May 6

EZ DRUMMER – TOONTRACK’S DRUM KIT VIRTUAL INSTRUMENT

Toontrack, whilst being amongst some of the leaders of drum software (like BFD from FXpansion and Stylus RMX from Spectrasonics), were one of the first to provide realistic multisampled acoustic drum-kit sample libraries with their aptly named Drumkit from Hell and DFH Superior. DFH Superior was amazingly large with over 35 GB of drum and percussion sounds. Some however, found that the interface was too complicated and so Toontrack developed something much simpler in the form of EZ Drummer. I love messing around with Drum Sounds, so I thought I would test the user-friendliness of this software from loading to laying down a track in my DAW.

LOADING EZ DRUMMER

I started off by registering at www.toontrack.com. This was a very straightforward process. I then inserted my DVD and loaded EZdrummer Version 1.2.0 which loaded very quickly. I then opened my DAW (Sonar X1) and added EZdrummer as a plug-in to one of the tracks. I was then presented with an Authorisation screen and I made a note of the Computer ID. I went back to www.toontrack.com logged in and clicked on the button to “Register my Product” and supplied them with the Serial Number on the back of my DVD sleeve. This provided me with an authorisation code to take back to my plug-in to authorise. Instantly the main screen appeared and I could click on the components of the drum kit and hear what they sounded like. This was a very easy and straightforward process. Whilst I was at www.toontrack.com I noticed some download options for:- EZdrummer Version 1.3.0 update, Cocktail EZX Library and Toontrack Solo 1.3.1. Downloading of Version 1.3.0 only takes a couple of minutes and installation in less than half a minute.

EZdrummer is still a large package and you will need 1.5 GB of hard disc space to load over 7000 sound files at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz and 8589 MIDI drum grooves and fills. When I first saw these specs, I started to think that I would have hundreds of snare drums, bass drums, toms, cymbals and percussion but this is not the case. In fact this is what you have: – Just 6 Snare Drums, 5 Bass Drums, 2 Hi-Hats, 6 Toms, 8 Crashes and 2 Rides. With the addition of the included Cocktail Kit it adds another 5 Snare Drums, 2 Bass Drums, 2 Toms and 2 Rides. With all the variations that can be applied, it does feel like you have a great number of kit components but I like to think that it is very much like having your own drummer. In the main he has just one kit but he can play endless grooves and in this case 8589 of them.

EZX EXPANSION PACKS FOR EZ DRUMMER

If you want more kits you can purchase sound expansion packs. Currently there are 11 EZX Sound Expansions: – The Classic, Metalheads, Electronic, Jazz, Funkmasters, Twisted Kit, Claustrophobic, Nashville, Drumkit from Hell, Latin Percussion and Vintage Rock. I like the sound of the Classic and I will be writing a short review on this soon. If you want complete variation in sound, then I would recommend the Electronic EZX. Toontrack have now released a new product that works with EZdrummer called “Number 1 Hits”. Toontracks state – “We ended up with Number 1 Hits, which is not only an EZX expansion for EZdrummer, it’s a bonafide hit-machine in itself. When sound designer Niklas Flyckt played the finished product for us, even we were amazed at how organic, pumping and throbbing it sounded. “All you have to do is take any of the included grooves, burn it on a disk and you’ll have a club hit”, was Toontrack’s Mattias Eklund’s first comment.

SIMPLE INTERFACE – GREAT SOUND


The interface is extremely easy to use and there are not too many options for you to get bogged down with. In the middle of the Window is the drum kit which has a drop-down menu on each of the drums and cymbals for you to select alternatives. Clicking on the heads allow you to audition the sounds. At the top you can make just two selections to change kit or change expansion pack. At the bottom you can open the Mixer, select from the endless amount of MIDI Groove patterns, Humanize the groove with some “feel”, change the tempo or velocity and lastly there is an indicator to show when the samples have loaded and how big they are.

One thing that I found that is easy to miss is the tiny “Help” button which is just a small question mark on the right. See the “Help Me” section below for more details. The other bonus is in terms of tempo. I was surprised at first that there was no facility to change the bpm, however once you have dragged some MIDI files to your project, your sequencer will replay the grooves in the order they were placed and EZdrummer will synchronize to your sequencer’s master tempo, so you can change your mind and speed the song up, or slow it down, at any time.

