Drum Session launched – Derek Buddemeyer and Blue Mangoo collaborate on new iOS drum app

Download from iTunes App Storedrum-session-logo-1We are blessed with some excellent iOS drum app whether you want to create acoustic drum parts of rock/pop/indie styles or electronic drums for more.. well…  electronic music styles. Personally, I think the latter of these two categories is brilliantly served with apps that are just as good as the options available on the desktop. However, when it comes to the former, then virtual drummer software such as Toontrack’s Superior Drummer (or the entry-level version EZ Drummer) or BFD from FXpansion undoubtedly offer something that, at present, isn’t matched on the iOS platform.

In part, the reasons for this are obvious; SD2 and BFD3 are built upon huge sample-based libraries offering many sample layers for each piece of the drum kit in order to reproduce the massive tonal and dynamic range of a real acoustic kit. And, in out current iOS technology at least, storage space for something similar comes at a premium price from Apple. We are seeing some larger sample-based virtual instruments appear (Crudebyte’s Colossus Piano is perhaps the most obvious recent example) but, as yet, not really an equivalent to, for example, EZ Drummer for iOS.

Drum Session - a virtual drummer app for iOS with inspiration from some of the top-flight desktop drum software.

Drum Session – a virtual drummer app for iOS with inspiration from some of the top-flight desktop drum software.

We have a few apps that perhaps get close and the most obvious candidate is DrumPerfect Pro. This side-steps the issue of mega-sampling by using a very clever bit of sample manipulation to recreate the tonal changes generated by hitting drums with different amounts of energy. DrumPerfect Pro certainly sounds great and it has some equally clever ‘humanise’ options so that the performances can sound very realistic….  but the workflow and level of control is perhaps not quite up to Toontrack’s desktop offering just yet.

All of which is quite a long preamble into a new ‘virtual drummer’ app; Drum Session…  and which has finally appeared on the App Store today. The app represents a collaboration between well-known iOS musician Derek Buddemeyer and the Blue Mangoo team (of iFretless fame) and has been known to been in development for some time. And, if you have followed any of the online discussion around the app, you will have read that EZ Drummer was, in broad terms at least, the sort of ethos behind Drum Session. That’s not to say that Drum Session is an EZ Drummer clone – it is not – but some of the underlying concepts, most particularly in terms of the library of MIDI grooves in a range of different music styles and the ease with which those grooves can be editing and chained together to form a song structure, are similar in nature (if not appearance) to Toontrack’s highly regarded virtual drummer tools.

The app offers a 'pads' view for pattern programming if you prefer and an impressive collection of preset kits and MIDI drum patterns.

The app offers a ‘pads’ view for pattern programming if you prefer and an impressive collection of preset kits and MIDI drum patterns.

Anyway, Drum Session is finally launched today and, having had access to a pre-release version for a few days, I can happily say it seems to be working pretty well. The app requires iOS9.0 or later, is iPad-only at present, offers Audiobus, IAA, MIDI in/out and export options for both MIDI and audio. You can connect the app to an external MIDI keyboard or electronic drum kit to trigger the sounds if you wish.

Around 30 complete acoustic kits are included. I’m not sure under the hood just how the sound engine works but I suspect it is based around some multi-layer samples and some clever EQ/filtering of the sounds to give the resulting ‘real’ dynamics and tonal response of the drums. The latter element of this would not, in principle, be a million miles away from how Roland squeeze out such a realistic sound from their V-Drum electronic kits where a single sample per drum is manipulated/processed in various ways to create the dynamic response.

MIDI patterns can be edited within the app via a piano-roll style editing environment.

MIDI patterns can be edited within the app via a piano-roll style editing environment.

There are over 3500 preset MIDI patterns included and these are categorised into a number of different music styles provided. These include main grooves and fills plus lots of variations….  plenty of choice when building a song structure…  and if you want more, then there is a piano-roll style MIDI editor built into the app. Creating that song structure just requires drag and drop actions from the pattern browser onto a simple timeline feature.

That is all very EZ Drummer in concept. However, having exchanged a few emails with both Derek and Hans, they were at pains to say this is very much early stages and that there is a plan for further developments and/or features for the app. From my own experience so far, the obvious areas where that might apply are in terms of the mixing and editing of the kits themselves. At present, you simply load a preset ket and… well, that’s about it….  there is little you can do in the current feature set to adjust the kit balance other than by adjusting MIDI velocities of each hit. An EZ Drummer style kit construct/mixer environment would, therefore, be an obvious next step.

