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Drumtracker Review

Drumtracker by Toontrack, is a software I have been using over the years for the specific purpose of tracking drum or percussive sound into a MIDI performance. I would usually go ahead and then use that midi with my favourite Drum virtual instrument VST and go from there.

This software does what it says on the box, but not without its hiccups and issues. You can track several percussive sounds from a single sound file or track multiple instrument sounds to multiple audio tracks. It doesn’t do those more advanced features so quickly as one would hope, but with patience you will be pleasantly surprised that it does work, eventually.

I just go ahead and do something else during loading time such as writing this very article. My track is going ahead smoothly. I am tracking multiple audio files each with only one instrument sound (i.e.; one snare track, one kick track, one hi-hat track, and so on) per track. This way I can use drum tracker more efficiently only having to do one render selection at a time, tracking only a single instrument per audio file.

As referenced at the beginning of the article, other workflows are available. Such workflows include using multiple instrument sounds for a single audio track. You can also do multiple instrument sounds on multiple audio files, each or some with more than one instrument sound per audio track, but I imagine this would cause significant slow down.

I think the best workflow as described earlier, would be to have one instrument sound per track but to only do one track per project. Though this method seems like more of a hassle, it should be quicker for getting your sounds tracked albeit in separate files. The nice thing about doing multi-track projects in drum tracker however, is the ability to export it all as a single midi file.

So if it’s convenience you prefer, be ready to do a lot of unusually long waiting while drum tracker processes the next input track and windows thinks it’s no longer responding. If you don’t have the kind of patience to do something else at the same time, be ready to deal with multiple midi files at the end of the process. This can actually be a good situation in some cases where it is easier to use our DAW to mix individual sounds in your drum pattern, up to the point of using a completely different VST or virtual instrument with each drum sound.

However I like to use EZDrummer, also by Toontrack and more recommendable in terms of speed, polish and stability than drum tracker.

I have had drum tracker just out of nowhere crash on me. It lags between selecting audio input tracks. You have to turn the loop function off because for some reason your tracked midi disappears after looping the audio forcing you to quit the program and launch it again in order to track again from the beginning. This is especially frustrating when doing multiple instrument sounds to a single track.

Tip: Simply turn off the loop function when loading up drum tracker in order t avoid losing your tracked data! Also make sure to save your project in order to avoid making a mistake later.

The interface is very user friendly and informative so it is easy to figure out how to use the program. Be advised that your percussive tracks should be normalized and possibly compressed/limited or simply have a reasonably stable and loud volume throughout your track. You can however adjust sensitivity to track quieter sounds, the precision may decrease when you do this as you might pick up unwanted sounds into the track.

Simply use the box selection tool to identify the areas of the audio you want to track to the currently selected instrument. The instruments are selected via their colour swatches at the bottom left of the audio display. Your audio track (input) is selected upon opening a new project or adding a new input. The amount of instruments to track what type of mdi format to use and what midi note to assign are all setup from here.

You can zoom in and out of the audio and playback from anywhere in the audio.  You can select individually tracked sounds in the audio track and remove the detection of a sound or beat, or increase the sensitivity of the sound detection either in the detection preset or by narrowing the detection area represented by two red lines over the audio display.

All in all it is an easy to use software with aforementioned bugs and slowdown but keeping that in mind, you can get your task done with it eventually. I recommend using my suggestion of doing one instrument sound per audio track at a time within only one project at a time (never looping the audio of course) using the render button and editing your hit detections on that single instrument single track in the single project.

That suggestion doesn’t of course take advantage of the programs deeper multi track features but saves a lot of waiting. Unfortunately the features for doing multiple tracks slows things down and you will probably need to do more than one audio track since you cannot layer multiple instrument sounds on a single tracked midi drum note requiring multiple audio tracks to be tracked separately to the midi hit of your choice when the drum pattern features multiple layered drum sounds per drum hit.

Putting all the little nitpicking aside, this is probably one of the cheapest full featured software that can do this that I know. It also integrates perfectly with EZDrummer which I am a big fan of, having note presets perfectly laid out for you for easy conversion to that VST. You can of course use the same data, perhaps with a bit of editing to set the right note, with any other drum VST, or just choose the general midi preset in drum tracker before capturing the midi data from your percussive audio sound track or tracks.

Though you may have to perform workarounds, avoid some glitches and might have to be patient; this program is fully capable of completely tracking your drum performances into midi, with perfect integration with EZDrummer (which features several drum kit library expansions) or for general midi use with any drum VST, virtual instrument or sampler.

Tip: Make sure to set your target tempo to be the same as the tempo of your original audio files when exporting. This will save you tempo troubles later on if you require tempo editing then. You can also import a tempo map for more sophisticated tracks where tempo changes exist in the audio; you do need to have the same timing in your tempo map as your audio (this can be made in DAWs like cubase with deep midi editing capabilities).

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