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EZ Drummer 2.0

Virtual Drum Software

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The Best Drum Software

EZ Drummer 2.0

  • Don Makoviney
  • Last Updated: February 9, 2016

The best drum software for getting hyper-realistic drums, played by humans, without all the complexity of miking and recording an actual drum kit is EZ Drummer 2.0 by ToonTrack. Every sound in EZ Drummer was played by an actual person - often a drumming legend - and are easily customizable through an intuitive interface. For simple and effective tools to help you get the right groove, EZ Drummer 2.0 is the one to get.


Who Should Buy This?

Anyone that wants realistic drums with minimal effort should buy this drum software. The beauty of EZ Drummer is you can begin with a great sounding drum kit right off the bat, EQ’d and everything. Then, you can easily massage the sound through an intuitive interface that lets you adjust everything from reverb, compression, EQ and delay, to mic placement on the drum kits, and even what you want your power hand to be playing (more on this in a moment).

Who Shouldn’t Buy This?

If you are working in a high end production studio, you probably already know quite well what you want. In that case, EZ Drummer may or may not be for you.

Our Pick

EZ Drummer 2

… by Toontrack is my hands-down favorite.

I have tried every kind of virtual drum software out there, and when I started rebuilding a home studio a couple of years ago, money was an issue. So I would go to a handy site like Bedroom Producers Blog, download a bunch of drum kit samples, and then manually make a beat, like in this Ultimate Guitar Reaper Drums Tutorial.

That takes a long time.

If you’ve tried making your own beats and you haven’t developed a “system”, it’s quite time consuming. In fact, if I had a creative bug to quickly sketch out a song, I’d often lose all my mojo just putting the beat together. EZ Drummer fixes that.

What I wanted was a way to quickly get the drums pretty close, be able to dial them in easily, and be able to choose from a wide variety of loops and kits.

When I gave EZ Drummer a shot last year it was a game changer. Virtual drum software is really tough to get right, but even most of the biggest skeptics are in agreement – as a songwriting and music production tool, EZ Drummer is super cool.

We’ll get to some of the other nuts and bolts in a second. But first I wanted to talk about one of the coolest things I use on a weekly basis – the Song Creator.

Song Creator

Recording Magazine’s review described it well:

If you’re in a real hurry to sketch out a full song, use Song Creator — a pop-up window that accepts one MidiBlock of your choice and offers you a full selection of intros, verses, choruses, etc., that are complementary to it. You can drag and drop from the list of offerings, or drag/drop a full-on song arrangement (called a Structure) and then mix and match its parts. You can even create your own Structures, name them, and save them, so if (for example) you do a lot of songs in ABACAB format, you can start from scratch with one click.

If you’ve tried making your own beats and you haven’t developed a “system”, it’s quite time consuming. EZ Drummer fixes that.

Yeah, so what I often do is sit down with a guitar part, or keyboard riff, or bass line, or whatever little nugget I think will make a good song, and then I’ll throw on some headphones and get to work. Typically I’ll start with a simple beat, and get the tempo right using their handy tap tempo feature. Once I get that I’ll start searching through the available list of MIDI loops. Usually I’ll find something pretty damn close, but if I don’t I can always use the Tap 2 Find feature (more on that in a bit) to dial it in even closer.

When I’m there, then I can seriously sketch out the drums for a song in 20-30 minutes by dragging my selected MIDI patterns into the Song Creator.

Done. Seriously. Now my drums are essentially done, and they sound great. It looks kinda like this:

song-builder-toontrack-ezdrummer-2

Now I can import that into my DAW with a couple of clicks and start laying down any other parts for my demo song – bass, keyboards, more percussion, some scratch vocals, etc.

Thing is, even after you’ve imported your drum track into your DAW, you can jump in and tweak the MIDI even more on a note-by-note basis. You can even completely change the drum kit, edit effects, change hi-hats to Open, or Closed. It’s really great!

Sound On Sound also raved about this feature:

Clicking the Song Creator button opens up another section above the song track with a slot into which you can drag any of the library loops so that similar loops can be suggested. These are all displayed below with a matching value: the higher the number, the better the match. Loops may be shortened, copied and moved to leave spaces if needed, but there’s no piano-roll editor, so anything more surgical needs to be done in your DAW. You can, however, select and remove kit pieces from a loop and then copy in selected parts from other loops in the browser to create new ‘hybrid’ loops. Material assembled here can be played back at the host song’s tempo and song position, or at a user-selected tempo. There are also song arrangement templates that can help speed up the songwriting process, so if you need a 12-bar blues backing you’ll find one there.

