Future Drummer review – Luis Martinez adds electronica to his excellent iOS drum machine series

Download from iTunes App Store

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. Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed a number of apps from the series including Rock Drum Machine, Rock Drum Machine 3, Brazilian Drum MachineFunk Drummer, Soft Drummer and Afro Latin Drum Machine.

However, as a posted a few days ago, there is now a new addition to Luis’ catalogue; Future Drummer arrived on the App Store a week or so ago while I was on my ‘roadtrip‘. As the title might suggest, however, this is something slightly different in terms of musical style. While the previous apps have all focused on acoustic drum and percussion sounds, Future Drummer is very much in the electronic music category. It is, perhaps, therefore more likely to appeal to users of drum machines such as DM1DM2, Elastic Drums or Patterning (for example….  but there are lots of other creditable choices also).

Future Drummer – electronic drums Luis Martinez style…..

Future Drummer is a 135MB download, requires iOS8.0 or later and is a universal app. Audiobus, IAA and Ableton Link support are included, as is MIDI Clock sync. MIDI control of the app is also possible with Program Change options, support for the Live Pads and control of Song Mode. The app is priced at UK£19.99/US$19.99. So, if you are looking for some rhythmic inspiration for your electronic music tracks, is Future Drummer worth a punt?

Drum Rudiments

If you are familiar with any of the other apps in Luis’ catalogue, the basic premise here – and many of the app’s core features and UI elements – will be instantly familiar. As with the other titles, what you are getting is a sample-based drum machine with an impressive collection of kits. In this case, it’s a collection of electronic kits (nearly 30 presets are provided but you can also save your own ‘soundsets’ from the included samples).

The individual sounds are described as ‘multilayer’. I’m not sure that really means velocity sensitive….  instead I think it means that there are different sounds for low and high velocity effect but there are also some ‘extra’ sounds such as drags on the snares and these can be programmed in via the pattern editor grid. The colour of a grid cell for a hit indicates which sub-sound you are triggering in each case and can be changed by tapping and holding on the appropriate cell until a pop-up selection panel appears.

If you tap and hold of a pattern grid cell, a pop-up allows you to customise how that hit is played by the current sound…..

Anyway, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here….  Sounds/kits aside, you also get a collection of 300+ patterns with options to create your own and edit the existing patterns in various ways. As with the other apps in the series, the Edit tab (selected via the row of buttons along the base of the display) can show either a ‘basic’ mode (three lanes) or a ‘full’ mode (five lanes) and, when you flip to the Sounds tab, you also get either three ‘selection spin wheels’ or five depending upon the basic or full mode selection. These spin wheels allow you to select individual sounds for each lane and make it easy to built custom kits.

There are numbers of ways the pattern tweaking within Future Drummer (and the other apps in the series) qualifies as ‘rather clever’. On the Pattern tab, the centre of the screen allows you to search and select a suitable pattern to work with, including a filter option for patterns most suited for specific types of song section. Again, much of this browsing is done via two spin wheels.

However, at the bottom of the Patterns screen are three further spin wheels and, once you have picked a pattern from the dials above, this bottom three set shows the individual elements of the pattern….  and you can spin these individually to mix and match between elements of the preset patterns (and flip back to the Edit tab to see what each spin actually does in terms of changes to the pattern grid) to create an almost endless combination of hybrid patterns. This really is very cool…  and makes the already impressive 300 patterns a whole lot bigger as a resource.

Whether it’s here on the Sounds tab, or when using the Patterns tab, you get a series of ‘spin wheels’ to make your selections.

And the sounds and patterns themselves? Well I think they sound great. OK, with sample-based electronic drum sets, you don’t perhaps get (or need?) the subtle dynamics and/or timbral changes that are required when trying to emulate an acoustic kit….  so perhaps Future Drummer has a somewhat easier task here than it’s acoustic-based app family. Even so, there are some great sounds here with plenty of character.

