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.
Get down to the funky Lumbeat
You know those things that come along and you think ‘hey, this is great but...’ Well, Funk Drummer isn’t one of those. See, Funk Drummer is a complete package, at least in the terms I can imagine. And it’s quite brilliant.
I’ve been drumming for over 25 years, so you’d imagine that by now I’d be pretty competent, and confident, behind the kit. Indeed I’ll claim that as truth, but what I am not, these days, is able. Due to a chronic illness it’s a sad fact for me that I rarely get to bash the skins these days, but with Luis Martinez’ excellent wish-fulfilment apps, it doesn’t bite as hard.
Wish-fulfilment? Yes. Essentially, if you’re not a drummer, Funk Drummer (or, perhaps, one of his other beat apps) gives you the tools to create superb sounding rhythms in a number of styles; and if you are a drummer, it’s one of a very select few tools that’ll let you create beats you know you could play yourself. That’s the key for me: if I had my kit set up and a set of mics attached to a mixer, these are the kinds of beats I’d be knocking out.
Martinez, a (funky) drummer himself, evidently feels the same. Although he necessarily charges for his apps, I see them as quite a charitable addition to my iOS music arsenal.
While at first glance it might all seem a bit manufactured (which is no bad thing – imagine having access to loads of pristine drum loops for a few quid or dollars) that’s just the window dressing. You can create your own patterns with ease, from basic (hi-hats, kick and snare) to full (adding toms and cymbals) and there’s a decent selection of kits and hits.
The feature I like the most, though, is jamming. There’s a simple slider which at one end plays the vanilla beat and at the other effectively randomises what happens in each bar, around the main beat. You can set how often a fill should occur, and there’s such a deep range of what that might be so you’ll rarely hear the same one. But it’s how these beats sound and feel that really shines.
Building on his previous creation, Rock Drum Machine, we have multi-sampled hits which effectively switches up the velocity – humanisation, in other words. You can build on that by programming individual hits with varying accent.
The names (along with Brazilian Drum Machine and Afro Latin Drum Machine) might lead one to believe these apps are tailored to certain styles, but I’d say it’s more the kits that are featured rather than the beats you can create with them. Funk Drummer is by no means restricted to funk; indeed it’s more akin to having a virtual drummer who’s ‘got the groove’ so anything you ask it to do comes out sounding far more natural than you might expect. Martinez has nailed it, really.
The interface is straightforward – over 150 funky grooves organised into banks. Choose your style, pattern and sounds and press play for instant gratification. Tweak to your heart’s content. Bring the hats in or take the snare out. Use Song Mode to easily change tempos and patterns on the fly. It’s MIDI compatible and has a nice spread of on-board FX.
It’s a drummer’s playground through and through but gives non-drummers a level playing field, going further to allow them to do things that many drummers cannot. There’s a good number of drum apps on iOS that can do that but few do it quite so well as Funk Drummer. I cannot recommend this app enough, and its developer deserves to stand among the best working in iOS today. Get it.
Here’s an interview with Luis:
LumBeat – presumably this is taken from your name? What’s your background? Do you code these apps yourself or is there a team? And where exactly are you based?
LumBeat is the brand, supposedly. At first I created the developer account with my name and have not had time to change it...someday! Drumming is my first job. Programming came later. Although as a child I did some coding with BASIC, I began to study programming seriously after 10 years working as a drummer. My first programming project was some software for Windows to improve drumming, with timing and reading exercises, connecting any electronic drum by MIDI, called “Drum Groove Trainer”. After that I did some apps for Android, but finally gave it up to focus on iOS. Indeed, I write the code. I thought about working as a team many times, but have not yet taken the step.
Right now, I am in Valencia (Spain), my hometown, but in recent years have been moving fairly frequently. I spent summers with my current band playing in Ibiza island. We spent a couple of winters playing in the Italian Alps, which was a nice experience, but too cold for Spaniards! Also I went to Brazil last March, learning authentic rhythms to create Brazilian Drum Machine.
iOS drum/beat apps is becoming a saturated market but yours are sufficiently different to catch people’s attention. Did you approach this deliberately to be different to the rest or was it a solid vision from the start?
Actually the concept of my apps is a natural evolution. Most iOS drum machines are electronic music-oriented. Several of them are fantastic apps, but with a very different concept, created by proper programmers. I’m more drummer than programmer and this is what differentiates my apps from other drum machines. My first vision is from natural percussion and is a challenge for me to create algorithms emulating human drumming.
Brazilian Drum Machine and Funk Drummer, along with Afro Latin and Rock Drum Machines – you’ve got a whole lot of rhythms going on. What else would you like to cover in your apps, and indeed, is there anything currently in development?
At this point there is nothing new in development. I start working on a new project when any idea comes to my mind. A user wrote asking me for a jazz drum machine, but obviously it would be the most difficult app ever, and the number of users interested in this style is very limited. I have a slight idea for a next project, but nothing has been defined yet.
Your band, Black Rose, shows off your own skills as a drummer – you’re in ‘the groove’, something I’m not sure can be learned but I think is natural. How long have you been drumming and how did you get started?
I started learning music at the age of nine and playing drums from 12 years old with my oldest brother’s band. But as a teenage drummer, I wasn’t the same type of musician. I was a big fun of drummers like Dave Weckl and tried to play technical and weird things, forgetting the groove. Fortunately, with recordings you can realise your mistakes easily. One of the essential exercises for any musician is to record what you are playing and listen coldly as if it was another musician.
Do you see the iOS platform as something that encourages people to take shortcuts in music production, or is it more of a ‘facilitator’ to create great things with expressive tools?
Technology makes it easier in different ways. At first, iOS applications were pocket tools for easy and quick use. According to the increasing resources on devices, tools are becoming more powerful and today there are lots of apps that, apart from ease of use and mobility, we can get great results with incredible sound quality.
Are there any ways you can envisage, or hope for, the iOS platform evolving? How might your own apps benefit from such evolution?
I really don’t know how iOS will evolve. Tim Cook said a few weeks ago that iOS and OSX will never merge, but I think they are doomed to meet. iOS music apps offer great possibilities for musicians, either in the studio or live, even to practice or study. We are already seeing bands using iPads in big live concerts and it’s a trend that will continue and evolve.