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BioDrummer Review:

Windows Shareware $29.99
Available at http://www.triptoys.com

I heard about BioDrummer while I was surfing recording forums. The comments were intriguing so I had to go find out what it was about. I went to http://www.triptoys.com and downloaded a shareware copy. The site advised me that the shareware copy was fully functional but I would not be able to save the results of the session. Cool.

Program features:

  • 32 bit internal mixing, resulting in very low noise.
  • Unlimited instruments
  • Unlimited voices (notes)
  • 62 preset percussion instruments
  • 3 built-in reverb algorithms
  • Full-stereo CD quality sound

System requirements:

  • Pentium running under Win95/98/NT
  • 16-bit soundcard
  • 3 meg of harddrive space
  • 16 meg of RAM
  • Mouse (pointing device)

The install went very smoothly, only taking a few minutes. I fired up my monitoring system and prepared to jam. While not instantly intuitive, I was able to quickly pick up the concept, and what a concept it is. I found the help pages to be quite thorough, giving me considerable insight into how to use the system. In addition, the author, Ken Adams, was very responsive to email inquiries. Please read my interview of Ken Adams about the evolution of BioDrummer.

What BioDrummer does:

This drum program builds layers of rhythms from a wide variety of provided instruments and allows the user to import other instruments via small .wav files. The program builds layers through a user interface comprised of some control buttons and drop-down menus. Please see the screenshot below.

 

When you push on the down button a menu of instrument categories appears from which you can pick individual instruments. When you select an instrument, the program plays its once so you can hear it. If you do not want that sound you simply select another one. After the selection is complete, a + button appears adjacent to the drop-down menu. By pressing on it you begin playing the file looper, hearing a tick sound for each beat of the measure. The program randomly places the instrument in the loop. While it is playing, you can change its position by simply clicking in the loop section (where the little tick button is moving across) where you want it to sound. When you are satisfied with it, press on the check mark to keep it in the loop. If you are not satisfied, you press on the X and it is deleted from the loop. You can add other notes from the same instrument into the layer as often as you like. You must remember to press the check mark for ones you wish to keep.

Adding more layers of instruments is done by repeating the first layer process, using the drop-down menu window that appears below the first layer window. As you play the program you will hear each previous layer and can set your instruments in your next layer as you wish. You can also mute a layer to see what the rhythm sounds like without it by pressing the mute button.

According to the author of the program, you can play endless layers of percussion in this way, creating tremendously complex rhythm patterns. I managed to get up to about 15 layers going before I began to have difficulty distinguishing the rhythm.

The program has considerable flexibility. One feature is the adjustable automixer, which changes the playback of the loop by randomly muting a particular instrument. In this way, the loop does not become too repetitious. You can change the properties of the program in several ways. You can choose how long your loop will be (1, 2 and 4 measures) and how many beats per measure (3, 4 or 5 beats each measure). (Additional time signatures did not appear to be possible). You can also set how and when a sound will be generated in this panel by selecting the tick and/or beat options. Lastly, the tempo is controlled by a slider at the top of the panel.

Ultimately, the loops can be saved in the .bio format and can be exported as wave files to an editor. What you end up with is a rhythm file that you can patch over to a sequencer/multitrack software program, and loop it to create a unique drum track. For bridges and such, you would simply patch in another loop you had created with BioDrummer where you want the rhythm bridge to be.

How it sounds:

Well, very good. The instruments included with the program give you a wide variety of sounds to employ as you build your rhythm. The ethnic instruments were very good sounding and fun to play with. The kick drum samples, well, they kick. The snare drum sounds were a bit of a disappointment. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, you can import other .wav files of percussion instruments right into the loop.

You can also enhance the drum sounds by using one of the reverb algorithms that come with the program. These work pretty well but I would suggest using a more advanced reverb/effects plug-in. By its own admission, the BioDrummer reverb is designed for fast speed not great quality.

Usability:

The process of making the loops was easy as I have described above. Patching over the loops to an editor was a simple as copying them over to the editor and telling it to loop it. Once you get used to the program, you can create distinct, original rhythms in minutes each.

Suggestions:

I would like some cymbal sounds. It would be great to have the cymbal crash and the cymbal ride sounds to go with the hihat and snare drum sounds. One could always import one from elsewhere but it would have been nice to have it included. I would suggest beefing up the snare drum sounds as well. How about a didgeradoo sample? This would be a very fun one to play with.

Conclusions:

I have to tell you, the "grin factor" of this program was very high. It was so much fun to play with. I turned a couple of my buddies on to it and we exchanged emails along the lines of "Hey, have you been Bio’d yet?" They were universal in their praise of the program as well.

Will it work for serious recording? Yes. This is especially true if you have other drum sounds you wish to include in your loop. It is simple to use and very flexible. The concept of this program is sheer genius. It is tremendously flexible and will create truly unique rhythms unlike other programs. I highly recommend BioDrummer.