One of the major new additions to Logic is the inclusion of the new Drummer instrument, described as a “virtual session player”. Pick a genre, choose from ‘drummers’ with different styles, customise the sound of the drum kit they’re triggering and then let them loose to build up a rhythm track.
The feature has a lot in common with the Smart Drums instrument found in the iPad version of GarageBand. There’s no doubt that this is where that Forstall-influenced light-hearted approach to design oversteps the mark slightly. Cartoonish graphics and cringeworthy biographies for the virtual drummers don’t quite seem at home in ‘pro’ software.
Whether the Drummer feature will be useful to many dance music producers is debatable. The 14.5 GB of bundled drum patterns and audio content are overtly aimed at rock, R&B, alternative and ‘songwriter’ production, all of which they handle well, but it’s worth noting that the new Drum Kit Designer plugin can also be triggered by any MIDI pattern, not just the Drummer instrument. There’s huge scope for the drum sounds to be used for ‘live’ drum patterns in a dance music context.
The opposite is also true; the Drummer engine can be used to trigger any plugin, including rival drum ROMplers like Toontrack Superior Drummer, or even drum machine emulations or synths. Here’s our old pal Curtis ‘playing’ D16 Nithonat:
In comparison, the 92.5 MB of bundled drum machine audio seems miserly. With so much attention clearly paid to Drummer, it’s disappointing to see that Ultrabeat hasn’t been improved at all. The built-in drum synth/sampler’s feature set puts most other drum machines – both software and hardware – to shame, but its versatility is also its downfall. Too many options result in an interface which is confusing at best. It’s long overdue a rethink, but it looks like we’ll have to keep waiting.
From an unashamedly dance music-focussed perspective, it’s disappointing to see such a bias toward live band recording in this area. Ultrabeat offers a number of excellent new kits – improved TR-808 and TR-909 settings, new CR-78 and SP-12 settings and the slightly leftfield inclusion of a classic UK hip hop preset – but if you’re going to the effort of including new samples at all, why not take it that little bit further and give us, say, a 606 kit, a LinnDrum kit, a DMX kit…?