Drum Software - Drum Machines - Electronic Drums
And Drums For Creating Grooves
By Robert Curtis
Drums And Rhythm
Drums are the essential musical instruments for creating a "beat" in songs and form one third of the musical triad of a song - the three components being melody, harmony and rhythm.
Rhythm itself is divided up into three components those being tempo, meter and groove.
The tempo of a song may be considered its speed - often referred to as beats per minute (bpm).
The meter of a song is the number of beats per measure also known as the time signature of the song, like 4/4 time seen commonly in most of today's popular song formats or 3/4 time like a waltz as seen more contemporarily in popular songs like Seal's "Kiss From A Rose".
And the groove, or rhythmic pattern, of a song is the "underlying subdivision of the beat" as renowned songwriting coach Jai Josefs puts it in his book Writing Music For Hit Songs.
To address rhythm four types of drums have evolved to date; virtual drums, drum machines, electronic drums and the father of all of these the standard acoustical drums.
Virtual Or Software Based Drums
Drum software, also sometimes considered virtual drums, are programs designed with recorded drum sound samples that you can program into different drum patterns in your computer.
These programs allow you to program patterns by both point and click methods and by real time drum pattern entry typically by typing on your computer keyboard or a midi piano type keyboard.
For typing in patterns on either your computer keyboard or midi controller keyboard the drum software program will tell you what keys to hit for each drum sound.
For example if you want to type in a snare drum pattern you might be directed to hit the "B" key on your computer keyboard.
Drum software or virtual drum machines or rhythm composers can have many samples in a database allowing a broad range of sounds available readily for inclusion into your song production.
A couple of advantages of using drum software are that for one it takes up no space as it's software and two it often costs a lot less than a drum machine, electronic drums or an acoustical drum set.
A good example of a software based drum kit is Beatcraft from Acoustica. The display is noted below where individual tracks are lined up for your different typical beat parts like the bass or kick drum, the snare and high hat.
Beatcraft has a free trial so you can download it and give it a test run to really see how virtual drumware works.
Better sequencers (software recording programs typically for recording and mixing midi and audio tracks) typically allow you the ability to record midi drum patterns as well either with a so called software kit of drum sounds or kit of sounds that you've loaded or pulled from another program.
Typical programs of this sort would be Cubase for example for PCs and Macs or Logic for Macs.
All of this saves on the need to use or purchase an acoustic or electronic drum kit especially if you need to save on space, money and time.
But you may prefer the tactile experience of working with actual equipment - so that leads us to drum machines before we get to electronic drums and acoustic drums.
Drum machines are separate pieces of hardware, often the size of a couple of video cassette tapes put together or somewhat larger and look somewhat like giant calculators.
They have sequences with a synthesizer or sampler component that is customized to produce the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments when you hit their respective buttons or program a pattern.
Users can either program drum patterns into the drum machine or manually enter patterns by pushing buttons to produce a rhythm pattern.
Drum machines can operate as freestanding units or interface with a computer.
Drum machines also tend to not have latency issues like software drums can. In other words with drum machines there is typically no noticeable lag time from when you push their buttons to when you hear a sound. And this continues to be the case upon play back - a very nice feature.
Virtual Drum Machines
Some programmers have taken the look and feel of physical drum machines and created software versions that even have the same look of a drum machine and work in much the same fashion but you input the beats with your mouse, computer keyboard or a midi controller keyboard. (Article continues below after video frame)
A very distinct example of this is the shareware program Hammerhead Rhythm Station.
Click here to check it out and go ahead and download it if you like - it's free!
Electronic drums look most like actual acoustic drum sets and accordingly have actual surfaces that you hit with drum sticks but the sound is picked up and conveyed electronically.
The surfaces that you strike with your drum sticks may be rubber or the same material you'd find on an acoustic drum set (below) and this material can serve both drum and cymbal sound functions.
Electronic drums are intended to sound like acoustic drums but can produce various sounds.
Due to the possibilities inherent in the electrical workings of electronic drums and their built-in programming they can readily interface with your computer.
They also offer the ability to practice or play "silently" as you can wear headphones while you're playing.
You won't disturb your family, friends or neighbors.
And you can typically customize your set with different pads and sounds as well.
Different types of sounds include the production of sounds from other instruments such as guitar or horns for example.
Acoustic Drum Sets
All of the above have their roots in the original standard acoustic drum set.
A standard drum kit includes bass drums, snare drums, hit-hats, rides, crashes and toms.
This is what all the above systems are based on at their core.
Even in this very technological age acoustic drums are still very viable and their sounds can be altered by software when they're recorded - so in a way they offer the best of both worlds - the real and the virtual.
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