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Reviews: Sound on Sound

Fistful of Drummers review

Sound on Sound April 2005 Sample Shop Review (5 out of 5)

This is one of a series of drum performance libraries from UK-based company Drumdrops. As with other titles in their range Fistful of Drummers is available in two formats; either as single DVD of 16-bit loops or as a three-DVD set containing 24-bit multitrack performances. The collections are based around some 40 performances, covering tempos of 70-147 bpm. While the single DVD is based around loops (mostly two, four, and eight bars in length), the multitrack set provides complete performances, mostly running between three and four minutes.

Each performance includes the kick, snare, hi-hat, tom, overhead, and room microphones- with all the usual leakage between the various mics, but suitable for mixing from scratch. Very usefully, Drumdrops provide Digidesign ProTools, Apple Logic, and Steinberg Cubase session files for each performance, and these include tempo maps to exactly match the natural variations within the drumming. These are really useful, as they enable accuarate quantising of any MIDI tracks added to the project.

Drumdrops also make a great play of the recording methods used. All their material is recorded to tape using analogue equipment, including a 1970s Neve console, vintage mics, Pultec equalizers, and Fairchild compressors. If you are after a 'classic' drum sound, then all the right ingredients ought to be here.

The styles represented here have their origins in the 1960s and 1970s - funk, soul, and rock dominate, but there is also a smattering of material that is aimed at early hip-hop. I get the impression that the producers sometimes had very specific tracks in mind. For example, amongst the collection was a classic Motown style performance with a very funky Shaft vibe. There was also a number of performances that paid a clear homage to John Bonham - great for that classic rock feel.

The loops were very easy to work with (for example, within Acid Pro5), but I had the most fun working working with the multitrack versions. For those without access to a good live room and a stockpile of vintage recording gear (that would be most of us then!), mixing these multitrack performances is both a pleasure and an educational experience. Of course, sections of the full performances can be sliced and diced in the usual way in order to customise the arrangement - but just make sure you take the tempo information with the audio data if you do rearrange, so that any MIDI data stays in Sync.

However, perhaps the most noticeable thing about this collection is the sound - the vintage all analogue recording approach results in performances that really do sound like they were recorded in the 60s and 70s. The character of the drums also seems right, in particular the kick drums, which are well rounded and lacking the somewhat clinical sound found on many modern recordings. This distinctive character will certainly not suit a lot of modern productions, but equally, given the vogue for a retro sound in some current guitar based rock, the cool vibe will certainly appeal to others.

I think the multitrack versions offer slightly more bang for the buck, but the loops still represent decent value for those that prefer the simplicity offered by that format. If that classic analogue character is what you are looking for in your drum samples, then listen to the MP3 demos on the Drumdrops site and you might be in for a treat.