Module makers are realising that users often want easier and better control than they traditionally got via buttons, knobs and sliders on the drum brain.
Enter the e-drum module app – probably pioneered by Yamaha, with its DTX Touch apps. Today, many drum kits and modules have companion apps, and here, we run through some of their functions and features.
Alesis was among the first to realise the potential of the iPad as a drum controller, with its pioneering DM Dock product.
The Dock connected pads and cymbals to an interface powered by an iPad and the formidable DM Touch app.
The app transformed iPads into capable drum modules, allowing users to use their tablet to control triggering, adjust parameters and mix and match sounds, with 10 preset kits and 145 instrument sounds and a powerful, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop workflow.
DM Touch supported Apple’s Inter-App Audio, allowing users to record, edit and mix drum performances with other apps such as GarageBand or Cubase.
Sadly, Alesis stopped supporting the app and actually removed it from the AppStore, leaving DM Dock owners with expensive paperweights or door stops!
The Japanese music giant released dedicated apps for its previous generation modules: DTX402, 502 and 700 as well as the DTXM12 multipad.
The Touch apps allow users to replicate many on-module tweaks including selecting and customising kits, song numbers, setting up the metronome and adjusting trigging parameters. The Yamaha apps also have training tools.
The free apps are only available for modules named above and need a physical USB connection to the module – either via a Lightning USB adapter for iPhone/iPad or OTG cable for Android.
It is understood companion apps for the Pro and ProX are in development.
Yamaha’s Rec’n’Share app was released as a companion for the EAD10 mic/trigger device, allowing users to easily record audio and video along with songs from their music library, and then share performances with the world.
The app was recently enhanced to include an AI-based audio track separation function that analyses songs and separates them into four tracks: vocal, drums, bass, and others. This allows drummers to remove the drums from recorded music and mix live performance with the custom backing tracks.
Besides the EAD10 for which it was designed, Rec’n’Share is also compatible with the DTX Pro, ProX and 402 modules.
Like the Touch apps, Rec’n’Share requires a wired connection using a USB cable and Lightning USB adapter for iPhone/iPad or OTG cable for Android.
Simmons has three drum apps: The Simmons Drums Basic App for the SD100, SD200, SD300, SD350, SD500, SD550 and SD600 modules; Simmons Drums Advanced for the SD2000/1200/1250 and Simmons Drums 2 for the Titan 50 and Titan 20 kits.
The Basic app allows drummers to remotely edit and save drum kits and sounds with an iOS device using a user-friendly interface. The app also has a teaching tool which allows for playalongs and measures accuracy.
Users can also access the music library on their devices and adjust the playback speed for playalongs.
With the exception of the SD600 which can connect via Bluetooth, the app requires a USB connection between the module and the phone/tablet and is only available for iOS.
Simmons Drums Advanced app is similar to the Basic app, allowing users to remotely edit and save drum kits and sounds via their iOS device.
However, the teaching tools of the basic edition are not included in the Advanced app which, instead, has the ability to record and add samples.
This app also needs an Apple Lightning to USB Adapter and USB cable to connect the module to an iOS device.
The latest Simmons Drums 2 app, initially supporting the new Titan 50 and Titan 20, allows users to select kits, choose new sounds, change the mix, adjust trigger settings and access some training tools.
The app can be accessed via Bluetooth or USB with a Lightning/USB adapter. Like the other Simmons apps, this version is only available for iPhone/iPad.
EFNOTE Tools is an iOS/Android app that allows users to save customised drum kits to their phone/tablet. They can also upload kits – either saved kits or those downloaded from Efnote’s Kit Library to their module.
The app also allows for the saving of trigger settings.
For performances, the app permits remote mixing control, allowing FOH engineers to control the level balance of the drums without individual output connections. Users can also preview the sounds on each pad, which is useful for remote sound checks.
The app can be used wirelessly, via Bluetooth.
eDRUMin Control Application
This app has perhaps the most understated description of all the solutions on the Apple App Store: “This is the Control Application for eDRUMin devices, the electric drum USB Trigger to MIDI interface”.
The eDRUMin app is an extremely powerful tool to tweak trigger settings for the eDRUMin trigger interface, a device which replaces traditional drum modules and converts trigger impulses to MIDI.
The free app provides extensive trigger parameter editing as well as MIDI mapping, replicating the functions of the Mac and Windows versions of the software.
The iOS version of the Control Application can communicate with the eDRUMin app using the camera connection kit or Network MIDI. When the Control Application is opened, any trigger connected to devices will automatically be detected. You can manually re-sync devices by clicking on the refresh icon.
With phones and tablets and their touchscreens now ubiquitous, it seems strange to be adjusting parameters on tiny LCD screens, using buttons and complex menus, on drum modules that cost hundreds of dollars.
Drum apps seem to be the way of the future – intelligent tools that allow drummers to control their kits easily and, increasingly, remotely.
Whether it’s downloading sounds, adjusting the volume of kit pieces, tweaking trigger settings or accessing playalong tracks, apps are enhancing the e-drum experience at almost every price point.
Our research has revealed that not all apps are equal – some are significantly better than others, and many have unique capabilities not found among their competitors. But the comparison is really just academic as drummers can’t mix and match their apps the way they can, for example, shop around for pads and cymbals.
It is unlikely that buyers will decide on a drum kit on the basis of the companion app, but we hope that showing what is available will help raise the bar and encourage drum companies to enhance their apps with functionality that drummers appreciate.