The samples are of the same quality that are used with Drumkit from Hell Superior but there is less choice of drum sounds. All the drums were specially recorded at Avatar Studios in New York on the 1st of October 2005 by Pat Thrall, Neil Dorfsman and Nir Z. Toontrack state that “the recordings ended up every bit as great (and better) than expected”. I agree that the samples are of exceptional quality and just like on a real drum kit, they give you a large range of velocity for all of the subtle nuances of a real performance.

ADDING YOUR OWN MIDI GROOVES

You can store your own rhythm MIDI files in the library. There is a folder called MY MIDIFILES for you to put your favourites in. You could also consider buying some third-party MIDI drum loops that you can use with EZ Drummer such as the excellent MIDI grooves from Twiddly Bits. You can find them here at: – http://www.midisamples.com/

COCKTAIL KIT

Included on DVD is EZ Drummer’s first expansion the Cocktail Kit. Once you have installed this, you will be able to select it as a kit from the EZX expansion drop-down menu at the top of the window. As you select this the kit image changes to a Yamaha Club Jordan Cocktail kit comprising of 14” Zildjian Hi-Hats, a kick, two snare drums, a tom and a Mikaelsson Custom Ride, all of which can be played with brushes or sticks. This provides you with some interesting variation of sound from the Rock and Pop kit and gives more of a jazzy feel. The grooves associated with this expansion provide some Baiao and Samba patterns and fills which you could also try with your Rock / Pop kit. If you put these on half speed it sounds very Military – great fun.

MIXING IN EZ DRUMMER


If you are like me, you will appreciate that sometimes for different songs or parts of songs, you may want different parts of a kit coming through a little bit louder than normal. You could for example have the hi-hat much louder on the Chorus to give a heavier rock sound. To do this EZ Drummer provides you with an on-board mixer. If you select “Open Mixer” or click on the Mixer image to the left of the kit, a new window opens displaying a nine – channel mixer for Kick, Snare T, Snare B, Hi-Hat, Tom 1, Tom 2, Tom 3, Overhead and Room. You can adjust the levels and Pan of the close drum Mics. The bleed between the mics for the Snare Drum and the Overhead Mic level can be switched On or Off and you can also Solo or Mute each Channel. As with many Digital Mixers, this mixer has mixer presets so you can load your own User Presets for different setups very quickly. The built-in presets are:- Default, Roomy, Dry and FlatMono. The Mixer also allows you to work in Stereo or Multitrack mode.

MIDI

EZ Drummer operates fully in General MIDI and the kit mapping is preset to the GM standard. One useful addition that Toontrack have done is the duplication of some sounds on the keys so that you can do some two-handed playing for drum roles. This is much easier than trying to do it all on one key. You can view the MIDI keyboard layout by clicking on the Help button and selecting Pop / Rock or expansion and then selecting MIDI layout. You could also trigger the EZ drums from an electronic kit like Roland V Drums. Whether you use a MIDI keyboard or an electronic kit you can create your own drum patterns. With the use of aftertouch you can also choke cymbals.

ADDITIONAL FUNCTION – ADVANCED ROUTING

By default, EZdrummer routes into your DAW onto one stereo track. If you wanted to however, you can route any instrument or mic to any of the 8 available stereo tracks mapped to EZdrummer’s outputs. To do this, just click one of the mixer tracks and select multichannel. This will select the most appropriate routing for the kit. You will however need to set your DAW up to capture these outputs.

HELP ME

The help button provides a drop-down menu to additional resources. There is a very handy Tool Tips which you can have ON or OFF. If you don’t like the Visual Hits you can turn the animation OFF here. You can get quick access to the PDF Manual and there is a Flash Tutorial giving you a brief walkthrough of EZdrummer. Selecting “Online Support” opens the support website and selecting “User MIDI folder” opens the MIDI folder reserved for your own MIDI files. In addition specific resources, such as keyboard layout, library version information and recording notes are available in product specific subfolders.

CONCLUSION

Toontrack EZdrummer (the multi-layer drum sampler) is without a doubt an easy to use plug-in to create great drum tracks. The sound quality is excellent but its cost is low so it really is great value. It is expandable with a variety of different kits and these expansions also add further MIDI grooves to the existing massive 8589. It only takes a few minutes to be familiar with its interface and Toontrack provide a flash tutorial. Their Percussive Compression keeps your RAM and disc space requirements to a minimum. With all of this, I am finding it very difficult to find any fault with this product. If I was you, I would go and buy it today and perhaps add the Electronic Expansion as well. Don’t forget to checkout Number 1 Hits EXZ.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.