The range of musical styles is already impressive.... and there are, hopefully, more to come.

The range of musical styles is already impressive…. and there are, hopefully, more to come.

That said, the kits supplied are both varied in style and sound pretty good straight out the box. In terms of keeping things simple in your drum part creation process, therefore, the approach in this initial release tick the workflow box pretty well.

The app launches at UK££18.99/US$24.99 and I’ll do a full review of the app once I’ve had more time to explore….  but you can check out the promo video below and then hit the download button to find out more. There would appear to be a lot of promise here and, if you use acoustic drums in your iOS music production, then Drum Session is bound to be of interest.

Drum Session

Download from iTunes App Store

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    1. Hmmm. Could this be what I’ve been looking for — an EZDrummer for the iPad?

      Maybe not — if it’s just tweaking (attack, eq, decay, compression, reverb, etc.) a set of samples at numerous velocities (one sample per velocity) for each pad a la Roland, then it’ll likely be no better than the crappy Roland sounds almost all E-drummers are trying to escape from. What EZDrummer and the like do is to have multiple samples at each velocity and randomly rotate them to effectively simulate the variety of sounds that comes out when playing a real acoustic kit.

      • Hi David….. as far as I’ve been able to find out, there are multiple sample layers but not to the same extent as found on the desktop…. and that is combined with some clever processing/filtering….. so it’s a hybrid of the two approaches…. I’ve yet to do some side-by-side demoing myself alongside (for example) an EZDrummer kit to make any sort of proper comparison but I will do before I write up a full review :-) best wishes, John

        • Oh wow, thanks for the feedback. I just bought both Cubasis and Auria Pro on sale this weekend (I’d been using Meteor DAW, but it looks like they’ve stopped development), and this is another approx. $25 app. That would put it in that same category as yet another of the most expensive apps I’ve ever bought, so I’m hesitating on buying, hoping for some more info. Hopefully positive info, but if it doesn’t do what I want, id rather find out before buying.

          The DrumPerfect Pro app got me excited when I first read about it here, but it didn’t really end up doing what I’ve been hoping for, Well, I’ll be looking forward to any additional info you or other readers may post here and of course your full review!

    2. By the way, what I’m talking about above is in relation to actually drumming out a track on an electronic drum set, while substituting real sounds (samples) for the crappy electronic drum kit sounds. EZDrummer and other such programs allow one to do this.

      For myself, I’m not interested in the preset MIDI groove and fill loops. I’m talking about having cool sounds on the iPad for your instrument (in this case, a drum set), such as a synth app for your keyboard or an amp/effects app for your guitar or bass. Play the instrument while it’s hooked up to the iPad and use cool sounds from an app for recording in a DAW app.

      • Good point…. and this might be where the app as it currently stands fits with some users (the non-drummers who do want the extensive pattern collection) and others (the drummer who are more interested in the realistic nature of the sounds)….. Best wishes, John

      • When hooked to a midi keyboard…this app excels. True velocity control and very expressive…

    3. The drum app I’ve been waiting for on the iPad is one where I could tap a rough sketch of the beat that I have in mind and the app would propose a small number of grooves that are the closest to what I’ve tapped. Apparently EZdrummer does this. Does drum session have this feature?

      The problem for a complete non-drummer like me is to get the good background beat as quickly as possible in order to lay down songs and arrangements ideas that I can show to the band.

      • Hi Joaven…. Drum Session certainly lets you piece together a full ‘song’ length drum part in a very short space of time based upon its impressive set of preset patterns in different musical styles…. but it doesn’t do exactly what you are describing above. I wonder how close Positive Grid’s ‘in development’ AI Drums might get to that? I guess we will have to wait and see…. best wishes, John

        • Speaking of Positive Grid’s AI Drums, I have had the privilege of playing around with the beta for the past day and a half. While there are definitely a few bugs (it’s just the first beta so this is to be expected) once they get the bugs worked out, it is going to be the best iOS ‘EZ drummer’ like app in the app store (in my opinion). I am a little surprised at how easy it is to get a VERY good and realistic sounding drum track yet have the in-depth flexibility to mix/change/manipulate the drums and their sounds. I am very impressed with it as you can tell.

    4. £18.99 is way too much for a drum app IMHO.

    5. I’ve not been impressed with Positive grids AI drum app. This one, it’s got something going!

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