Submersible Music's DrumCore ($249) is a multifunction, standalone ReWire application that serves as a drum-loop library, a loop database/organizer, and a MIDI drum source. You get over 8 GB of 24-bit audio loops, fills, and samples (on two DVDs) in a wide range of styles, all impressively performed by a stable of stellar drummers including Matt Sorum, Michael Shrieve, Zoro, Alan White, Sly Dunbar, and others (see Web Clips 1 through 3). MIDI-file versions of many of the performances are also -included, as are hundreds of generic MIDI drum loops covering many pop genres.
DrumCore gives you the ability to quickly locate, audition, and export loops and MIDI files from its library of performances by top-flight drummers. It also functions as a MIDI drum module.
You can use DrumCore with any Mac sequencer, but its most seamless integration is with MOTU's Digital Performer, Emagic/Apple's Logic Audio, and Digidesign's Pro Tools. From DrumCore you can export audio loops directly into the audio folders of open sequences in those programs, greatly reducing the tedium of the importation process.
Version 1.0 runs on Mac OS 10.2.3 or higher, and Submersible promises an updated version (v. 1.5) in the first quarter of 2005 that will add Windows support, among other features.
DrumCore's interface is a snap. When you open its main screen, you choose by drummer or style and then from a list of available Grooves. The Grooves contain assorted loops and fills, both MIDI and audio, which show up as icons in the screen's bottom window. Click on an individual icon to start playback through CoreAudio or through your sequencer using ReWire.
You can search for the part you need using DrumCore's database, which makes it easy to hunt for particular feels, time signatures, individual hits, and file types. You can even import other drum libraries to be included in future searches.
A tempo dial shows you the available tempos for the loop you've selected. Rather than recording one version for each loop or fill (which are typically one measure in duration) and then time-stretching them, Submersible had the drummers record each one at a variety of tempos, generally every 5 bpm over a pretty wide range. You won't always find a loop that precisely fits your song's tempo, but there will usually be one that's close. You can then use your sequencer's time-stretching features to match it up.
You can audition the loops with DrumCore in standalone mode or sync playback to your sequence using ReWire. The latter works great for judging how the loops fit your song, but it can only be done with grooves that precisely match your song's tempo.
You can also export DrumCore's MIDI files directly to Digital Performer (DP), Logic, or Pro Tools. However, those sequencers all handle importation of Standard MIDI Files differently, and in the case of Logic and DP (the sequencers I used for my testing), you're probably better off exporting the files to a folder and then dragging-and-dropping them into your sequence.
At the Source
In its function as a MIDI sound source, DrumCore offers a range of kits constructed of samples culled from the loop sessions. Because of that, Submersible states that the MIDI and audio drum sounds — from the same drummer — can be easily mixed and matched to build a complete part. I found this promise to be mainly unfulfilled. With some exceptions, the samples (the kicks and snares especially) didn't match up closely enough to the sounds in the corresponding loops to make them usable together. (Submersible plans to correct this in the upcoming upgrade.)
Nevertheless, the MIDI kits sound quite good. The sounds are extremely realistic, especially when triggered by the MIDI files from the DrumCore drummers (see Web Clip 4). Puzzlingly, there are more variations available in the audio files, even though MIDI files take up so much less disk space.
Both DrumCore's audio files and MIDI files can be put through a unique feature called the Gabrielizer, which generates variations of them based on a user-selectable set of rules. (I'm told that Peter Gabriel suggested the feature to Submersible, hence the name.) You can set it to give you a lot of variation or only a little. The results are hit or miss, but if you're persistent, you can usually generate some usable new loops and fills.
To the Core
Although there's room for improvement, DrumCore 1.0 is an innovative and extremely useful tool for music production. For its loop library alone, the program is worth its very reasonable price, but you get a lot more. Most importantly, DrumCore greatly simplifies the laborious task of putting together a drum track.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Submersible Music, Inc./DrumCore