Afro Latin Drum Machine 2 review – killer latin rhythms in an app from Luis Martinez

Download from iTunes App Storeafro latin drum machine 3 logo 1I’ve reviewed a whole range of different drum and groove apps here on the Music App Blog over the last few years. While they might all be ‘apps’, the approaches do vary and cover a wide range of musical territory. For example, you might get apps that offer drums based upon audio loops (Drum Loops HD), sample-based virtual drum machines (I guess Patterning comes in here but it is way more than that), virtual drummers (think DrumPerfect Pro here), drum synths (Elastic Drums or Attack Drums for instance) or some things that are groove orientated but perhaps a bit more experimental (Patterning again but also the brilliant Sector).

Luis Martinez has a series of ‘drum’ apps that sort of sit between the ‘virtual drummer’ and sample-based drum machines and, in many ways, offer something that is a bit of the best of both. I’ve reviewed Rock Drum Machine, Rock Drum Machine 3, Brazilian Drum Machine and Funk Drummer previously. One other title in the catalogue has been Afro Latin Drum Machine…. and, like Rock Drum Machine, this has recently undergone a major update, adding a range of new features and new preset rhythms. The app’s icon perhaps suggests this is more about percussive instruments than a standard snare/kick kit so, if you are in the market for a source of instant latin rhythmic flavourings, is Afro Latin Drum Machine 2 worth a look?

Afro Latin Drum Machine 3 - instant latin grooves in an app format - and it sounds great.

Afro Latin Drum Machine 3 – instant latin grooves in an app format – and it sounds great.

Basic groove

Afro Latin Drum Machine 2 is a 53MB download, requires iOS7.0 or later and is a universal app. Both Audiobus and IAA support are included, as is MIDI Clock sync although, at present, Ableton Link is not included (and would be great to see on all Luis’ apps at some stage). The app is priced at UK£10.99/US$14.99.

Perhaps the other initial thing to note is that the version numbering of the app is a bit confusing. While the app is titled Afro Latin Drum Machine 2 on its iTunes entry, in the main iTunes description, it is listed as Afro Latin Drum Machine 3. New users might find that a bit of a puzzle so, hopefully, Luis can rationalise this labelling at some stage. That said, numbering is about the only thing that is confusing here; like all the ‘Drum Machine’ apps, Afro Latin Drum Machine 2 (3), is very easy to use; this is an app that is very much about instant results.

Audiobus and IAA support are built in....

Audiobus and IAA support are built in….

Beat my bongos

So what do you get? Essentially, Afro Latin Drum Machine (ALDM) provides you with a sample-based collection of latin percussion sounds and a pattern sequencer. Within the sequencer, patterns can be build from 5 drum sounds plus there is a cymbals track. Patterns can also be sequenced into a song structure so you can create a custom drum/percussion performance. However, there is also a very neat ‘jam’ mode that allows you to pick a basic style (more on this in a minute) and the app will then add some variations around this, plus optional fills and crash cymbals, to create a varying performance for you to… well, jam along with.

ALDM3 is supplied with a whole host of preset patterns for you to mix and match between... but you can also edit these to write your own from scratch.

ALDM3 is supplied with a whole host of preset patterns for you to mix and match between… but you can also edit these to write your own from scratch.

While you can create your own patterns from scratch – or edit the preset patters – using a fairly standard pattern grid editor, as with the other apps in the series, perhaps the neatest element of the interface is the three ‘roller wheels’ that dominate the central strip of the main display. These allow you to dial in a Bank (rhythmic style), Rhythm (a sub-style within that rhythmic style) and Sounds (a collection of percussion sounds with which the pattern will be played). If you never programmed a single pattern for yourself within the app, you could explore the extensive combinations of patterns and sounds offered as presets for a very long time.

The collection of supplied patterns is pretty extensive.....

The collection of supplied patterns is pretty extensive…..

However, you can, of course, tweak the preset patterns or create your own via the Edit page. Equally, via the Patterns page, where you get five further roller wheels that appear at the base of the screen, you can mix and match between patterns…. so, for example, for sound 1 in the Pattern Grid, you could play the preset rhythm from one pattern, while for sound 2, you can pick a rhythm from a different pattern. This makes for a tremendous amount of extra flexibility that you can squeeze out of the included rhythms.

And, tap the Sounds button (in the strip located bottom-left of the display) and the bottom five roller wheels then switch to allow you to select which individual sounds are associated with each of the five lanes in your pattern Grid…. so you can also mix and match the actual instruments playing any of the patterns….

There is a very good collection of sounds to explore within the app... and the interface makes it easy to swap sounds and rhythms in/out to create new variations.

There is a very good collection of sounds to explore within the app… and the interface makes it easy to swap sounds and rhythms in/out to create new variations.

Oh, and as well as a basic mixer screen with mute/solo, pan and level options, there is also a series of effects you can apply that cover compression, EQ, delay and reverb. And while they might not be the most sophisticated audio processing options that iOS has to offer, all do a decent job.

Repeat after me

In terms of basic operation, while Afro Latin Drum Machine comes with a different styling and colour scheme to more recent apps such as Funk Drummer or Rock Drum Machine 3, the operation is very similar. I’ve covered the key details in my previous reviews so I’ll not repeat that material here – nip across to those and check them out – but it is worth repeating that the design is simple, easy to learn, and very effective.

