Brazilian Drum Machine review – a drum and percussion app full of Latin American rhythms from Luis Martinez

Download from iTunes App StoreBrazilian Drum Machine logoI’ve covered a whole bunch of different drum, percussion and groove-based apps here on the Music App Blog over the last couple of years or so. However, if you are after a straightforward take on ‘rock’ drums where the results are pretty much instant and song construction requires no pattern programming, then you would be hard pressed to find something better than Rock Drum Machine by developer Luis Martinez.

Luis also has his Afro Latin Drum Machine 2 app available on the App Store but, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, his latest app is Brazilian Drum Machine. When this was launched at the start of May, an Audiobus/IAA was, unfortunately, discovered in the initial release. Luis was quickly on the case, however, and an update was soon in hand. Knowing this was coming, I put off delving deeper into the app until the update arrived. That’s now happened and, as of yesterday, v.1.01 of the app was available to download via the App Store… so, with the Audiobus/IAA bugs firmly squashed, how about a little Latin American rhythm for your iOS device?

Carnival time

Brazilian Drum Machine is a universal app and priced at UK£7.99. It’s a 70MB download, requires iOS7. As implied above, it has both Audiobus and IAA support. By the way, I explored the app using an iPad and all the screenshots are therefore from the iPad version. On the iPhone, you get the same functionality but with slightly different screen layouts.

Brazilian Drum Machine - a carnival atmosphere in an app :-)

Brazilian Drum Machine – a carnival atmosphere in an app :-)

So what does Brazilian Drum Machine offer? Well, if you have used either of the other two apps mentioned above, then the basic operation and layout of the new app – Brazilian colour-scheme aside – will be very familiar. In essence, what you are getting here is a sample-based drum machine with (unlike the three-lane system in Rock Drum Machine) a siz-lane, grid-based, sequencing environment. The samples are all based on classic Brazilian drum and percussion sounds and the six lanes will play different instruments based upon the specific sound set selected.

A collection of preset patterns (grooves) are provided organised into banks based around Samba, Bossa Nova, Marcha, Bateria and a few others, and a user bank (where you can put your own grooves). The Edit page (selectable via the tabs located bottom-left of the main display) allows you to pick a groove bank, then a particular groove (rhythm) from within that bank and finally a set of sounds from the very impressive set of ‘kit’ presets. This is all done via three ‘spin’ selection menus.

At the top of the screen you can set the tempo and trigger playback of the currently selected pattern. At the base of the screen, you see the six lanes of the current grid. Tapping on any of the grid cell toggles you through a number of different different ‘velocity’ settings and then clears the cell. For many of the drum sounds, the different velocity settings produce a louder sounds (as you might expect) but a rather nice touch is that for some sounds (for example, some of the snares), you also get performance options such as short rolls and this means you can add some nice performance touches.

Spin me right round

While you can tap away on the Edit screen to change your pattern, flicking to the Patterns screen changes the lower portion of the display to reveal six further dial-up menu options. This is quite neat as it allows you to pick pattern presets for each individual lane of the grid. As a means of quickly building your own patterns this is a breeze and, if you then flick back to the Edit page you can fine-tune by tapping the grid again.

Patterns view - and there are plenty of preset patterns built into the app.

Patterns view – and there are plenty of preset patterns built into the app.

Select the Sounds tab and the six bottom-most dial menus switch to adjusting the sounds to be used. You can select any sound for any lane so, if you want two kick or snare lanes for a particular pattern, then that’s possible.

The Sounds view allows you to pick your own selection of sounds based on those provided.

The Sounds view allows you to pick your own selection of sounds based on those provided.

The Mixer screen contains a simple mixer with level, mute and solo options for each of your three sounds. The final tab – Jamming – allows you to tweak what happens if you just leave a beat running. You can choose to add regular fills and/or crash cymbals. As a tool for creating an instant groove to practice against or to start a song writing idea with, this is brilliant.

Get my groove on

If you tap on the New Groove button located top-right, you can then specify the resolution of the grid you want to create and you can specify the number of beats and the number of sub-divisions per beat; pick 4 and 4 in both these options and you end up with a standard 16-step, 4-beat grid but, of course, there are plenty of other combinations if required. Indeed, picking 8 ‘times’ and 4 ‘subs’ gives you what amounts to a two-bar pattern so you can build a groove with a little more variety.

