealing with drum synthesis modelled on the original synths, or are we just dealing with samples overlaid with eq/envelope etc?
I do not know the answer here, the manuals of these apps are notably quiet on the subject. Rebirth is an emulator and so I am pretty sure that the synthesis is also being emulated, playing about with the Rhythm Studio 808 just now I suspect is is sample based..
The point of this ramble is to explain my omissions, I am not including in this list iPolySix or iMS-20, they do allow drum synthesis but so do all analog synths, what makes them special is the inclusion of dedicated tracks/sequencing to arrange those sounds and I am not including in the 808/909 emulators which may or may not be doing drum synthesis.
(or rather the Apps I own and have not uninstalled and forgotten about).
This is the new face on the scene, right now it doesn’t have AB/ACP and so is almost completely useless to you unless you are a fan of itunes import/export.
(Trick to get the samples out at the bottom of the post)
Of all of the apps I am looking at today Karftpad has the hardest sound. Synthesized drums have a tendency to be a bit wimpy sounding I find, if you want a really hard club kick or and industrial snare it can be hard to get from most of these machines. Not so Kraftpad, within half an hour of playing with it I was half deaf from the really solid punchy kicks and in your face snares I was producing. Love the sound of this one.
Comes with 6 pads and, for each pad, you can choose one of 10 synth modules geared towards the sound you want (Kick, Snare, Rimshot, Clap, Hi-hat, Tom, Conga, Claves, Cowbell, Cymbal)
As my finger drumming is poor and there is no ACP/AB and no Midi in or sequencer I will probably end up using this as a source of samples.
From the appstore description
“A beat-making app that features real-time synthesis of drum sounds that range from TR-808 style to real. As a synth and not sampler, sound characteristics can be tweaked from authentic to affected.
• 11 real time operating synth modules (NO SAMPLED SOUNDS are used):
- Bass Drum: Tune, Pitch, Time, Click, Decay
- Snare Drum: Tune, Tone, Muffle, Decay
- Low Tom (*): Tune, Noise, Decay
- Mid Tom (*): Tune, Noise, Decay
- High Tom (*): Tune, Noise, Decay
- Rim Shot: Tune, Drive, Decay
- Hand Clap (*): Tone, Decay
- Cowbell (*): Tune, Decay
- Cymbal: Color, Tone, Peak, Decay
- Open Hi-hat: Tone, Peak, Hold, Decay
- Closed Hi-hat: Tone, Peak, Decay”
I have used MoDrum a lot, it has the full range of MIDI in/out and supports AB/ACP, internal sequencing etc. The sound is punchy and quite sharp and tends to cut through most mixes easily. I don’t find the kick packs enough punch to carry my tracks so I usually add my own kick files later. The feeling I get from Modrum sounds is of a really tight Jazz/Funk kit. Plenty to play with though and a smoothly executed and professional App.
Bleepbox is a Groovebox drum/synth combination, in the same vein as ReBirth but with a load more synthesis options. With ReBirth you get 2 drum machines and 2 mono synths. Bleep!Box gives you
3 ‘bass drum’ synths
1 ‘snare’ synth
4 dual oscillator mono (subtractive) synths
2 hihat synths
There are a lot of synthesis options in all of these spread over 4 menus: OSC, ENV, FILT and A>B MOD.
I had to force myself to stop using BleepBox in all my tracks as it was becoming all pervasive. Great app.
Just got Audiobus.
the developer (in the help) provides this really useful potted how-to on synthesizing drum sounds: http://designbypaul.co.uk/synthdrumpadshelp.html
This comes with 4 synth modules, in two types. The App Description says
- Virtual Analog Drum Synthesizer
- 4 Multi-touch Pads
- 4 Voices
- 3 Signal generators per voice; Noise, Click and Tone
- Modify pads 3 & 4 with Frequency Modulation
You will notice that this app has some FM modulation which makes a wide range of sounds possible.
Eledrum has 8 voices, 2 are hi-hat modules with a minimum of editing possibilites but the other 6 units are all of a single module type (rather than the targeted bass/snare/tom modules in the apps above) this makes for a load of sound generation possibilites, however eLeDrum seems to lend itself most readily to those late 70s early 80′s bloo bloo bloo sounds. What eLeDrum really needs is a decent help/manual as there are a lot of options that are unexplained, like what are the cor/boot buttons?
Pretty interesting machine but a little ‘Soft Cell’ for my tastes.
comes with 4 general “synth” modules and 4 specific modules (Chh, Ohh, Cymbal, Clap/Snare)
I confess to being a tad confused by the iElectribe’s synthesis methods:
In the iElectribe help the Synthesis section only refers to 4 PCM synths
The iTunes blurb tells us that the sound engine is : Analog Synthesizer Modeling; PCM Samples; Virtual Valve Force Tube Modeling
In his book “How to make a noise” Author Simon Cann tells us that the synthesis in the iElectribe is FM synthesis and gives a great description of how it works.
The iElectribe is supposed to be a port of the Electribe-R Mk2 which apparently replaced the Ring Modulation of the Mk1 with “cross modulation” the wikipedia description of which is utterly incomprehensible and factually disputed. All of which is No Fucking Help to any of us, so all you can really do with the ielectribe is twiddle stuff and see if you can make it sound good.
Nine little synths that can be made to make drum sounds, along with a range of other sounds. In fact judging from the presets drum sounds are not this apps forte, but just one of the things it does.
All of the pads use an identical module. as far as I can tell there are 3 oscillators with triangle, saw and noise waveforms
The triangle appears to be much quieter than the saw and noise, which is slightly annoying, and there is a volume for all three, you can set the pitch of the saw wave independently of the synth pitch (which is what the Saw Wave Mod does) so your triangle and saw waves are playing different pitches. There is an ADSR envelope, cutoff, resonance and a filter ADSR.
Turquoise is very popular and a lot of people like it, the sounds it makes are really good, although not necessarily drums..
This list would not be complete without Impaktor which I consider to be one of the best apps ever. For drum synthesis impaktor has an amazing amount of power, but I cover all of that in THIS review so I will just link you back there.
Tentative inclusion of Molten here
Strictly Molten is a sample triggering drum app, however it builds in so much sound-processing that the original sound can be made unrecognizable. Once included in the original sample in Molten can be played completely dry as with any normal machine but with the inclusion of envelope/filter normally associated with a basic mono synth the sample effectively becomes a wavetable oscillator.
Red Dog are obviously aware of this highbrid nature as they refer to the imported sample as an ‘oscillator’ in their documentation
Really when working with Molten it is maybe more helpful to think of each instrument as a single oscillator synth unless you want to work with the dry samples. Obviously other apps allow manipulation of the pitch/length of the imported sample (DM1, d-pad, DrumTrackHD) and also with added FX can produce some new sounds, but I think Molten goes a step beyond and is synthesis in it’s own right.
TRICK TO GET THE SAMPLES/SOUNDS OUT OF NON ACP/AB APPS
Mr Funky Turnip told me about this one…. anyway – to get my lovely new drum sounds out of KraftPad and into other apps for sequencing I just did the following:
1. Get out my cheap ebay iRig guitar connector and connect the guitar-in socket to the phones out socket.
2. Plug the ipad/mic plug into the ipad phones socket as usual.
3. Open up Audioshare and select Mic as an input and Press record
4. Switch over to KraftPad and run through each of my drum sounds
5. Back to Audioshare and press stop
(er – obviously you cannot hear any of this happening up to this point)
6. unplug iRig – and voila – you have all your samples in a track in Audioshare for you to splice and use as appropriate.