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Virtual Drummers in Logic

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Read Time: 6 min

One of the more inventive updates included with Logic X is the Drummer Track. This allows the user to create real-time drum tracks from a multitude of genres and playing styles, intuitively, through a simple-to-use interface. 

Setting it up is a breeze, and first-time users can create realistic and varying arrangements immediately with one click. Below we will take a look at Drummer's rudimentary points as well as a few tips to transform it from being a toy and into a tool.

To start Drummer, go to the Track menu and select New Drummer Track. This opens the Drummer interface and populates the Tracks area with 16 bars of Drummer Regions (a special region type which looks like audio). 

If, on the other hand, one were to have the Arrangement Track populated with markers (pressing G will open Logic's Global Tracks where the Arrangement Track resides) and were to create a Drummer Track, the newly created regions would follow the lead of the arrangement track in number, length, and name.

Interestingly, Logic attempts to match the complexity and intensity of the newly formed regions to match the current arrangement. In the image below, I've set up Drummer with an intro, verse, bridge and chorus in the arrangement track. 

Listen to how Logic has guessed at my intentions complete with fills. I've cut the first eight bars from the audio [intro] below.

How it looks.

The initial setting across different sections.

The other interesting thing to note here is that unlike a regular plugin where the settings are global for all track regions, the Drummer settings change from region to region—based on the settings for the selected region—and are cycled through as the different regions are played. 

The Drummer interface shows the intro region's settings as using only a kick and toms set to a fairly high loudness and complexity with a moderate fill rate. The chorus increases the loudness, complexity and fill rate and drops the toms for cymbals and snare.

On the left-hand side of the interface are the Drummers, segregated by genre, with each playing a different style and kit. 

Hovering over the drummer images gives a brief synopsis of what each drummer offers the session. 

Kyle is 'influenced by modern rock, but comfortable with most genres', while 'Max is influenced by fast, hyperactive punk rock'. There are around 30 drummers in all, with each having a number of preset patterns—directly to the right—to choose from.

The rock drummers.

The most fun aspect of the interface is the XY pad to the right of the preset patterns.

Moving the puck around in this area changes the currently selected region in terms of complexity and loudness in real time. It's a bit easy to get lost trying out different preset patterns/puck locations and discovering new and interesting grooves to work with.

The same initial intro set to soft and simple.

The same intro region set to loud and complex.

Directly to the right of the XY grid is a visual of the drum kit where one can choose the number of voices used for the selected region. 

The kit sounds change from drummer to drummer and can be modified in the channel strip by opening the plugin associated with them and swapping samples or modifying the kit parameters. 

The sliders to the right of the drum kit dictate how often the named drum voice or voices will play within the selected region.

The initial drummer playing fewer drums per bar at the verse. 

The initial drummer playing more drums per bar at the verse.

The knobs in the right-hand section of the interface control the number of fills and swing for the selected region. These do exactly as advertised. If you want your drummer to play more fills, turn the fill knob. If you want your drummer to have a more of an off time feel, turn the swing knob.

Directly below the swing knob are 8th and 16th note buttons which determine the number of swung notes. 16ths will populate the selected region with more swung notes and give a tighter feel, while 8ths will give a more open and off time sound.

Jasper at swung 8th notes.

Jasper at swung 16th notes.

Directly below is the somewhat nuanced Details button. Clicking on it opens a field with controls that vary depending on the drummer selected. 

Kyle only has a few controls which dictate the swing he is playing in—behind or in front of the metronome—the loudness of any ghost note he may be playing, and if his hi-hat is opened or closed. Selecting automatic plays both at varying degrees.

Kyle Pushing at 100 and 0 open hats.

Kyle pulling at 100 and 100 open hats.

The Details section gets slightly more complicated when an electronic drummer is selected. The sliders allow the selection of the complexity floor and ceiling for each drum voice. 

The button and dials do exactly what they say and allow for the dialling in of humanisation, phrase variation, and half time.

Jasper doing his thing with the above settings.

One quirk is that Logic does not allow you to switch the AU if any of the drummers are selected who rely on the Drum Machine Designer

If you're using a drummer who uses the Drum Kit Designer as part of his preset, switching to Battery or BFD as a sample engine is as easy as switching plugins. If you want to do the same with Jasper, however, it gets a bit more complicated.

Control-clicking the desired Drummer region and selecting export as MIDI file will create a MIDI region which will then have to be exported back into Logic on an instrument track.

The drawback is obviously loss of flow and the ability to change parameters improvising with the Drummer interface. It does, however, grant the user more specified control over pattern, timing and velocity as those things can now be edited on the MIDI level. 

As such, it is probably a move one would want to make in the later part of a composition in order to fully take advantage of Drummer's improvisational strengths.

Jasper with his drum machine.

Jasper with his drum kit after MIDI export.

In all, Drummer is a great tool for improvisation and finding styles and patterns you may not have thought about or previously been exposed to. I feel its strengths as a compositional tool lie within that, but like most anything it is not the be all and end all.

Picking and choosing certain drum voice patterns across different sections or finding unique fills are its strengths. It has the ability to lay initial groundwork, but turning a Drummer pattern to fit a personal track does take further manipulation once it has been converted to MIDI. 

It is an improv tool, and the initial portion is very nuanced and easily used. Enjoy.

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