Jamming mode is great for a bit of instant practice or setting the rhythm while you work on a new song idea.

Jamming mode is great for a bit of instant practice or setting the rhythm while you work on a new song idea.

You then simple pick sounds, program in your pattern (manually or via the Patterns tab) and, once you are happy, hit the Save button. You can then name your new groove for latter recall. This is all very simple, easy to use and, as a result, very quick.

Oh, and if you are just searching for a bit of inspiration to nudge you along, then do try tapping the various dice icons that appear in different parts of the interface (including the large dice located top-centre of the main display). These will produce various random elements (grooves or sounds depending upon which dice you tap) and, sooner or later, something rather good will simply appear out of thin air. Again, this is a really nice touch.

On song

As with more recent versions of Rock Drum Machine, Brazilian Drum Machine also includes Song Mode and this is activated via the button located top-right of the main display. Toggle this on and you get taken to a further screen where you can create a song.

Song mode allows you to chain patterns together to create a full song structure.

Song mode allows you to chain patterns together to create a full song structure.

This process is very straightforward; it simply requires you to chain together a series of your existing preset patterns. Usefully, however, you get the option to repeat a pattern for multiple bars and, even better, the option to add (or not) a fill at the end of each pattern block. This really is very easy to use and ‘song’ construction is a breeze. If you need to put together a custom drum track in a snap, Brazilian Drum Machine certainly allows you to do it.

Talk to me

So far, so good…. the samples themselves are very good and, given the flexibility provided by the pattern editing and the general ease of use, creating a pattern – or set of patterns – to groove along to with your guitar or bass is pretty easy to do.

Thankfully, the Audiobus issue discovered in the initial release now seems to have been resolved.

Thankfully, the Audiobus issue discovered in the initial release now seems to have been resolved.

Given the v.1.01 update, I was keen to try the Audiobus and IAA support and the app does now seem to play nicely both with both. I haven’t tested this to exhaustion but, in giving it a run through this morning, I had no problems getting audio output into a Cubasis audio track via either of these routes. Providing you match the tempo in Brazilian Drum Machine with that of your project in Cubasis, you can easy record a series of patterns into Cubasis as audio, trim their start and end points so they loop nicely, and then arrange along the timeline of your project. It’s not the most elegant of solutions given how quickly you can create the grooves within Brazilian Drum Machine initially, but it does work and the end results are not at all bad.

The app also seemed to work smoothly via IAA using Cubasis as my IAA host.

The app also seemed to work smoothly via IAA using Cubasis as my IAA host.

There is, however, still one catch. At present, like Rock Drum Machine, Brazilian Drum Machine doesn’t feature any option to either sync tempo to another app nor to trigger the sounds via MIDI from an external sequencer. As described above, there are obvious ways to work around this but it would still be great to see at some stage.

In summary

Even used just a a jam-along tool, Brazilian Drum Machine is good fun but, for creating a groovetastic Brazilian rhythm while putting together a song idea demo, it is just a joy to use. And while I can’t claim to be an expert in Brazilian/Latin American music styles, to my ears at least, the rhythms and sounds seem to capture the style very well indeed… and the quality of the samples would certainly be good enough for many applications (including commercial ones). This is good stuff… No, Brazilian Drum Machine doesn’t have the same finesse or feature set of a top-of-the-line desktop virtual drum/percussion instrument, but, at UK£7.99, it is most certainly excellent value for money.

Fingers crossed Luis Martinez can keep the development work going on all of these ‘Drum Machine’ apps (heck, and maybe eventually add that MIDI Sync). The concept is brilliant and, for some instant drum/groove inspiration, whether that’s rock, Latin or now Brazilian, these apps are pretty hard to beat. Highly recommended…

Brazilian Drum Machine


Rock Drum Machine 2


Afro Latin Drum Machine 2



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    Comments

    1. I’m interested to know if many/any of the rhythms on this Brazilian app are in 3 or 6 time, or if not, then must one create them for oneself? Thanks, John D

    2. C. R. Green says:

      How EXACTLY do I get anything out of this app saved to a loop file or something.

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