Funk Drummer review – instant funky drum parts in an iOS music app from Luis Martinez

Download from iTunes App StoreFunky Drummer logo 1I’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 and the Brazilian Drum Machine iOS music apps on the App Store. If you require a little Latin American rhythm for your iOS music productions, then these two apps will have you covered in a very similar format to Rock Drum Machine. The underlying engine for all three of these apps is similar and it provides a very well thought out combination of ease or use and instant results with some excellent flexibility and, given the very good sample sets, very credible sounds.

Get the funk out.... Funk Drummer will give you an instant dose of funktastic drumming.

Get the funk out…. Funk Drummer will give you an instant dose of funktastic drumming.

Luis is now back with a further addition to his virtual drummer series and Funk Drummer has arrived on the App Store with a launch price of UK£7.99. If you have used any of the other apps then you will be on familiar ground here in operational terms but, of course, what you get is a hat full of funky drum styles and some suitably funky sound drum samples. The app requires iOS7.0 or later and is universal. It is also supplied with Audiobus, IAA and comprehensive MIDI support, the latter including Midi Sync and MIDI in/out. The app is a fairly modest 82MB download.

Get down, get funky

So what does Funk Drummer offer? Well, as mentioned, with a very funky 1970s inspired colour scheme, the basic feature set is similar to that outlined in my review of Brazilian Drum Machine. In essence, what you are getting here is a sample-based drum machine with either a three lane (basic) or five lane (full), grid-based, sequencing environment. The samples are all based on some suitably funky drum and percussion sounds (think punchy kicks and snappy snares) and the various lanes will play different instruments based upon the specific sound set (and there are 10 different basic drum kits included) that is selected.

You can switch between a 'basic' and a 'full drum kit... and the pattern grid is also customisable by the user when creating their own patterns.

You can switch between a ‘basic’ and a ‘full drum kit… and the pattern grid is also customisable by the user when creating their own patterns.

A collection of preset patterns (grooves) are provided organised into banks based around various styles of funk. Titles include Funk (doh!), Disco Funk, Ternary, Fusion, Latin Funk, Odd Times and a couple of others. You can, of course, also create your own patterns used the grid/step-based editing. 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 three or five lanes of the current grid (switch between the Basic and Full options for these different views). Tapping on any of the grid cells toggles you through a number of different ‘velocity’ settings and then clears the cell.

For many of the drum sounds, the different velocity settings produce a louder sound (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. The sample sets include different samples for each velocity layer and also ’round robin’ samples so you don’t get exactly the same sound each time (for example) the snare is ‘hit’ on a specific MIDI velocity. All this just adds to the realism of the end result.

In a spin

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 three further ‘spinner’ menu options. This is quite neat as it allows you to pick pattern presets for each lane of the grid so you are, in effect, mixing and matching different drum elements from three different patterns; this is a neat way of creating more variations.

Funk Drummer comes supplied with a very good selection of preset patterns but you can, of course, also roll your own.

Funk Drummer comes supplied with a very good selection of preset patterns but you can, of course, also roll your own.

If you hit the Sounds tab, the base of the screen allows you to customise the drum sample selection for each element of the kit. Again, using the Basic or Full modes, you get either three drum sounds to select or five. 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 spinners allow you to customise the selection of sounds used in your drum kit.

The sounds spinners allow you to customise the selection of sounds used in your drum kit.

The Mixer screen contains a simple mixer with level, mute and solo options for each of your three (or six; five plus crash cymbals) sounds in your kit. No, the mixer is not particularly sophisticated but it does its job well enough and you get a separate volume control for ‘ghost’ notes played on each of the main lanes. Ghost notes are those hits a human drummer plays ‘in passing’ between beats and can often add all sorts of interesting details to a drum pattern.

The Mixer screen; simple but effective.

The Mixer screen; simple but effective.

The final tab – Jamming – allows you to tweak what happens if you just leave a beat running and its here, in part, that the app will provide some of that ‘human’ element to the basic patterns. If you adjust the Jam Intensity setting, Funk Drummer will progressively throw in more and more variations around the basic programmed pattern including – yep, you guessed it – some ghost notes. You can also 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, Jamming mode is brilliant.

