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August 1, 2005

Steve Ferrone and Greg Ladanyi: Drums from the Big Room offers nicely recorded multitrack drum loops featuring the playing of Steve Ferrone.

When you bring together world-class talent and a great-sounding studio for a project, chances are good that you'll get a successful result. Such is the case with Steve Ferrone and Greg Ladanyi: Drums from the Big Room ($249), a new drum-loop collection from Sony Pictures Digital Media. It features drummer Steve Ferrone (Average White Band, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, and Chaka Kahn, to name a few), producer Greg Ladanyi (Jackson Brown, Toto, Fleetwood Mac, and Don Henley, among others), and the ambient sound of the live room at O'Henry's Sound in Burbank, California.

The end product is a high-quality, five-disc collection, featuring 24-bit Acidized WAV files. Although it's optimized for use in Sony's Acid software, it can also be used with any sequencer or other audio application that supports such files. I auditioned the collection using Apple's Logic Pro 7.1 and MOTU Digital Performer 4.52. Both applications correctly read the embedded tempo information in the loops.

Five to Go

Each of the five discs in Drums in the Big Room is dedicated to one of five musical styles: rock, pop, R&B, jazz, and reggae. Each disc has anywhere from two to four songs on it, and the songs all have multiple verses, choruses, fills, and breakdowns. Each song section typically has seven audio files associated with it: stereo full mix, mono kick, mono snare, stereo overhead, stereo toms, stereo room, and mono room.

The full mixes sound great, the recording quality of the entire disk is excellent, and the room lives up to the “big” in its name. You could do just fine using the stereo mixes exclusively, but if you want more control and the ability to manipulate the amount of room sound that gets into your drum mix, you'll opt for the multitrack files (see Web Clip 1). Naturally, having six files instead of one for every loop makes editing more complicated and requires more file importation and organization (as well as disk space), but the results are definitely worth it.

In addition to the songs, each disc has a One-Shots folder that contains individual hits (in-room- and close-miked variations) of the various drums used in the songs. For the snares, you also get flams and rolls. The room that this library was recorded in has such a live quality to it that even the close-miked hits have plenty of ambience.

Steve Meets the Room

There are a total of 15 songs in this collection, but because they're split up among the different genres, you get only two or three songs in each style. (The rock and pop disks are stylistically similar; consider them to be one category, pop/rock.) Assuming that one of the songs has a groove that matches your needs, then you've got the tools to put together a great-sounding drum track.

If you're familiar with Ferrone, you won't be surprised that the playing throughout is powerful, smooth, and full of subtle flourishes and ornaments. He's played many musical styles in his career, and his experience is evident as he deftly handles everything from heavy rock and funky R&B to authentic reggae grooves. (“Natty One-Drop” is particularly cool.)

The jazz disc might have been better named “jazz-rock,” as two of its three songs fall into that category as opposed to straightforward jazz. One of the songs, called “My Sweet Thirteen,” is in 13/8, which seems somewhat specialized for a loop collection with a limited number of songs.

One of the real strong points of this library, as compared with others I've used, is the amount of variety offered within each song. For instance, the song “Boogaloo” offers 9 intros, 8 outros, 5 verses, 7 choruses, and 11 fills. That's a lot of choices. Not every song has that many variations, but all offer quite a few.

Also included is a glossy booklet featuring interviews with Ferrone and Ladanyi and descriptions of the various tracks.

Drum It Up

Overall, Steve Ferrone and Greg Ladanyi: Drums from the Big Room is a solid and useful tool that offers great performances and sounds. The collection isn't comprehensive, but the grooves that it has are first-class all the way. If you like Steve Ferrone's playing style and the control that you get from multitrack loops, you're going to love this product.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Sony Pictures Digital Media

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