EZ Drummer \ Superior Drummer (or other Toontrack apps) Discussion Thread

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by socialleper, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    When I took the dive into DYI and home recording I quickly discovered that the largest obstacle would be drumming. I'm a competent bass player that can fake my way though playing guitar, and I'm putting some time into learning keyboard\piano so I can MIDI other instruments into the mix. However, drums immediately became a problem. Real drums are expensive, hard to record, extremely hard to play for an uncoordinated goof like me, and I'm already on my family's last nerve with this whole home recording thing as it is.
    EZ Drummer was the quick and easy solution to this dilemma. I dug into it without any knowledge about program drums, or Toontrack as a company. The effort has been quite a learning experience. I thought I would start a thread here on TB so we can discuss EZ Drummer, its big brother Superior Drummer, or any of the growing roster of products Toontrack offers. Thoughts, likes, dislikes, successes, failures, etc.
    "Why not just use the Toontrack forums," you might ask? They stink. There, I said it. TB is the most robust musical community IMO, and also has the best (most usable) interface. So there.
     
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  2. Nashrakh

    Nashrakh

    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    I think the steep learning curve of the Toontracks drum instruments quickly dissipates as soon as you begin to use the pre-recorded midi tracks, which were often done by big name drummers.

    At least that's the way I use it: pick something that is SOMEWHAT like the musical idea I have, and edit the pre-existing midi track to taste (adding/removing parts, changing the time signature, etc). This has worked well for me so far, and at the same time it'll give you an idea what a "proper" drum part will look like in the editor, teaching you in the process.

    The big downside: the really good commercially available midi tracks cost a pretty penny.
     
  3. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    My personal experience so far:
    I went with EZ Drummer because it was highly recommended for non-drummers that want to get some beats behind their music. I won't lie, the price and size of it were serious factors as well. The full Superior Drummer installation can be a whopping 230gigs! That's before additional MIDI or Expansions.
    Despite the EZ part, there as been a pretty steep learning curve to wringing everything I want out of the program. Having that many options is a good thing, but if I hadn't already have experience with more software than most people will touch in their lifetimes, and a few years of DAW experience, I might get lost. YouTube has been a life saver. Once you figure out the work flow of the software, it is very easy to put together a track that can be dumped to your DAW.
    Toontrack is diabolically clever with the pricing and easy availability of their products. The MIDI packs are so cheap that it is hard to keep the hoarder instinct in me under control. The Expansions, which include sampled kits and MIDI tracks are also pretty affordable. With a good internet connection I can have what I want at the click of a button. The selection of things is perhaps overwhelming, and making sure you don't blow your money on downloads you don't need or won't use is tough.
    Where I find that it falls short are in limitations that are because it is a simplified version of a more expensive product. The drum samples are compressed and processed, so they have a slightly sterile quality to them. I have to warm them up in my DAW with plugins. Superior Drummer has more natural sounding samples, but at a financial and storage cost. The pre-recorded beats also lack a certain amount of human quality, which is understandable. Having accents at the 2, 4 or 8 is super common in live music, but the tracks don't have that, and the "fills" are often way too long to be useful to just drop in. Because it is the EZ version, you also loose a little control over the presets or the processors that can be put on the drums. You have full range of that in SD. There is the possibility that I could get buried under all the options in SD, so it is a mixed bag to me. Finally, the song builder only lets you set the tempo once. That's nuts! Who writes a song with just one tempo? That can be adjusted in your DAW, but that makes setting the tempo while building a song in the software difficult to impossible. Or, what if someone just wants to use this as a drum machine and not bother with a DAW? They are stuck at one tempo. That is something I would like to see them improve on.
     
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  4. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    As a novice to this, I didn't know you could incorporate another party's MIDI into EZD kits. Is that done through the DAW? So as not to immediately derail my own thread, could you message me so places to find MIDI tracks that can be used along with EZD or SD?
     
  5. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    In your DAW put your EZ instrument on a channel. Put a MIDI “score” on that channel. The instrument will play the MIDI. That’s all there is to it. In fact, when you use electronic drums or a sample pad all you’re doing is creating your own MIDI for it to play.
     
  6. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I have a vague understanding of using my MIDI controller keyboard to write in EZD, but it is very clumsy. Or rathet, I am very clumsy. I knew you could use e-drums to write as well. I wasn't aware that you could dump some other MIDI file into a DAW to have EZD plat it. Good to know. There's another useful feature of the tool.
     
  7. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Lots of companies sell MIDI packs. Some are exceptionally great. Nate Smith has a bunch of MIDI beats out that are super funky.

    You’ll likely need to assign all MIDI to channel 10 in order for EZ to use it, but otherwise it’s dead simple.
     
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  8. gustobassman

    gustobassman I'm only here for the after party.. Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Sandy Eggo
    I have a trick I use with ez drummer... I use Ableton and find it much easier to manipulate the Ableton midi than the EZ Drummer midi.

