Instead of the more typical time- and feature-limited demos, Submersible Music (submersiblemusic.com) offers a free, downloadable version of its new DrumCore 3 plug-in, which is limited only in content. You get AU, VST and RTAS versions of the plug-in for both Mac and PC, but you don't get the stand-alone DrumCore 3 Toolkit, which lets you add and customize content. Instead of the 16 GB of content in DrumCore 3 ($249) and the 30 GB in DrumCore 3 Deluxe ($599), the free version offers 1 GB of pop/rock and hip-hop drum kits and groove sets, as well as a smattering of Latin percussion. But that's enough to be of real use, and the program has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to add variety.
DrumCore offers audio drum loops and 48-piece drum kits, along with MIDI loops to play them. You can, of course, play the drum kits live, as well as swap individual kit pieces between any of the kits. The kits used for the audio loops are among those provided, which lets you easily augment the audio loops with MIDI-driven additional kit pieces. Most of the kit pieces are velocity layered. When you type in or step-sequence your MIDI grooves, use DrumCore's LiveDrummer slider to introduce velocity variations and associated layer switching.
One of my favorite DrumCore features is the Gabrielizer. It alters both audio and MIDI loops in a rule-based manner that produces much more useful results than randomly suppressing, adding and shifting hits. Clicking the Gabrielizer button produces a new loop; you preserve the keepers by dragging them to your DAW host. The Gabrielizer first slices the loop and then shifts, reverses (audio only) or suppresses some of the slices. Because of the absence of reversing and bleed-through, the results are a bit more realistic with MIDI loops, but they're useful in both cases (see Web Clip 1).