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SMART LOOPS Pro Drum Works, vol. 1

December 1, 2005
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Pro Drum Works from Smart Loops features a wide range of stereo loops, fills, and one shots in three drum-kit sounds.

With all the drum-loop collections on the market, making the right purchasing decision can be tricky. Beyond just a product's stylistic focus, you need to consider such factors as its performance or programming, and its recording and mix quality. Another issue is its organization: how easy is it to find what you're looking for? You also need to take into account how much variety is offered, and whether the loops are in multitrack format in addition to stereo.

Smart Loops' new collection, Pro Drum Works, vol. 1 ($249), scores highly in most of those areas. You get solid playing, great mixes and sound quality, and a huge selection of content focused mainly on rock and pop styles. Multitrack loops are not offered.

Loops of Plenty

The Apple Loops edition of Pro Drum Works, vol. 1, comes on a single DVD-R disc (an Acidized WAV version is also available). I tested the loops out on Logic Pro 7.1, Soundtrack Pro 1.0, GarageBand 2.01, and Digital Performer 4.6. I didn't experience problems importing loops into any of those applications. I also didn't notice any sonic problems when changing tempos within the large range specified in the Pro Drum Works documentation (75 to 150 bpm).

Every loop, fill, and one-shot is offered in three drum-kit sounds. The Acoustic Kit gives you a natural sound; the Thunder Kit offers big-sounding, heavily compressed drums (great for rock); and the Trap Kit was recorded with a smaller drum set with a resonant kick drum. It's aimed more at hip-hop, R&B, and acid jazz.

The loops in Pro Drum Works are generally one measure in length, though some fills are shorter. There are 3,000 unique loops, fills, or one-shots in the collection. Because each is repeated for the three kits, there are actually 9,000 elements in all.

Getting Organized

To handle such a large assortment, Smart Loops has devised its own system of categorization. It takes some getting used to, but once you grasp its structure, finding what you want is easy.

The loops are separated according to the three drum-kit sounds. They're then classified according to their kick-drum patterns. Loops in the Basic category have simple eighth-note kick patterns, while Funk loops have syncopated kick parts. Reggae loops have kicks on beats 2 and 4, and Double-Kick loops feature eighth-note, 16th-note, and 32nd-note kick parts. Loops in which the snare hits on beats other than just 2 and 4 are given the letter designations of A through D, which correspond to differing levels of complexity.

The loops are arranged in folders representing combined categories of loop types for each drum sound (for example “Basic + Funk” or “Basic C + Funk C”). Within those folders, the loops are divided further by cymbal pattern (eighth-note or 16th-note) or cymbal type (open or ride). There's also a category for floor-tom-oriented patterns. Once you've drilled down to the type of loop you want, there are plenty of variations available.

Pro Drum Works offers loops in a wide range of pop, rock, funk, and reggae styles. There's even a good selection of cut-time, double-time, and train beats. One type of groove that's completely missing, however, is shuffles. (At press time, Smart Loops released Pro Drum Works, vol. 2, which consists completely of shuffle grooves.)

Had My Fill

A global folder for fills is located in each of the drum-kit folders. You get numerous fill variations, categorized mainly by the drums used (Snare-Tom, Kick-Snare, and so on). Unlike many loop collections I've seen, the fills are offered separately from the grooves with which they were originally played. That “generic” approach allows a lot more fills to be available, and for much of the material, mixing and matching the grooves and fills works fine (see Web Clip 1).

Inevitably, not every fill fits stylistically with every groove. In addition, many of the fills are a full measure long, which is overkill for a lot of musical styles. I often shortened fills and grooves and edited them together.

The Works

Once I got the hang of its organizing scheme, Pro Drum Works, vol. 1, turned out to be an excellent resource for well-played and consistently good-sounding stereo drum loops. It allowed me to quickly assemble authentic, song-length drum parts. The collection offers so many different drum grooves and variations that, unless you're looking for shuffles, you're likely to find just what you need for your pop and rock productions.


Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Smart Loops
www.smartloops.com

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