Of course, as the app also support MIDI out, if you like the patterns but want a different sound set, then you can always use Future Drummer to trigger another drum app. The app includes options to customise just where your MIDI is going, the channel number and the MIDI note mapping so, with a bit of experimentation, you ought to be able to get it to work with almost any other drum tool or your DAW/sequencer of choice.

Full performance

As with the other apps in the series, Future Drummer also allows you to apply the sound/pattern features in various ways to create a full ‘song’ performance. In fact, you get four key ways of doing this; the very easy to use Song mode, a great ‘jam’ mode and the excellent Live Pads for on-the-fly song construction/improvisation.

Song mode (selected via the toggle button located top-right) works pretty much as before. You simply create a running order of patterns and can specify how many repeats of each pattern are played before the next pattern in the sequence takes over. Equally, you can add a fill at each pattern transition if you wish and a crash cymbal as a new pattern takes over.

Song mode makes it easy to chain patterns together and includes options for adding variety to the performance.

For that extra bit of variety though – and this is another element that really makes all the apps in the series stand out – you can adjust the ‘jam intensity’. This feature adds some subtle (or not so subtle; the choice is yours) performance variation each time a pattern plays. If you don’t want your drum parts to be absolutely robotic (and robotic is exactly right in some musical contexts), then a little bit of ‘jam’ can go a long way towards a sense of ‘real performance’.

Adding sections into a song sequence is very easy….

The Jamming tab provides a more free-form performance option. You can simply pick patterns on the fly and Future Drummer will keep going long after your human drummer’s arms have turned to jelly. Again, the app can add fills, crash cymbals and varying amounts of ‘jam intensity’ (=performance variation) based upon your selections here on this screen. It works a treat….

However, the other option – and I think it’s a new feature introduced for Future Drummer – are the options for reversing and slicing of sounds in each of the three main pattern lanes. You can switch these options on/off individually and set their jam intensity….  and they are quite infectious in use. Again, it’s another way that you can very easily add performance variety in a very controllable fashion.

Fancy a jam?

The third performance mode comes from the Live Pads tab. Again, this is a feature present in some of the other apps and it simply allows you to assemble a set of up to eight patterns, place them onto one of the ‘pads’, set their individual jam intensity (yep, more performance variation) and then simply trigger them as required during playback. Future Drummer manages all the queuing up of the next pattern selection for you so everything stays nicely in sync.  This is, of course, a variation on the Jamming tab options…  but with the added convenience of having your selection of patterns neatly organised on a set of pads.

The Live Pads provide another performance option.

However, if you also toggle on the Live mode (via the button located top-right), then the Live Pad mode also provides even more of the re-slice/reverse-type fun with your drum sounds as you also get a set of buttons for triggering these effects on the fly. Here you get buttons for all five ‘lanes’ of a pattern with a range of DJ-style effects that last as long as you hold a button (or buttons). You also get some extra ‘Mix’ options (located to the right-centre) that include a basic filter and that apply to the whole kit when activated. Given the electronic drum context – and that the app is most likely going to interest those creating EDM-style tunes – these new real-time effects are going to provide a lot of creative fun. Reverse, re-slice, stutter….  whatever you want to call the actually processing options, there is some fun to be had here.

Live mode also adds some funky DJ-style effects to experiment with.

That’s not all folks

As with other apps in the series, you also get basic mixing features via the Mixer tab and a combination of compression/gate, EQ, delay and reverb via the Effects tab. No, none of these will win awards for best in class, but they work effectively and give you enough control to get the job done.

And that job seems to get done quite happily whether working stand-alone or hosted in Audiobus or via IAA. Hosted in Audiobus, Future Drummer worked well and, via IAA in AUM also….  However, as with a other apps in the series, I can’t actually see them as IAA instruments within Cubasis. I’m not sure what that might be (and maybe Luis will drop by and confirm via the comments section below?). That might be a Cubasis thing rather than a Future Drummer thing though….  and I was more than happy to find other workflows to get audio into Cubasis from Future Drummer.

