(mtebaldi | Posted 2010-07-12)
Back in 2004 I learned about a Swedish experimental metal band that had an incredible drummer known for his syncopation, polyrhythms and polymetered beats. His name, Thomas Haake, the band, Meshuggah. In their fifth full-length album, Catch Thirtythree, released in 2005, I discovered that the drums sounds, besides originating from Haake’s kit, were not actually from a recorded drum performance, but programmed(!). After that discovery, I had to find out how those drums were created, which led me to Toontrack. On those recordings Haake used the Drumkit From Hell expansion package for EZdrummer.
Created to be a light version of Toontrack’s Superior Drummer, EZdrummer is an easy-to-use, powerful virtual drum tool for music production. Coming with 7000 sound files and 8000 MIDI carefully crafted drum patterns, this piece of software impressed me right from the beginning. The interface has a beautifully pictured clickable kit so you can sample its sounds right off the bat. All the sounds were professionally captured at Avatar Studio in NY from performances of world class drummers sampling top-notch drum brands products like Sabian, Zildjian, Slingerland and GMS. You can also add your own sounds to its library, and Toontrack offers expansion packages with specific kits sounds that covers pretty much all your drumming needs. I will be reviewing every single expansion package, so make sure to come back and to check them out.
Plenty of tools, easy to use
The EZdrummer comes with the Pop/Rock Kit and a free expansion package, The Cocktail Kit EZX. The Pop/Rock Kit features GMS’ 12", 14", 16" and 18" toms and 22" kick drum played with felt or plastic beater. There is also a open kick option for this drum. The sampled snares are 14" Roger and Slingerland and a 13" GMS Piccolo with damped options for each of them. There are two choices for hi hats: 14" Sabian HHX and 16" Zildjian Crash Hats. The crash and ride cymbal selections are entirely Sabians, 13" and 18" Jack Dejohnette Encore, 16", 17" and 18" HHX Evolution, 19" AA Medium Thin, 19" HHX Evolution Ozone, 21" Handhammered Vintage and 22" Handhammered Raw Dry. Each of these sounds can be selected through a drop down menu from the arrow icon in each drum and cymbal. In the top left you will find presets for your kit sound, (default, tight, ambient and basic) each giving a quick way to answer your drum needs. You can also customize the kit with your preferred sounds and save it as a new preset. On the bottom left you will find the Open Mixer button, which gives you control over the mix between all the components of the kit. It also offers four presets: default, roomy, dry and mono, which can also be customized and saved with your own settings. In the Mixer window you can control not only the output volume of each drum but also panning, bleed control of certain microphones, solo and mute, and output routing, so you can craft each drum separately on your main recording application. The Mixer window also offers a pan switch button that will flip the whole panning configuration.
In the bottom center you will find the grooves button that gives you access to all the pre-created MIDI grooves. Let me point out that this library of grooves is huge and very well crafted. You can also use any of this MIDI grooves with any other EZX kits, so the possibilities here are enormous. The Pop/Rock MIDI grooves library comes categorized under 4/4 straight, 4/4 shuffle, 4/4 with 6/8 feel, 3/4 and 6/8, each containing drum fills, pop/rock, funk/rock, motown, ballad and sidestick drum style grooves. Each offers dozens of groove choices and variations. The true beauty of this library is the drag and drop simplicity: find the groove you want, drag and drop on your main production application, re-craft if you need to, mix and combine with the other MIDI variations, etc. And of course I don’t have to say that they will synch to the tempo of you application, do I? Obviously if you are more of a performance guy (or gal) you can just hook your MIDI keyboard or pad controller and do your thing. You can access to a MIDI layout of all the sounds under the upper right help button. Back to the bottom center of the interface, you will see a “humanize” button that, as you might guess, gives the grooves a more human feeling, combining drum hit randomizing and non-cycling. You can also control the hits velocity with the Velocity Knob and set the tempo to half or double time.
Switching quickly to the Cocktail kit can be easily done by clicking in the top center drop down button. You will see a beautiful and more comprised kit that will fit to your more “loungy” tune needs. Now you will play with three Yamaha drums, Zildjian hi hats and Mikaelsson rides. The kit presets are default, open brushes and sticks. The Mixer presets are: default, roomy, flat, onlyoh and dry and the MIDI grooves offers 4/4 styles of Brazilian rhythms of Baiao and Samba with dozen of variations and fills.
The thing I love the most on this Toontrack product, besides its simplicity and small disc requirements, it’s its superb drum sound quality. This is an awesome tool for those who need great sounding drums and don’t have the time to look for a drummer or don’t want to drop some serious money in a professional studio. I love how you can mix up kits with other MIDI grooves from other kits and being able to add you own sound samples. Besides being the Superior Drummer’s little brother, the EZdrummer does a terrific job on making you achieve professional sounding drums on all of you musical productions. You might want to free up a good chuck of time because if you are anything like me, once you start messing around with this you won’t want to stop.
EZdrummer’s EZX expansion packages are: Eletronic, Jazz, Funkmasters, Twisted kit, Claustrophobic, Nashville, Drumkit From Hell, Latin Percussion and Vintage Rock. All libraries can be loaded on Superior Drummer.
You can purchase the EZdrummer at www.toontrack.com for $179.