Rock Drum Machine, from developer Luis Martinez, has been around since October 2013, but has thankfully just been updated with Audiobus compatibility. This has breathed new life into this app, and makes it worth a look.
Drum apps in the iOS environment tend heavily towards the electronic '808/909' sounds, which work great for certain genres, but not necessarily in the rock/punk/metal scene. As I am primarily a guitarist who grew up on AC/DC, Zeppelin, and Iron Maiden, I don't go much for the artificial sounds of some drum apps. Rock Drum Machine steps right into this void, and provides an easy-to-use app that has some very nice sounds.
One of the main selling points of Rock Drum Machine (other than its low selling price) is its easy interface. Readers of my previous reviews will note that I am a big fan of "easy interfaces", as this allows me to just fire up an app and getting working. Rock Drum Machine allows for several different ways to program your rhythms, by either using some of the presets, or creating your own on the step sequencer. For the most part, you're getting a kick drum, snares/toms, and cymbals/rides. Since we're talking about rock here, that should do you just fine.
At the top of the main page, and continuing through each of the additional screens, are the standard transport functions. A large 'play' button, BPM counter (along with a tap tempo or slider option) are here, along with the "New Groove" button. Simple, straight forward controls here.
In the middle section of the 'Edit' screen are the "wheels" which allow you to select certain genres, patterns, and sounds. These are a nice starting point if you don't feel like messing about with creating your own patterns. While the "Bank" wheel will guide you towards a certain genre (i.e. Rock, Funk Rock, Odd Times), the "Rhythm" provides different preset patterns, using song titles as preset names (as a Mudhoney fan, it was a nice surprise to see "Suck You Dry" referenced in an app!). The "Sounds" wheel will change the instrumentation being used for the previously selected pattern, giving you some variation in the sounds.
On the bottom of the 'Edit' screen, you can input specific hits in the step sequencer. There are three options per hit - low or high velocity hit, or a flam/roll (based on whether you are using the drum or cymbals). Very intuitive, once you figure it out. Unfortunately, one of the items I'd quibble with on this app is that there is no in-app help or manual or YouTube demos, and the Lumbeat website doesn't appear to have any documentation on Rock Drum Machine either. Again, it's a real easy app to use, but *some* support would be nice.
On the 'Pattern' screen, you can select from a wide range of preset patterns, such as onbeat, offbeat, 16ths, etc. These are available for each instrument, so there are a huge number of permutations available for custom crafting your track. Similarly, on the 'Sounds' tab, you are presented with a huge selection of different kicks, snares, toms, rides, and cymbals to choose from. Finally, there is a simple volume slider for each instrument on the 'Mixer' tab.
Rock Drum Machine is universal, which is a real nice touch for all you iPhone users. And with the previously-mentioned addition of Audiobus, you can now finally use these nice sounds in your track.
One feature that I'd like to see added would be some type of song mode. Right now, you are limited to creating a pattern up to 0 bars. For my uses, this would require me to create a pattern, record it into my DAW, and then create a new pattern for the chorus riff, record this separately into my DAW, and so on. It's certainly doable, but it takes away from the "grab-it-and-go" simplicity that I like about this app. I did have a great time using Rock Drum Machine as a practice tool when creating some new riffs in Tonestack.
There are a few drum apps in the iOS environment that do a good job at simulating acoustic drums. I think DrumPerfect is the best out there today, but it is more expensive and more complex. Rock Drum Machine is a great app for someone who is looking for a simple, user-friendly app for jamming or working out some new riffs. At its price of $3.99, this is definitely worth a look. If you're not yet sold, check out the free 'lite' version and decide for yourself.
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Developer: Luis Martinez
Developer: Luis Martinez