The Jamming mode of Funk Drummer is really very good and the Jam Intensity slider allows you to add as much, or as little, variation around the basic pattern as you require.

The Jamming mode of Funk Drummer is really very good and the Jam Intensity slider allows you to add as much, or as little, variation around the basic pattern as you require.

The other tab is the Effects section. This brings up controls four four different effects options – compression, EQ, delay and reverb. OK, so individually, none of these are perhaps going to compete with dedicated effects software, but they do a decent job ‘in app’ and, if you want to get all trippy with your rhythms, then the delay effect can be a lot of fun.

The effects are basic but... er... actually pretty effective.

The effects are basic but… er… actually pretty effective.

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.

You then simply 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.

Pattern creation is actually quite a flexible process within Funk Drummer.

Pattern creation is actually quite a flexible process within Funk Drummer.

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.

Funky song

As with more recent versions of Rock Drum Machine and Brazilian Drum Machine, Funk Drummer 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.

The Song mode is easy to use and the options for fills and crash cymbals, as well as being able to vary the Jam Intensity, makes for a very 'human' feel to the resulting drum part.

The Song mode is easy to use and the options for fills and crash cymbals, as well as being able to vary the Jam Intensity, makes for a very ‘human’ feel to the resulting drum part.

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, Funk Drummer is most certainly your friend.

Play time

It has to be said that, given the compact format of the app, the samples themselves are very good. This, plus the considerable 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. Funk Drummer, therefore, manages to pull off quite a trick, it is both easy to use but capable of producing full song arrangements that do have a touch of ‘human’ about them.

Funk Drummer worked well via both Audiobus and IAA... and, rather wonderfully, seemed to sync pretty well to the MIDI Clock provided from Cubasis.

Funk Drummer worked well via both Audiobus and IAA… and, rather wonderfully, seemed to sync pretty well to the MIDI Clock provided from Cubasis.

In my own testing, the app seemed very solid when used within both Audiobus and via IAA. I had no problems getting audio output into a Cubasis audio track via either of these routes. However, what was also a very welcome sight was seeing Funk Drummer lock quite so easily to the tempo of my Cubasis project and to be happy to start/stop along with Cubasis. I’m not sure that the whole MIDI Sync think is 100% bullet proof (in almost any iOS music app) as yet, but this did seem to work pretty well.

In summary

Even used just a a jam-along tool, Funk Drummer is a whole bunch of fun but, given that it is just so easy to put together a full drum part for a song idea demo, the app is a song writer’s joy. OK, so you have to be working in the broad ‘funk’ genre (or using one of Luis’ other apps for a broader palette of musical styles), but the interpretation of ‘funk’ here is wide enough to give the app quite a general appeal. And, of course, you can program your own patterns so, if you want to just knock up a few simple (less funky) patterns, then these sounds would easily work in other musical styles.

The concept of all the apps in this series is brilliant and, with every iteration, developer Luis Martinez just seems to sprinkle in a few extra details to improve on an already winning formula. Funk Drummer, and the other apps in the series, don’t perhaps offer quite the level of ‘human drummer’ that you can get with DrumPerfect (and that app doesn’t match what’s possible in a desktop equivalent such as Superior Drummer of BFD), but it is not a million miles away. And where Funk Drummer does succeed rather wonderfully is in being so easy to use and producing such instant, and highly useable, results.

For some instant drum/groove inspiration, whether that’s rock, Latin, Brazilian – or now funk –  these apps are pretty hard to beat. Funk Drummer therefore comes highly recommended…. Oh, and the app logo is just super cool :-)

Funk Drummer


Brazilian Drum Machine


Rock Drum Machine 2


Afro Latin Drum Machine 2



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    Comments

    1. I like the apps by this developer. However, BE WARNED: if you have an issue with the app and need support, the ONLY way to contact the developer is through social media like facebook or twitter. No email, no online support form.

      I have a broken app and can’t contact them. Bummer. No developer should force a person to join FB or Twitter in order to contact them. It is rare that developers take that approach and it is a shame.

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