Tap2Find

The other thing that is awesome, which I mentioned I would talk about later, is the Tap2Find feature:

Tap2Find via Sound On Sound:

Tap2Find allows you to tap out a rhythm against a click using a MIDI keyboard or by clicking on a drum in the Kit window. You can build up your template pattern in layers, including adding an open or closed hi-hat, and everything gets neatly quantised. EZdrummer 2 then lists the library grooves that are similar in some way, in order of how well they match up. This part of the program works extremely well, and even where its choices might not be exactly what you’re looking for, they’re often close enough to edit. User loops or edited library loops may then be stored in the user area for future use.

This video, provided by the manufacturer, provides a great walkthrough of the features which makes this our pick. We want something that is simple, quick, and easy (or EZ!) to put together a song.

You’ll do well to watch the whole video, but pay special attention at 9:50, where he explains the very very cool Tap-To-Find feature.

Also, pay attention to the Song Creator feature overview at 4:00:



If that seems like a lot to learn (it’s not, and I’m not even a drummer), watch this video where the host takes you from nothing to a completed song in just a few minutes:



 

Expansion Packs (EZX)

ToonTrack offers a number of expansion packs (EZX), which deep dive into various styles, from Latin, Metal, Pop, Americana, Reggae and lots of others.

Here’s a partial snapshot of what is available. Click on the image for more:

ezdrummer expansion packs review (ezx)

And if you need more convincing this is the one to get, check out these two videos containing a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the amazing expansion packs you will probably use with EZ Drummer:





But How Does It Sound?

Remember, as shown in the above videos, each one of these beats was played by a human.

Sound On Sound magazine weighs in with their hands-on review:

How does it sound in general? On the subject of sound, I have to say that the two new kits sound superb, with lots of snare and cymbal articulations to keep things sounding natural. Having the option to add percussion is useful, and being able to mix and match items from different kits is also a big deal. It’s also good to see kit presets based on both different mixer and processor settings, as this really opens up the range of sounds you can coax from a single kit. Similarly, the work that has gone into categorising all the loops in the loop browser must have kept somebody very busy, but it has paid off in making it much easier to find loops that will work together in the same song. The option to tap in a rhythm and then get the browser to find a match for what you’ve played is also a clever innovation, and one that really works.

So right out of the box you get two amazing drum kits, a bunch of great mixing and sound shaping tools, and great song building tools via Song Creator and Tap2Find.

Can you get up and running quickly?

Yes.

Is it intuitive and easy to use?

Yes.

Can you customize your beats? Mix and match drum kits?

Yes (and Yes!)

Is it reasonably priced?

Yes!

Does it work with pretty much any DAW you might use, whether Mac or Windows?

Yes!

Until I get an electronic drum set, EZ Drummer is my jam.


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The Best Drum Software

EZ Drummer 2.0

The Best Drum Software

Important Specs

Platforms PC and Mac
Supported Plugin Formats AAX Native, RTAS, VST, AU
Hardware Requirements (Mac) Intel-based Mac, 2GB RAM, 4GB free hard disk space
Hardware Requirements (PC) Pentium 4 or Athlon processor, 2GB RAM, 4GB hard disk space
OS Requirements (Mac) Mac OS X 10.6 or higher
OS Requirements (PC) Windows 7 or newer
more specs

Synopsis:

If you want realistic drums quickly, without all the miking and sound treatment that goes into recording actual drums go with EZ Drummer. I use it all the time. Every sound in EZ Drummer was played by an actual person - often a drum legend - and are easily customizable through an intuitive interface. For simple and effective tools to help you get the right groove, EZ Drummer 2.0 is the one to get.

- M

Sources

  1. Staff, MusicTech.net, 20140423
    EZdrummer 2 Review – EZ Does It
  2. Mike Metlay, Recording Mag, 20140601
    Toontrack EZ Drummer 2
  3. Toby Pitman, Ask Audio Magazine, 20140506
    Review: Toontrack EZdrummer 2
  4. Paul White, Sound On Sound, 20140501
    Toontrack EZdrummer 2 Virtual Drum Instrument
  5. Los Teignos, AudioFanzine, 20140318
    Toontrack EZdrummer 2 Review: NextGen Virtual Drums
Originally published: February 22nd, 2015

Important Specs

Platforms PC and Mac
Supported Plugin Formats AAX Native, RTAS, VST, AU
Hardware Requirements (Mac) Intel-based Mac, 2GB RAM, 4GB free hard disk space
Hardware Requirements (PC) Pentium 4 or Athlon processor, 2GB RAM, 4GB hard disk space
OS Requirements (Mac) Mac OS X 10.6 or higher
OS Requirements (PC) Windows 7 or newer
more specs


“It’s not so much the equipment as how you use it. I’ve heard people with really cheap studios do great recordings.” —Frank Gambale


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