The mixer is basic but gets the job done.

The mixer is basic but gets the job done.

The six tabs at the base of the display therefore allow you to move between Edit (for the Pattern Grid), Patterns (for pattern selection), Sounds (for sound selection), Mixer, Effects and Jamming. Located top-right is the Song Mode button; toggle this on and the screen changes so that you can create a sequence of patterns and make your ‘song’ (songs can be saved) and where you can set how many times a particular pattern it to repeat in the sequence, what its ‘jam intensity’ (how ‘busy’ the variations are on the pattern that the app adds) and whether it should have a fill or cymbal crash at the end. It is very easy to build – and edit – a full song arrangement using these tools.

THe 'jamming' feature is very good... easy to use but adds that element of 'human' variation to keep things interesting.

The ‘jamming’ feature is very good… easy to use but adds that element of ‘human’ variation to keep things interesting.

From a technical perspective I had no issues with ALDM…. It worked well as a standalone app and slotted very nicely into Audiobus, AUM or Cubasis in my own testing. This suggests that the Audiobus and IAA support is solid… as perhaps you would expect given Luis’ obvious experience with his other apps.

Do you want to dance?

Of course, the technical side of the apps performance, and the powerful, yet easy to access, feature set is only part of the story. How does ALDM actually sound? Well, the short answer is pretty darn good.

The slightly longer answer is that I have to hold my hand up and say that I’m no expert when it comes to latin based percussion. As such, I’m sure some of the subtleties of what makes for a ‘good’ rhythm or an authentic sound would be well beyond my (very) limited expertise. That said, with my uneducated ears noted, I have to say that I think Afro Latin Drum Machine 3 sounds brilliant.

The song construction process is easy to use and allows you to build a full-length arrangement very quickly.

The song construction process is easy to use and allows you to build a full-length arrangement very quickly.

If I have one toe dipped into this musical heritage it is that I’m a big fan of Carlos Santana and, having done a few nods in that direction for my own library/production music work, I’ve often needed some latin style percussion parts to add the required rhythmic spice to what is, in most other regards, a pretty standard rock/blues workout. Well, now I know where to look the next time….   In terms of delivering some instant – and very inspiring – latin rhythms, ALDM is right on the money.

ALDM3 includes the same effects as the other apps in the series; simple but effective.

ALDM3 includes the same effects as the other apps in the series; simple but effective.

The app’s iTunes blurb indicates that a well-known Cuban percussionist has had a hand in creating the musical content of the app and, while I know Luis is, himself, an expert in this field, however they have done it between them, this is an awesome collection of rhythmic patterns and, because of those various roller wheels, there is an almost infinite amount of rhythmic variety on offer. The style banks cover Son, Rumbas, AfroCuban, 6/8, Dominicana and a ‘catch-all’ Others category…. but wherever you explore, there is something that sounds great.

In terms of the instruments covered, well, you get maracas, claves of various varieties, castanets, cowbells, congas, shakers, egg shakers, pandeiro, hand claps, guiro, djembe, bongos, wood blocks and bass drums… and a few others I’ve probably forgotten to mention. I suspect if you went to a dedicated percussion sample library on the desktop, costing many times what ALDM costs, you could get a more comprehensive set of latin percussion samples but these still sound great and I’d be more than happy to slot them into one of my own mixes. This is a very neat tool that will most certainly see some use in my own studio system, be that all iOS or integrated with my desktop system.

The app plays very nicely with other iOS music apps... as shown here via IAA in AUM.

The app plays very nicely with other iOS music apps… as shown here via IAA in AUM.

In summary

This is another great addition to the Luis Martinez drum app series. I think the themed genre-specific nature of these apps has a lot to be said for it and this latin addition is top-notch stuff. Of course this is not going to be a musical genre that everyone might want but, if you like to spice up your own musical creations with a touch of latin, this is a bit of a gem.

Perhaps the obvious competition is the somewhat more generic DrumJam (generic in that it covers a wider range of music styles). DrumJam is also brilliant and can deliver instant results also. However, it perhaps lacks the specialist depth for this style that Afro Latin Drum Machine delivers; if latin is definitely part of your musical palette, then the (very) modest outlay – UK£10.99/US$14.99 – is most certainly good value.

I’m not sure what Luis might have up his sleeve for the next release in this series…. but I already know I want it. For now though, Afro Latin Drum Machine 3 is well worth exploring and, once fired up, I defy you to not dance around your music space; infectious rhythms in a very neat app. Highly recommended.

Afro Latin Drum Machine 2


Funk Drummer


Brazilian Drum Machine


Rock Drum Machine 2


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    Comments

    1. John (Film4Q) says:

      I’m very tempted not just by Afro Latin Drum machine but by all of Luis Martinez’s apps. I’ve never had much success programming convincing natural drum rhythms and these sound like the solution.

      But, while I accept they’re far cheaper than their desktop equivalents, for me the prices are just the wrong side of being an impulse buy – especially because, if I like one, I’m pretty sure I’ll want them all. Maybe if Luis offered a bundle offer, I wouldn’t be able to resist.

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