    I'll make a drum pattern with the stock Ableton kit. After I've set all velocities I make a second track with Ez drummer on it. Copy and paste the Ableton midi to the ez dummer track. Now, you may have to move a couple drums in the Ableton piano roll to have them all match up, but you end up with a HUGE drum sound. The Ableton drums are mixed in at a lower volume. Group them as one track and do all the processing there. I also add another track with a buss compressor to get some sidechain thickness.

    Example below
     

    Attached Files:

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  9. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I use Ableton as my DAW since Live 9 came with my Focusrite interface. It took me a while to figure out its two stage interface. I just learned how to break up the tracks in the mixer of EZD into individual tracks in Ableton. That allows me to mix process each one on its own. That gives me back some of the functionality that EZD doesn't have but SD does.
     
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  10. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I picked up the Doom\Core and Post Rock MIDI packs, along with the Jazz and Prog Expansions from Toontracks. I like the kits, but I don't love the midis. They are ok.
     
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  11. gustobassman

    gustobassman I'm only here for the after party.. Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Sandy Eggo
    Hey I started put the same way! Live 9 with my interface.. I mainly use arrangement mode.

    Ive done what you just described on a few projects. Its more work but it's a good way to get more flexibility with processing each drum if you need that much fine tuning.

    If you dont want to split the tracks, you can add some flexibility with automation. Like adding reverb to a snare using a return track. I do all kinds of automated things when I'm doing dub reggae stuff. You can "see" which midi note you want to manipulate - it would be harder if the drums were bounced to a single audio track.

    $35 gets you a midi/usb interface cable if you want to hook up E-drums too. We did that for my bands latest EP. Ableton for midi, EZD for the sounds.
     
  12. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I can't play drums for squat. I wish I could. It looks fun, but I can't make four limbs do something different.
     
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  13. gustobassman

    gustobassman I'm only here for the after party.. Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Sandy Eggo
    Me neither. There are people for that.

    But, I can manipulate a midi note so...

    Playing producer is just as fun! :roflmao:
     
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  14. LeMaartien

    LeMaartien Always forward. Never straight.

    Sep 23, 2014
    Arcachon, France
    I almost bought EZD2, but then SD3 came out last September. Money and drive space be gone. Zero regrets. EZKeys is also worth having.

    When considering EZDrummer expansions, check the technical requirements. Expansions that require EZD v1.x are 16-bit libraries. Those that require EZD v2.x are 24-bit libraries. Makes a difference. Also, all EZD expansions are available in SD3.

    Also note that the MIDI files that ship with the expansions are different than the MIDI pack made for a given expansion. So? Get both! Some even have complementary EZKeys MIDI packs! I have all of the Blues expansions and MIDI packs, for example. Makes it really quick to put a backing track together.
     
  15. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I didn't know about the difference in libraries. I will definitely pay attention to that.
    Like I said, the MIDI pack\EZX thing is diabolical; meaning it is a very smart business strategy. That took me a few looks to figure out as well, and it is still a little confusing. For instance, the Prog expansion has MIDI, but the Prog MIDI says it is what comes with the Prog Foundry SDX. Meanwhile the Metal Machine and Post Rock MIDIs say they aren't what comes with the EZXs. They get you coming and going.

    Most of the EZX packs are compatible to EZD 1.4. Do you think it is that big of a difference and do you think they will ever upgrade those?
    I haven't ruled out crossgrading to SD someday. It sounds like you didn't use EZD first. Do you really feel like the full SD was worth it for you?
     
  16. LeMaartien

    LeMaartien Always forward. Never straight.

    Sep 23, 2014
    Arcachon, France
    I was waiting on an EZD2 sale when SD3 was released. SD3 added a song builder, which eliminated the advantage of EZD2 over SD2. The Grooves tab in SD3 makes navigating all of your MIDI files easier. And the Tracker tab? Awesome. Also, the SD3 libraries that George Massenburg did are excellent!

    As far as upgrading EZD expansions...I doubt it. You'd have to rerecord all of the samples. IIRC, they did upgrade the images that display when selected to SD3 standards, but the libraries remained upchanged.

    Worth it to me? Yes. Great GUI. Easy to work with. Excellent plugins. I do mixing work in SD3 and output just the final stereo pair. The ambient samples provide addition width and depth, even on the stereo pair. YMMV.
     
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  17. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    Explain the differences between the SDX and EZX packs to me. It seems like there is more happening with the SDXs than just some kits and a hand full of midi tracks like the EZX.
     
  18. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly

    Mar 20, 2015
    Chicago
    Regarding OP’s self proclaimed clumsiness, I feel ya. I use Logic Pro and there is a built in “fix my crappy timing” button-majig. Perhaps your DAW also has such a feature? Worth checking out if you’re writing your own midi.
     
  19. I've been really happy with SD2 for years. I'm curious about SD3 but not sure that there is anything I'm missing in SD2 to make me want to upgrade. Are there new MIDI grooves included with SD3? Is the interface improved in some way over version 2?
     
  20. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    The interface is upgraded and a little cleaner. It has the song builder function, a different view of the drums, and a "tracker" tab that looks a lot like a keyboard roll for writing MIDI parts. I don't know much about SD2, so I'm not the best source. There are a bunch of YouTube vids about it.