Dr Beat Vol 1
If you're looking for inspirational rhythms but don't want to lift them from somebody else's music, you should check out Dr Beat. Ian Waugh boots up and boogies down to some MIDI Files.
THEY SAY THE sincerest form of flattery is imitation. Which is a relatively polite way of excusing copying, as sample-mongers will be aware. However, there are times when it's quite kosher to copy - principally when you've bought something (such as a sample CD) specifically for that purpose.
Dr Beat, then, is kosher copy fodder. It's a collection of drum patterns on floppy disk in MIDI Fie format which you are positively encouraged to rip apart, put together again, slice, dissect, tear, separate, combine, link, blend and fuse (what thesaurus?) to construct drum patterns for your own songs.
There are over 150 patterns on the Dr's disk (arranged into 14 styles) plus a collection of fills. The styles are: Afro, Caribbean, Dance, Funk, House, Jazz, Latin, Latin Rock, Reggae, Rock, Soul, Swing, South American and Techno. Not a Quickstep or Tango amongst them.
The Read Me file says that one of the hardest jobs in collating the disk was actually assigning the patterns style names. This was done mainly for manageability - how'd you like to wade through a folder containing 150 files labelled Patt1 to Patt150?
The patterns are all much in a modern vein and, in truth, you could well find a useful house pattern in the Latin Rock folder or an Afro rhythm in the Swing folder. In fact, I found some of the swing patterns very unSwing-like. (For swings, check out the Jazz folder.) Look upon the categories as guides rather than absolutes and you won't go far wrong.
There is also a Demo folder containing, er, demos of each of the styles. Individual patterns are from two to eight bars in length and the demos are 80 to 100 bars long or more.
If any criticism can be levelled at the collection it might be that some of the styles aren't, er, typical enough. Perhaps that's what you really should be trying to get away from anyway. I withdraw my objection.
Most of the patterns are arranged over three or more tracks. The first track typically holds the basic rhythm using drum sounds suitable to the style. Other tracks add additional drums such as congas, tambourine, cowbell, claps and so on. It's easy, therefore, to make a pattern more or less complex by muting and demuting tracks.
Many of the patterns look as though they have been quantised (nothing wrong with that) and many of the notes have a duration of only one click. In spite of these machinations, there are no robotic patterns here. Conversely, and appropriately, great use is made of the velocity dynamic. One of the demos consists of a run of 16th notes on cabasa but the velocities have been carefully programmed so that instead of a machine gun the result is a series of accented cross rhythms. Deceiving to look at but very, very effective.
To put you in the picture, the Dr's patterns were programmed on Cubase using a Roland U220. Consequently, the disk includes Steinberg's Satellite program with the U220 original presets in case anyone has lost them.
The sounds are mapped to the MT32 - which seems to have become the de facto drum map standard for MIDI song files - but the note numbers of the drums are given so you can re-map for use with other equipment.
The files are supplied in MIDI File format 1 and should load into any sequencer (or program of similar ilk) which supports this format.
I must confess to being impressed - so much for so little. How do they do it? Well, the patterns were programmed by one half of a boy/girl duo called Heaven On Earth (who are in the process of being dumped on by one of the major record companies, incidentally). The idea behind Dr Beat was to give musicians whose forte is not drum pattern programming, patterns they could use in their own material at an affordable price. They've certainly done that.
Plus, there's no fancy packaging. There's a little cardboard folder and a sheet which lists the patterns plus a Read Me file of instructions and suggestions. But then, what more do you need?
Use the patterns as they are or use them as a source of ideas. Pick out the bits you particularly like, discard those you don't. Use percussion lines from one pattern with the main groove of another. The possibilities are enormous and you could easily spend days just checking through the patterns - without fear of copyright infringement.
On a value for money basis, Dr Beat scores 11 out of 10. Unreservedly recommended. Watch out for Dr Beat Vol 2.
Price Dr Beat Vol 1, £10 including p&p
More from Heavenly Music Ltd, (Contact Details).
Review by Ian Waugh
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