Future Drummer worked great in Audiobus and ‘Linked’ with your Ableton Link enabled apps quite happily.

It’s great to see Ableton Link supported from the off and I had a lot of rhythmic fun combining Future Drummer, Patterning and DM2 via Audiobus….  and sync’ed together and, through my studio monitors, creating a pretty big combined sound :-)

Of course, the Cubasis IAA issue might all become mute if we eventually see these apps in some form of AU plugin format. We already have a small number of AU-ready drum apps but I think it’s fair to say that we are still waiting for one of the real heavyweight candidates to take the plunge. I’m not sure just how challenging it might be to take Future Drummer’s UI and squeeze it into the current AU sub-windows size used in the popular AU hosts….  That won’t be the only technical challenge for developers I’m sure, but Apple could make it easier if the AU spec provided greater flexibility on that front.

The app also worked fine via IAA within AUM.

Drummers 4 U

Like synths, maybe you already have all the drum machine-style apps you can possible imagine using. However, that doesn’t stop Future drummer being an excellent addition to the market place. It sounds great….  but like the other apps in the series, it’s the combination of easy song/performance features, options for adding subtle variations to pattern playback, and the easy way patterns can be edited that make Future Drummer such an attractive overall package.

At UK£19.99/US$19.99, it’s perhaps not the cheapest source of electronic drum sounds you can purchase and also outside the sub UK£10/US$10 price point that (psychologically) will be in the ‘casual purchase’ bracket for some. However, I still think it represents great value for money and, providing you are a keen EDM music maker, Future Drummer is a great resource for creating complete drum parts with a minimum of fuss. And, while you can program parts from scratch, the feature set allows you to create a huge range of patterns and rhythmic ideas simply with a few tweaks of the supplied presets.

Future Drummer provides pretty comprehensive MIDI control/settings options.

Perhaps that’s a clue to who the app might most appeal?If you like to program all your parts from scratch, or you want a drum synth rather than a sample-based tool, then there are maybe more obvious choices. However, if you want EDM drums….  but you don’t really want to get into programming….  Well, Future Drummer would certainly be a very cool – and very flexible – solution. It’s also a great choice for those that like to ‘improvise’ a drum performance with the Jam and Live Pad options – including the new DJ-style effects – being particularly impressive in this regard.

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 addition is top-notch stuff. If you like your drum apps and are a fan of electronic music styles, then Future Drummer will tick lots of boxes. Yes, this is an app category with some seriously strong competition (and that’s a good thing for us users) but Future Drummer does come highly recommended. Watch the short demo video below and then hit the download button to find out more via the App Store…..

Future Drummer

Download from iTunes App Store

Soft Drummer

Download from iTunes App Store

Afro Latin Drum Machine 2

Download from iTunes App Store

Funk Drummer

Download from iTunes App Store

Brazilian Drum Machine

Download from iTunes App Store

Rock Drum Machine 2

Download from iTunes App Store


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    1. Another quality product, as is to be expected from this developer. However, it’s not for me. Partly, the cost is too high, but it’s also the EDM only sounds. Had it been ‘Universal Drummer’ combining the new features here with access to all the types of drums Luis has available, some included as standard, some as IAP’s, I’d have bought it without hesitation.


      • Hi Zen…. agreed, it’s a great app for those wanting EDM types drum sounds/parts. I’ve also wondered whether Luis might, at some point, offer a more generic version of the engine with genre-based IAP content for the patterns/samples. Maybe that would be a good option with an AU compatible version so you could run multiple instances alongside each other for those times you want to mix and match between music styles in a single project??? Best wishes, John

    2. One thing it might also be worth mentioning explicitly is that with this app (and possibly the others in the series) you don’t actually get the option of just playing the individual drum sounds (kick, snare etc.) as pads. Jamming means triggering patterns of various kinds, but not triggering individual sounds in real time. Or maybe I just couldn’t find a way to do it.

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