PCRECORDING.COM - IK MultiMedia GrooveMaker 2.0 Review:
Manufacturer: IK Multimedia - GrooveMaker
Music making comes in many different forms, packages and formats. Dance music remains a major force on the club scene and applications that help in creating it are all the rage in the DAW world. One of the major players in this field, IK Multimedia, has released version 2.0 of Groovemaker for Windows.
I received the package which contained a manual and a CD. Installation was very straightforward and took a couple of minutes. I reviewed the manual briefly and then opened the program. The interface is very interesting looking and you can choose from several different colors.
As you can see the interface is circular with an array of eight buttons surrounding a Start/Play control. Each of these buttons toggle a channel into which a loop/sample can be inserted for playback. Surrounding these buttons are a variety of controls. Beginning at the top right are switches for starting a song or importing a loop. Beneath this is a display for the loops that are chosen for playback for each channel - - divided into categories and instruments. After selecting loops described below, the user can lock in the instruments of choice with the lock button thus preventing changes during randomization of other instruments. Next, volume and pan levels are displayed in a small window. At the bottom right is a set of master controls.
Moving to the center of the interface, there is a central control panel containing the Stop and Play buttons. Above these is a counter display window and beneath it is the beats per minute (BPM) display. Immediately to the left and right of the Stop and Play buttons is a set of small sliders that move in a semicircular up and down direction. The left slider sets the category of sample instrument and the right one selects instruments within that category. The display window described above changes as these sliders are moved. Moving outward to the bottom ring is a pan slider, to the right is a BPM slider, and then a volume slider. Each of these change settings on one of the selected tracks, resulting in changes in the display windows associated with that control.
On the left side of the control interface are on/off buttons for the arpeggiator with which you can play notes on the piano keyboard display. The user can choose as many notes to play as desired and save the settings, then move on make other choices and save them as well. Then, during playback, these presets can be activated by clicking on the buttons used to save the presets.
The Groovemaker interface can be viewed in several different color schemes as chosen in the preferences window. Four styles of Random mix are available, Perc, Inst, Rand, and Mild, each different with varied patterns employed in the playback mix. Also, multichannel or stereo mix settings, and format changes are done in this window.
Groovemaker can be played in two entirely separate windows, "groove" window or "virtual mix" window. The difference is in the groove window the user controls the playback, instrumentation and timing of changes. In the virtual mix by clicking on the "randomix" button, the program generates a random combination of grooves that can then be saved as a Groove marker and then brought into the GrooveMaker sequencer. The user can choose from four different styles at a time, with more options available by rehitting the button. The number of tracks that will play in Randomix is set in the preferences window. As a result, virtually endless possible combinations of grooves are available and the program can generate entire "performances" on its own. By clicking on V-Mix and the "Radio" button to the right, the system will play the four different styles and then start all over again with completely new re-mixes.
The program is very fun to use. I began by checking out the included "drum n' bass", "House", and "Tech" samples. In the groove window beginning with track 1, I selected a variety of native samples for each of the eight channels, using the two slider knobs. Each successive sample was sychronized to the beat per minutes set by the system. I was able to make real-time changes in panning and volume simply by clicking on the channels button and using the mouse to slide the controls. Next, I imported some loops using the control window at the upper left - - the chosen loop was incorporated into the mix. After a brief steep learning curve, using the system became very easy and natural.
The arpeggiator tool was fun to work with because it allowed me to set a bit of melody into the mix. With its set of user-defineable presets, getting a varied melodic line was quite straightforward. Another helpful feature is the ability to import any .wav file or MP3 into the mix. For instance, if you had a particular unique instrument sample, simply click on import loop, find the file and import it into the mix. The level of variety is limited only by the sample resources you have at hand - - instruments, spoken words, drums, you name it, it can be imported. You can store your grooves using the save function at the left of the interface for future playback during a session.
With my analog, instrument-based musical background I was unsure of what I would think of a loop-based music tool. I was concerned that it would be artificial sounding, lack in capacity to express the musician's personality and ultimately sound contrived. I am pleased to say that my own preconcepts of this type of music were wrong. After learning how to use this system I began to see its potential in the hands of a real master DJ. The seamless manner in which you can mix different elements can lead to some very interesting results. The ability to make changes, import loops and samples of your choice opens up channels to creativity. The sound quality is limited only by the quality of the samples used.
Groovemaker is easy and fun to use but is capable of making serious music. The Groovemaker is a capable tool that can not only play back loops but an artist can use to shape music as well. In this way, the Groovemaker is an instrument as well as a tool.