Compu-Mates R100 DrumDroid
A new programming aid for the Kawai R100 takes the form of DrumDroid software for the Atari ST. Scott Gershin becomes a "mouse drummer".
UNTIL NOW PROGRAMS for drum machines have been few and far between. Yamaha had one for their short-lived CX5M computer and Intelligent Music have UpBeat for the Macintosh, but there haven't been too many machine-specific programs which simplify the beat-entering process.
But Compu-Mates, a software company specialising in the Atari ST, have a librarian/utility package for the popular Kawai R100 drum machine called DrumDroid. Whip in hand, I booted up the program and was promptly dazzled by a rainbow of colours. The main screen's title name flickered at me until I recovered from momentary blindness and moved the mouse, stopping the sequence of colours.
As for specs, the R100 DrumDroid gives the user the ability to view drum patterns in a grid that represents MIDI clocks (96); this helps a great deal in the creation of complex drum patterns. DrumDroid can also play and change tunings of the drum samples in the R100 from the computer keyboard. Keys "I-L" represent the three banks of eight drum sounds and keys "Z-?" control the tuning of the last key (drum sound) pressed. Computer key "B" represents normal, unaltered pitch.
The program consists of seven screens: Pattern Creator, Song Library, Chain Library, Multi-Mode, Play Scan, AutoDroid, and MIDI screens. For you MIDI hackers, there's a neat utility package that enables you to monitor MIDI data coming into the ST in hex or decimal numbers.
Let's take a look at the Pattern Creator screen. From here you can create patterns in real time by using the computer keyboard, or by inserting rhythms in step time using the grid. When the mouse is clicked over a piano keyboard displayed onscreen, specific drum samples are triggered, enabling you to hear them. To place a sound on the grid, you select the sound from the keyboard and then click the mouse at the desired point. The sound(s) in each square can be identified by moving the mouse to it; the program will then display the name of that sound at the top of the screen.
By clicking the Controls window you can send the information created on the grid to the R100 or vice versa; the program can receive information from the machine and display patterns programmed on it on the grid.
The next screen is Multi Mode Selector which affords control over pitch, pan, level, and sensitivity of each drum sound (globally or individually). You can create a whole array of presets on the ST and then write them to the R100.
Alternatively, the MIDI Key-In screen enables you to pick one of the R100's drum sounds, choose its pitch and panning, and then assign it to a specific key on your keyboard or drum pad. If you're using Roland's Octapad this can be handy for saving extra drum pad configurations or taking the same drum sound and assigning different pitches to adjacent keys to create a multiple pitched patch.
Both Song and Chain Library screens help you to construct, swap, copy, name, and do the usual piecing together of ideas on the R100. The Play Scan screen shows how to play all 24 drums on the computer keyboard. One useful feature here is that F1 starts the currently selected pattern, F2 stops it, and F3 continues it. DrumDroid also incorporates an artificial intelligence section that will create random drum combinations or random drum fills.
In trying to form an opinion on DrumDroid, the first thing to remember is that it's more of a utility package than an actual editor. The reason for this is that, apparently, you can't gain access to all R100 features through MIDI System Exclusive messages. And because this is a utility package, it's necessary for the user to interact with both the R100 and the ST for the program to be of any use. DrumDroid definitely does what it set out to do, though, and adds a few bells and whistles to boot (ouch).
However, I did have one criticism: even though the grid editor was intended to be a fine tuning tool, I would have liked to see it assign a row number to specific drum sounds instead of randomly placing sounds on any of the squares in the grid.
For owners of the R100 and ST the DrumDroid expands the capabilities of the drum machine and makes those complex drum parts a lot easier to work with. If it were incorporated into a sequencer and made to work with other drum machines, it could be a killer. For the record, the program uses a hardware key and the manual is fairly straightforward, as long as you're familiar with the R100. Remember don't beat it, don't eat it, just read it...
Price £89 (210 Swiss francs for overseas readers); sterling cheques are acceptable
More from European distributor Diego Zambelli at: (Contact Details)
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Review by Scott Gershin
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