My stuff and your stuff: I write books, produce music, rant a bit, and in the meantime review things other people have done. With words.
DrumPerfect Pro – look mum! No hands!
When the original DrumPerfect came out, in my review (for the now defunct but excellent Film & Game Composer magazine – see elsewhere on this site for all the back issues) I stated it was the most authentic human-sounding drum suite one could find on iOS devices and, furthermore, possibly even on desktop setups too. Especially for the money, coming in at less than two pints of lager in London, DrumPerfect set a benchmark. But that was two or so years ago, and now we have an updated (though separate app) version that its creator, the brilliantly named Marinus J. G. van der Molengraft, has stuck a Pro on the end of.
So what’s the difference between the vanilla version and Pro and do you need both? To answer the second question first: no, you only need one, and that need depends on how much control you like over your beats. Although the standard version when it came out lacked many of the features of Pro, several updates since have improved that version but if you want the best version, Pro it is. So what’re you waiting for?
Things move fast in Appland and Apple’s devices are now pretty saturated with drum machines. But DPP isn’t really like them – although this new version features a generous helping of pre-created loops which you can customise, DPP isn’t really a fire-and-forget solution. To get the most out of it you need to take some time. If you already understand all the theory of rhythm and the various terminology that technically minded drummers geek out to, you’ll feel right at home here.
One or two-handed play, the ability to link beats, a ’humanize’ function and of course a swing slider mean you can get some good variations going right away, but if you want to go deeper you can set individual velocities and probabilities to your heart’s content. You can set the ’Laidback’ level, add some ’cheap reverb’ and sound like a pro in seconds.
Going deeper still, open out the bar and you can set sub-beats – intricate fills between beats – and again, tweak as desired. DPP also offers something not all drum apps do: a decent range of time sigs. So many seem content with 4/4 but here you can go 19/4 if you like.
The range of included kits is decent too and you can audition them on one or two velocity pads, or go to the Pads view and audition the whole kit. On the Pads page there’s a tiny little row of dots at the bottom left (really tiny) that, if you touch it with your magic finger, brings up a full drum kit for you to jam on. It’s a nice touch but… why is it so difficult to find? You can import your own sounds too, just like the older version, so in theory you could have those triggering whatever sounds you like. Why should a drum app have to play drum sounds? Exactly. It wouldn’t be complete without competent MIDI inclusion, and that’s all present and correct.
We now have a store too, so if you want to buy in some more loops and sounds you can: funky breakbeats, jazz, metal, etc... each with a cheesy demo to persuade you to purchase.
There’s also a range of export options to Soundcloud, Dropbox, AudioShare and more, but if like me you record directly via Audiobus or AUM you probably wouldn’t touch that at all. As DPP can be CPU-intensive, you can set the maximum load too.
The Grid page remains my staple as it’s very easy to tap out an authentic, human-sounding beat with incidental hits set to random probability. Less pleasant, in my opinion, is the Song arrangement page. Although it’s hardly rocket science to figure out, that and the Kits page are both pretty ugly and functional rather than making you want to spend time on them.
So that’s that. DrumPerfect Pro updates the original but as a separate purchase and is still, I say, the most authentic sounding drum app available. But while on one hand it seems to make it easier to get results fast, I think it makes it harder to take full advantage of its new features. It was a complicated app to begin with and so now it’s more accessible on the surface but less so the deeper you go, even for people who knew their way around the original.
That’s a minor gripe. This is one of those apps where you get out what you put in. If you’re happy taking the easy road and just want to press Play and get an instantly decent sounding drum loop, that’s right here. If you want to make something incredible and all your own, technically outstanding, it’s to my mind still the best drum app on the market.