So I guess it was inevitable really. I knew it was going to happen. I installed iOS7, flicked through my embarrassingly huge collection of apps, found Stochastik and tapped the icon. Sure enough it failed to boot. This was way worse than the slider-bars-missing bug that iOS6 had introduced and which had been fixed after a couple of months. I duly emailed the developer and, as I expected, I got no response. Xitive were always known to be an unresponsive developer, and stochastik had the air of abandonware almost as soon as it arrived, the “Coming Soon” section on their website ought to have cartoon spiders weaving cobwebs on it as it has not changed since the app first appeared.
Gone, but not forgotten. Thingie, by Whatchacallem.
So it looks like Stochastik is dead. “So What?” you may ask. Well I loved it, or bits of it anyway. It didn’t have choke groups and the UI was kinda horrible, but I like to have random features in my drum lines. I like that a lot. I also loved the shipped samples and the overall vibe I got from the app… oh well.
So I started looking about for a replacement. I wants me some random drums and I want them now.
Before I go any further I should just say a couple of lines about how I used stochastik. You can’t just randomize everything, it sounds like poo, and you get horrible jarring gaps in the patterns that, to the listener, is like falling into a pothole in the groove. The trick is/was to program the bones of the rhythm with a 100% probability and then add in various extra hits around that skeleton that would give you a really exciting and unpredictable output. As I said in an earlier article it also helps not to code these random hits for the various parts onto the same beat as the collisions, when they happen, also sound pretty crap.
I was hoping that DrumtrackHD would be updated/fixed as that has some very interesting features, where you could set the probability for a given part, also set various different samples for different velocities (including silence) and (if memory serves me) random velocity. However the developer of DrumtrackHD, when I wrote to him about this article, told me that he was now under contract to Apple and so was not allowed to develop 3rd party apps – hence the decaying/dead state of Drumtrack in later iOS releases. This is a shame and, if there are any developers who would like to rise to the challenge of fixing and maintaining that app, there is a job going apparently.
So, the challengers (so far) are:
StepPolyArp + another App
I will start with the possibly the most convoluted solution but one which could work excellently if you are inclined to use it. StepPolyArp recently introduced a “Probability” slider bar to every note in a recent update. This means that you could theoretically program very exactly complex stochastic drumlines with split notes and acceleration and velocity curves etc.
Possibly the most fully featured of the solutions this is also the most complex as you need to find a sympathetic midi app to control (I found bs-16i best suited). Mapping the voices for me was the most tiresome thing, partly because I am not a midi expert and because StepPolyArp, while an excellent app in pretty much every way, is designed as an arpeggiator rather than a generic midi controller – hence the +2 +5 +7 etc on the lines – yes you can reset all those to chromatic (or any other) interval your drum part requires, but the whole finding the right part for the right voice thing was way too much work for me…. and I am lazy.
This little beauty is fresh out and can be probability programmed the same way as stochastik was, by setting a bar between 0-100% for each step/sound. There are important differences though, like the number of voices and altering velocity with probability. Most importantly Stochastik was a sample triggering app and so you could load it with anything you liked.
The sliders are way longer than the ones in Stochastik!
This is a drum synth. It is no secret I love drum synths, and I do think Robotic Drums is a very fine and very useful app, but the drum synthesis is a little… gentle for my liking. You can of course send it through a mass of FX (Magellan is particularly useful for this) If this had the synthesis options of, say, SeekBeats or had the aggressive punchiness of the (sadly almost completely useless) KraftPad, then this would probably be my new go-to app.
The developer Hector Urtubia is a lovely bloke and very keen to build in functionality that the community want into the App, I believe he is working on Midi Out at the moment, but he is open to all suggestions. This is already one of my new favorites, give it a couple of updates and this will be outstanding.
WeJaam is one of those apps I have had for ages but just didn’t use. In all probability I got it on a weekend when other bigger shinier apps came out and gave it a few moments of my time. In all honesty I didn’t “get” WeJaam. To be fair to me (and if I am not who else will be?) WeJaam is slightly to blame. The concept of “Programs” threw me, I mistook this app for a “Remix the pr-emade music” thing, I still don’t quite understand what the programs provide aside from new sounds and instruments, and I have bought ALL OF THEM!
I am assuming the “Program” informs some of the parameters but I am not quite sure, so I will ignore the whole program thing for now. Once you do that WeJaam is an awesome Drum Machine and bass synth. This is my perfect combo, I love groove machines, or at least apps that allow for drum/bass programming together (Rebirth, Bleep!Box, Mint.io, iMS-20 etc etc). For me programming Drum/Bass together is the natural way to do things, I like to create my grooves as a whole.
As a drum machine it has a lot of functionality, you can set each step with a velocity and an option (shown by an outlined box) to play the whole sample rather than be clipped to the part sample length which is controlled as a parameter of the part. There are tuning, filter, reverb and delay options also. On tuned instruments like Bass you can set a scale/chord (or set of notes) you want to work with in a little keyboard setting and by moving the autoplay/tune X/Y about it will play notes in that set when you trigger the sounds. I am assuming the way it does this is what is controlled by the program.
You then have randomization options for each part too. Either you can hit the randomize button and WeJaam with add some random hits with random velocities into the gaps between your programmed hits and play those until you click the random off or hit it again for a new set of random notes OR you can drag a slider along which will turn on AUTO randomization – at the left end it will add occasional random hits into your pattern, and change that random hit every time the bar plays, and as you slide the bar over it will add more random hits (all with random velocities and the “full sample” option too).
This is immensely cool as you can program your skeleton groove, and then set the randomization bars so (for instance) you get a couple of random kicks and one random rimshot per bar, the effect is superb. On the bassline you can set a couple of “anchor” notes in your line and then add a few randomly generated ones and you have a non-repeating auto generated bassline playing notes within a range/set you previously programmed.
The included samples with WeJaam are good, more are available using IAPs and you can add your own also – I dumped all of the samples from Stochastik in there and have been very happy with the results!
I tried all these methods in this piece: