For those who don’t have access to a rock-solid live drummer with impeccable time, or producers who prefer to work in the box and control a song’s feel, virtual drums are invaluable.
By coding the drum kit in a novel way—mainly by modeling most of the components, as opposed to sampling them (the cymbals and hats are sampled, though), IK Multimedia has crafted its new MODO DRUM to be one of the most robust, flexible, yet user-friendly drum VIs out there.
The first thing that’s impressive about MODO DRUM is its GUI, which is cleanly and logically designed, and immediately intuitive. At the very top you see large navigation buttons that allow you to access every parameter you need to customize your drum kit. Clicking on Model presents you with a choice of ten drum kits, including Studio and Reference (my favorite), Black Oyster and Plexi (which I surmise to be modeled after Ringo Starr’s and John Bonham’s kits, respectively), and a rare Bubinga kit, which has an amazing-sounding piccolo-type snare.
Once you choose a kit, you can click on Room, and decide what type of space you want to kit to be in, ranging from the almost-dry Booth to the huge, ambient Cathedral. One feature that can be easily overlooked is the small tab on the right side of this page—here’s where you choose how much of the particular space you want mixed into your drum kit. Most of the kits and presets have a specific room sound already programmed in, therefore it’s imperative that you be aware of this tab in order to lower the room mix and hear the kit dry.
The Customize button allows you to swap kit components on the fly—just click on the drum or cymbal you want to replace and you’ll be offered a menu of choices at the top of the page; clicking on one of these will instantly and seamlessly replace that drum in your kit. One cool tip is to select a beat from the Grooves page and click on the Play button at the bottom of the page. The beat will then continually play on a loop, and as it’s playing, navigate to the Customize page and start replacing kit components. You’ll instantly hear how the new drums sound within the context of the beat, enabling you to pick the exact drum you want in real-time.
The flexibility and customization of MODO DRUM is incredibly deep. Clicking on the Play Style button allows you to change just about any parameter in relation to the kit. Inside the Element button, you can choose which drum to customize. Two of my favorite tweaks are being able to choose where the best drumsticks hits the snare by using your mouse to drag the “sweet spot” to any place on the drumhead, and deciding whether you want to play the kick drum heel-up or heel-down! Other options include three types of kick drum beaters, and different tips for your best drumsticks.
There’s also a dedicated mixer, where you not only can set levels and panning for each drum, but also assign dedicated effects to each track and blend in how much room level you want to fold in to your drum performance. And don’t ignore the Velocity slider, which is found at the bottom of every page. It’s another of MODO DRUM’S innovative features—it allows you to globally change the full drum kit’s velocity, so that all the drum elements are raised or lowered in relation to one another.
The Grooves page, in addition to having over 1000 beats, has an intuitive browser where you can choose not only the genre of the beat, but the length, time signature and part. This is an invaluable time-saver, as opposed to hunting-and-pecking for the right part. You can also sync the grooves to your DAW, and audition them at half speed and double time. And in just case crafting your own drum kit is too daunting or time-consuming, MODO DRUM comes with over 80 kit presets.
One small quibble, and this goes for most VIs—I wish I didn’t have to be Ken Jennings to decipher what type of beats the groove names are supposed to represent. Bakery? BMG? Maybe I’m not getting the hints, but I wish the names more accurately described the beat I’m about to preview.
Do keep one thing in mind: initially the drum kits might sound a tad underwhelming—you’re not going to get the polished, ultra-processed samples that some other drum instruments may offer right out of the box. That’s because this drum instrument is all about tweaking and customizing—you have to approach these kits as raw samples—imagine how a dry recorded drum kit sounds in a studio before you add processing, i.e. compression, EQ, etc. And while finding that killer drum sound may require a little extra work, what you do get on the upside is a kit that is wholly yours, and not the same samples or kits used by hundreds of other people.
In my line of work, it’s imperative to be able to turn around a production quickly. And MODO DRUM’s combined intuitive workflow, customization, flexibility and speed make this a no-brainer for someone looking for an effortless drum programming experience.
Price: $149 for MODO Drum SE (2 kits: Jazzy + Studio): $299 for MODO Drum Full version (10 kits)