As most of you already know, I really like the world of open source software and Linux. During last years things have changed for producers: you can find on the internet extremely powerful Linux multimedia distributions, focused and well packed for this particular purpose, to let people make music, for free. The existence of these distribution is the very confirmation that to make good music you don’t have to spend a lot of money in software licenses: open source web communities offers to the world the chance to do it almost for free.
From Drum Machines point of view I already talked about EZDrummer and Addictive Drums on this blog, they are awesome commercial products, top on the market. But did you know that you can find free alternatives to these ones? It’s the case of Hydrogen, a quite advanced drum machine created by Alessandro Cominu, developed primarly for Linux but available these days also for Mac OS and Windows.
Hydrogen has everything that a professional drum machine can give us to emulate “real” drums: multi-layer sounds support, velocity and timing “humanize” feature, embedded editor to edit your sounds and the chance to build a kit from scratch. Everything you need to start is a drum samples library. I’m not going in details on how to create a drumkit, you just have to know that you can find some great scripts on LinuxMusician forum that will help you to build an awesome drumkit in few minutes. The web is full of website that can give you drum samples even for free, I decided to do a test and I downloaded the Big Mono kit by Analogue Drums for free from their website. This is not an Heavy Metal kit for sure, but I think it’s quite good to make some “seventies” sounds and, why not, even for a more classic heavy metal sound of the ’80s, maybe for some old style thrash, it dependes on how much you like to tweak the kit.
Building a drum kit from your samples is quite easy. I just had to create a folder with a subfolder for each piece of the kit (so I created a subfolder named “Kick”, one named “Snare” and so on) and then simply run the script I found on LinuxMusician forum, like that (Linux OS):
And here you are a complete kit in Hydrogen file format (.h2drumkit) ready to be imported and used on your projects. I found this kit really versatile, below you can find a small sample that I created on the fly to do some tests, I just tweaked some velocity hits and used the “humanize” feature on velocity and timing. The secret, as usual, is to focus on how a drummer actually plays drums, you have to think about movements and try to “mimic” the pattern you’re writing, just to understand how to manage dynamics on each hit (please note: go easy with those parts full of hits, drummers are human beings, and even if you find it strange, they have “just” two arms and two legs!).
What do you think about? As I said, this is not a “modern” Heavy Metal kit, but in my opinion is completely usable to jam something at home or to write some “old style rock” riffs 😉 during next weeks I’ll try to build a more “up to date” kit to do some good Heavy Metal and I’ll let you listen to what I reached, meanwhile let me know about you’re experince with Hydrogen.