ToonTrack/EZ Drummer 2

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NEWS FLASH! EZD2 makes drummers scared and recording gurus CHEER!

EZdrummer is gaining a lot of attention with their recent release of EZdrummer 2. Many of today’s more popular drum machines to software utilize more actual sampled phrases and beats instead of the traditional drum note sampling. This allows for the average user to create more realistic-sounding drum programs because of the fact that these phrases are real recordings with real drummers.

The software has a nice easy-to-understand user interface with a column-style library of standard drum riffs from Ballad, Halftime, Mid Tempo, Up Tempo and Extras, each featuring various feels like Straight beats, Swing, Intros, Snare Rolls, Count ins, with varied tempo and time signatures. As you click on column No. 1, it expands a second column of categories such as Funky Swing, Basic Jazz, Swing Metal, Twisty, Radio Rock, Dbl Kick Metal, Up Tempo Metal to Punk/Metal offerings, which also expands into a third column showcasing a variety of samples handling Into, Verse, Pre Chorus, Chorus, Bridge, Fills and Endings.

To add phrases to a song simply drag the Variation into the song bar, drag its length with a handle bar to make it longer or shorter. Double-click a phrase and it brings up the drum kit to alter Power Hand and drum target, twist up the “Amount” knob, which adds or subtracts hits, or twist “Velocity” to add more dynamic variation to the phrase.

For use in song writing, a beat can really change the way you compose, the simple ability to select and loop a beat can help you home in, or simply hearing a beat can make you create something fresh. One thing I notice about writing to a beat is you adapt and write to the beat, if for example you need to make something adapt to you, that can be a little more complicated, as you may have to dig deeper in selecting the right phrase or manipulating it to fit your song. Or to keep it simple, I typically just call up a kick drum to be used as click track, which helps piece together a song recording guitar phrases piece by piece and moving them around to build a song by section while also having the beat to help keep phrases in time.

In most of today’s recording software, EZdrummer will show up as a plug-in, so you can run it inside of your favorite recording software or you can export the audio as a high-quality .wav file or MIDI file and simply import the file into your recording session or import MIDI files into EZD for assigning some great drum tones to your file. There are some other cool features. For example, you can tap in a beat on your keyboard or use an electronic drum kit via a MIDI connection, which quickly locates any similar beats in the library, or use an electronic drum set to create your own new beats and assign any drum kit to the file. This may be an ideal way to convert real drumming into MIDI drum files for endless alterations on drum tone.

So, as a simple test, I wanted to create a drum solo, as that would be virtually impossible with any kind of quality or realism just a few years ago, because in my decades of using electronic drum machines or software, they always sounded like machines and void of a human-feel-type element. What I noticed quickly while browsing the EZD drum library is that they have an extensive library of drum phrases that all sound very real because they were performed by a human and then converted into individual drum MIDI samples. Details like drumhead overtones ringing on after being hit really help make it sound authentic.

So I created two samples for your listening pleasure. The first sample is using only one phrase that was pasted in five times. On each phrase I simply altered the Amount and Velocity, keeping them both light beginning with phrase No. 1, then adding more of both into each phrase until reaching close to max on the final phrase.

In example No. 2, the drum solo, I created this in probably less than 30 minutes, auditioning a variety of phrases, also done with very little knowledge about this software, so bear in mind I have had zero prior experience with this software yet was able to create some cool sounds very quickly. In this test file, I did not alter any phrases. They are exactly as they were dragged in; the only minor tweak was shortening a few phrases by simply grabbing an end and dragging it to the length desired. In past years, this type of file may have taken countless hours to weeks to even get remotely close and would still have sounded like a drum machine.

Call up a large variety of authentic sounding drum sets to percussion tools, a large variety of styles to handle anyone from a salsa band to full on double kick metal and everything in between. There is also a Mixer section that allows you to tailor each drum’s volume, tone or pan position with an effects rack to boot, allowing you to create the right-sounding environment for what you want to create.

What’s really cool is EZdrummer 2 is only their average user software; ToonTrack has an extensive selection of other fascinating tools from MIDI sound expansion libraries, EZ Keys, and EZ Mix for a full recording package to Superior Drummer, if EZD2 cannot give you enough. Superior Drummer gets deep into a full-blown studio-type environment, micing techniques, room and much more.

Cruise their website at www.toontrack.com; they also have a surprisingly large amount of signature name “Pro Producer Pack” upgrades of meticulously recorded drums in pro environments. This kind of stuff is of huge value to those of us who don’t have the time or resources to create such quality recordings. The site is loaded with great video demos, tutorials to audio previews to MIDI Packs or Bundle upgrades to create a library that’s exclusively tailored to you; all very reasonably priced for home to pro recording needs. ToonTrack is extremely serious about providing quality tools for the everyday musician to make your job faster, easier and more creative.

The end result is that not only will drummers find the visual live drum set a cool tool for learning riffs, but I was SERIOUSLY awakened and smiling ear to ear at how fast EZD is to use and how KILLER it sounds; this was exactly what I was looking for, as my own band has been moving toward hibernation working on an album we can call our own and this was the song writing tool I was looking for. Granted, nothing completely replaces the human drummer, but this sure helps the individual develop and share ideas fast. Plus it can be used as an important tool in recording your next record.

“EZD2 HUGE BANG for your buck; look no further.”

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