There’s an app for everything, right? It turns out that this is true, even for us drummers. Now many drumming apps available are marketed towards non-drummers and kids. How many of these apps are actually useful? Today I’ll be sharing with you the 5 best and useful drumming apps available.
Yes, I am starting the list off with a finger-drum app, but I promise this will be the only one. DrumKnee 3D is unique and revolutionary for an app because it allows you to play the bass drum with your foot. I haven’t seen any drumming app prior to this that had this functionality.
By placing the phone on your knee, you’re able to kick your foot (as if it was on a bass drum pedal) and the phone will register a kick sound. I have no idea how this works, but it must have something to do with the shake functionality inside of new smartphones. Every other drumming app I’ve used requires you to play the bass drum with your fingers. Not anymore.
Cymbals are also chokable by holding your finger on them when played: a very nice feature. In the default kit configuration, you have a kick drum, snare drum, three toms, hi-hat, two crashes, a ride, a china, a cowbell, and a tambourine.
Now, it’s not a totally useful drumming app, but it is pretty cool. There is a full version you can download for $4.99 that includes all drum set packs, all skin packs, custom drum sets, and no ads.
With the free version of the app, you’ll be served a video advertisement anytime you try to use menus or functions within the app, which is a little annoying.
For a drumming app, the default kit sounds surprisingly good. The cymbals sound real and the tone of the drums is not bad at all. Not a bad choice for a free drum app.
DK Music is another feature included in the app. This service is a separate monthly fee that allows you to download drumless tracks directly to the app to play along with. See it in action below:
2) Soundbrenner Metronome (iOS / Android)
Soundbrenner’s Metronome app is by far the best metronome app I have ever used on my iPhone. It has such a simple design and works so easy. Every drummer needs to use a metronome when they practice (if they aren’t already playing along to popular music).
From the top, we have the ‘Compose’ section. This area is what I would consider to be your basic digital metronome, complete with tempo, time signatures, subdivision variation, song duration, and tap tempo.
There are four square icons that are fractioned into three parts. Depending on which level (0, 1, 2, or 3) is set determines what pitch the count will beep at. For example, If you set them all to position 1, the click will be one constant low tone. Here’s the break down of each position:
- 0: no click will be played
- 1: a low-pitched click sound is played
- 2: a medium-pitched click sound is played
- 3: a high-pitched click sound is played
This feature is useful in situations where you only want the metronome on certain beats or if you want different accents throughout the bar. Now, this feature is not only limited to 4/4, as you can change the time signature underneath the Soundbrenner logo in the middle.
Integration with the Soundbrenner Pulse
For those into futuristic tech, look no further than the Pulse. It’s a wearable metronome that vibrates (aka pulse) to the beat. The device also connects with the app, making it easy to change tempo, time signature, and more. It reminds me of the Apple Watch, but round (I wonder if this thing has a clock, would be nice). I don’t have too much knowledge on it, other than the connectivity is supposed to be great.
Of course, you don’t actually have to use the Pulse, the app works perfectly without the device.
3) TouchOSC (iOS / Android)
Many drummers these days play along to backing tracks with their respective bands. One of the biggest issues of these setups is starting the show. If the band happens to use a digital audio workstation (like Ableton Live) to run their tracks, the show can be started off-stage using a handy app known as TouchOSC.
TouchOSC is a MIDI control surface that connects to your digital audio workstation via WiFi.
I’ve been touring for about six years. In that time, we decided to add a playback system to help reinforce the music we play live. Certain things like auxiliary percussion and extra synthesizer parts are just some of the things backing tracks can help with. In that time, I haven’t found any app that is more reliable than TouchOSC. Not only does it control the start of the show, but it also is used by our keyboard player to change patches during the show.
Despite your thoughts on backing tracks, this is a great app to use if you are in this situation. I can tell you from experience that if you’re hired as a touring drummer for a pop or rock group these days, chances are you will be working with backing tracks.
TouchOSC does many things, but the concept is simple: control a DAW remotely over WiFi. Here are some things you can do:
- Create a custom MIDI control surface
- Use pre-made templates to send MIDI data wirelessly
- Control any MIDI parameter inside your DAW of choice
While this app isn’t specific to drummers, I see the utility in using this app for many drummers as we are the ones primarily who control a playback setup.
4) Steve Reich’s ClappingMusic (iOS)
One of my favorite composers of all time happens to be Steve Reich. Whether it’s Electric Counterpoint or Music For 18 Musicians, I can’t get enough of it. In fact, I’m listening to Octet as I write this right now. I recently saw there was a Steve Reich app, and I had to try it.
ClappingMusic is a very challenging and fun take on Reich’s piece, Clapping Music. This is one of his more well-known pieces and despite is familiarity, I don’t think I can listen to this piece for fun. That being said, playing it is a different story.
The idea behind Clapping Music is simple: two performers play the same pattern, while one player slowly offsets it one beat at a time. It’s similar to Piano Phase, without the phasing. The app teaches the player how to play along to the piece. My best score was 6872. The app is not forgiving on hard mode.
5) Mike Johnston’s Groove Freedom (iPad)
Mike Johnston is one of my favorite drummers and his videos were some of the first resources I watched on YouTube. His goal with Groove Freedom was to create an app that was very interactive for those learning drums, and it is. Unfortunately, the app is only available for iPad but it still is an extremely valuable resource.
Mike created this resource not only for his students but for himself. It’s a fantastic resource for drummers of all skill levels. Some groove topics covered include:
- Bass drum freedom chapter
- Snare drum freedom chapter
- Three-way ostinato patterns
- Bonus “dense” ostinato chapter
The app is very interactive, and you can slow down each phrase you’re working on to internalize it and build up the necessary muscle memory to conquer it. You can isolate each part of the groove, as well.
What are your favorite drumming apps? Did we miss any of your go tos? Let us know in the comments down below. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading.