An amazingly helpful tool, now more than ever before.
Pros – New great sounding kits – Smart features for a faster workflow
Cons – Control freaks should look elsewhere – The decay of some cymbals and percussion seems too short
Reading comments on virtual drummer ( or guitar, strings, etc.) software, you’ll often find comments like “Just get a real drummer!”. Well, these people usually miss the point of tools like these. True, having a real (and good) drummer or guitar player is great, but in real life we don’t always have the time or the resources for that.
That’s why I love using plugins like EZdrummer, Toontrack’s virtual ‘instant drums’ solution. In our EZdrummer 1 review, we described it as “good sounding, powerful and very easy to use, with a nice line of expansion kits, an integrated midi file browser, a fair price. In short, a winner.”
The question is: how do you make a winner even better? Well, the people at Toontrack took their time (EZdrummer 1 was released in 2006) but EZDrummer 2 was definitely worth the long wait. Some of the changes are immediately noticeable, others (probably even more significant) are ‘under the hood’. Let’s check it out.
Two new drum libraries EZdrummer 2 boasts two new drum libraries, Vintage and Modern, which include drums from 5 kits plus several optional instruments. The Modern library features drums from DW, Gretsch, Yamaha, Ludwig, Sonor, Tama and Brady (recorded through a Neve 88R console ). The Vintage library is based on two old-school Ludwig kits, recorded through a EMI REDD 5.1 desk. Scanning through them, you’ll be able to appreciate the quality of these kits and the pristine sound processing work. You would have to have an amazing room & top notch gear to replicate such good sounding drums. The expression ‘they sound like a record’ is definitely appropriate here. These are ready-to-use kits that will add a professional touch to your tracks. I’m more of a vintage kind of guy, so between the two I found myself using the classic Ludwig kits more. What if you want to keep the vintage snare and replace the kick with a more modern sound? EZdrummer 2 now allows to combine elements from different kits and add an extra percussion (hand claps, shaker or tambourine) on top of everything else. You can also change pitch and volume for each element.
Song Creator & Edit Play Style: Power In Your Hands In the “Drums” tab of the interface you’ll find a new, powerful feature: Song Creator. Here you can combine different loops and create complete song arrangements in a matter of seconds, and speed up your workflow using the song structure suggestions (arrangement templates like 12 bar, AAA, AABA, etc).
Song Creator – Click to enlarge
So you got your structure in the Song Creator area, but you don’t like the hi-hat style? Now, you can customize the groove by selecting the Power Hand (the element where the drummer’s dominant hand is playing) AND decide how frequent the hits of each element are (Amount) and their Velocity. How cool is that?
Browser & Search: Welcome Metadata! The Browser will look familiar to EZdrummer 1 users. At the same time, it’s sweetly integrated with some of the new features seen above (right-clicking on the grooves will reveal handy options, like “Use with Song Creator”). Both the Browser and Search tabs make great use of the underlying innovations brought by EZdrummer 2.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the metadata! All EZdrummer 2 content has been thoroughly analysed and categorised and the result is a MIDI loop browser on steroids. This under-the-hood achievement is the foundation of one of the new coolest features: Tap2Find. Just drop a reference MIDI groove on the dedicated area, or tap on your keyboard/controller (or the drum kit on screen) to tell EZdrummer the kind of pattern you’re looking for. Then let the Artificial Intelligence do its job and in a couple of seconds you’ll get a list of loops related to the one you’ve played, with a matching index. You’re gonna love this. Check out the video below to have a taste of these new features…
Presets – Click to enlarge
While EZdrummer doesn’t offer the huge (and sometimes overwhelming) number options of other virtual drums, extra features like the presets design show once more the efforts behind this software. Each preset is carefully crafted and features a specific FX section (powered by Overloud). The cool thing is that you get a mixer channel for each FX and/or you can see which channels are affected by it (like the EQ, in this image). Needless to say, if you’d rather process the kit through your DAW’s plugins, you can use the advanced routing options offered by EZdrummer. Just select Multichannel from the contextual menu and set up your DAW accordingly.
I’m an EZdrummer 1 user, should I upgrade? If I were you, I would. With EZdrummer 2, you’ll feel at home and you can keep working as you did so far with the previous version. The interface will definitely be familiar, your old kits will still be there, and if you like, you can even ignore the new features and just focus on your traditional workflow. But, as we pointed out, the great sounding new kits and features like Tap2Find and Song Creator are definitely worth it.
One more reason: the entire line of sound library expansions (EZXs) is being modernised with new effect chains and graphics optimized for EZdrummer 2.
Basic Jazz MIDI add-on You’ve just watched Whiplash and you feel like playing some jazz? Well, better start from the basics. The recently released Basic Jazz MIDI won’t make you a virtuoso but it’s a lovely collection of 8 and 16 bar variations of fundamental swing comping patterns in 3/4 and 4/4 time, all categorised by increasing intensity and complexity (with tempos varying from 90 to 200 BPM).
I found this Basic Jazz MIDI add-on very handy as I was working on a 3/4 song, using the Jazz expansion pack. I’ve liked its ride cymbal variations and snare drum/bass drum comping. The clear layout and the quality of the playing make this MIDI pack an easy (and affordable, 25€) choice if you’d like to add some jazzy flavour to your tracks.
Conclusion If only all updates were like this! EZdrummer 2 shows that it’s possible to improve an already great software, using technology in the way it should be used – to make life easier for us musicians and producers. Unless you need full control over your drum kits, EZdrummer 2 is an amazingly helpful tool that any songwriter/producer should consider adding to his own setup. If you’re already an EZdrummer user, the upgrade is literally a no brainer.