Last updated on March 17th, 2017 at 08:35 pm
We are taking a closer look at the brand new Folk Rock Dual Kit Kontakt Player Pack by Drumdrops, set to release on Thursday, March 9th. The generous folks at Drumdrops are also giving away five free copies of the pack to five lucky BPB readers (scroll all the way down the page to enter the giveaway).
The lengthy product name hides two virtual drum kits by Drumdrops – the Vintage Folk Rock Kit and the new Modern Folk Rock Kit. They are different drum kits recorded in different rooms with very different microphone setups. They add up to more than 30,000 samples in total and are combined into a Kontakt Player library, the first one ever released by Drumdrops. In other words, you can use these virtual drums without owning the full version of Native Instruments Kontakt. They work just fine in the freeware Kontakt Player.
Making a comprehensive virtual drum kit with many thousands of samples is a lot of work and takes up a fair amount of hard drive space, and it’s reasonable to try to make the kit usable for a wide range of styles. Genre-specific drum kits don’t try to be as broadly usable as possible, though. Instead, they try to nail a distinct drum sound. It’s like the difference between working with a drummer who plays a lot of different styles and has one or two kits set up (so that they’ll work for a broad range of gigs), and a drummer who plays a specific style, maybe even plays full-time in a specific band, and has a kit that’s picked and tuned to work in that particular style. That’s basically what the Modern Folk Rock Kit is about. The Vintage Folk Rock Kit ups the ante by not only being an older kit but also being recorded using authentic 1960s recording techniques.
Let’s start with the Modern kit since it’s closer to a typical virtual drum kit. The first time I hit a drum, I was surprised by the big and rather bright room sound. As it turns out, these drums were recorded in a very live-sounding room with glass on the walls. It’s not quite 80s snare reverb, but it’s not really too far from that direction. The combination of close mics and a bright room sounds quite modern, shiny and powerful, and even a simple drum pattern will fill out a fair amount of sonic space, which is very useful when the rest of the music is sparse and simple. Turning down the room mics results in a tight and dry sound, which works well in denser mixes, especially on the kick drum. Since it’s played in a folk rock style by a drummer who’s done many such gigs, the drums are not hit extremely hard, although the highest velocities still do pack a good wallop.
As for the kit itself, it’s a 1980s Gretsch kit with a kick, two snares to choose from, four toms, a hi-hat, two crashes, a ride, plus a tambourine and a shaker. The drums have 24 velocity layers for the main articulations, the hi-hat has twelve, the cymbals and the tambourine have ten, the shaker also has five, and everything has five round robins. That’s plenty enough samples for achieving a natural sounding performance and realistic response to dynamics. The kit was played with sticks, brushes and hot rods (those bundles of thin sticks which aren’t as loud as regular drumsticks), which makes a lot of sense as folk rock drummers would likely use all three, depending on the song. However, the sticks have more articulations recorded. The hot rods and brushes have center hits recorded for the cymbals, open and closed hi-hats, and center snare hits. The sticks add edge hits for the crashes; edge and bell for the ride; edge, rimshot and sidestick for the snare; and six degrees of openness for the hi-hat with center and bell hits for each. That is one expressive hi-hat, which drummers who use electronic kits are especially likely to appreciate. The brushes are not capable of reproducing swirls, ring scrapes on cymbals, and all those other special brush techniques. While it would be very nice to have a brushed snare that’s as expressive and detailed as the hi-hat is with sticks, it isn’t really necessary for a folk-rock kit.
I can see this kit being useful not just for folk rock, but also for acoustic pop, indie, and any other style which requires a modern acoustic drum sound but doesn’t need very loud playing or lots of cymbals.
The Vintage kit is, generally speaking, similar in terms of specs. However, it’s based on an older kit – a 1960s Ludwig – and has one less tom, no extra snare choice, and a flat top ride, which means no ride bell articulation. Flat top rides were a hot new invention in the 1960s, especially popular with jazz drummers, and they work better for quieter music most of the time, so it makes sense to use one here.
The bigger difference, though, is how the kit was recorded. The recording method goes back to when the fanciest studios had 4-track tape machines, and it was not possible to record close mics for all kit pieces on separate channels, stereo overheads, and stereo room mics. By the time Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span were recording their classic albums, drums were recorded with more than one microphone, but no more than four, in what is often called the Glyn Johns technique. Those methods have made something of a comeback since the 1990s with more musicians recording at home, so these kinds of drum sounds show up on contemporary indie records as well.
This kit was recorded in a good room with an engineer who’s actually been doing this since the 1960s and who really nailed that classic sound. For more flexibility, we get five microphones – mics near the kick and snare, a mono overhead, and two room mics. Period-correct microphones and a dead-sounding room contribute to the overall effect. With every drum element present in every mic, the sound is a little loose and not as hi-fi as close-miked drums, but that’s the point. It really does sound like those English albums from the late 60s and 70s. Again, like the Modern kit, this sound takes up a fair amount of sonic space in a mix (especially the kick), but in this case, there is no option to dial in a sound that’s clean and dry while still sounding natural.
Like the Modern kit, the Vintage kit was played with sticks (including extra articulations), brushes, and hot rods. Hot rods are an interesting choice, since they weren’t common during that era, although similar bundled sticks have been used with orchestral percussion for much longer. I was curious about the decision to include them, so I asked the guys at Drumdrops for an explanation. It turns out that the hot rods were included because this drum kit is based on a Drumdrops Folk Rock Drops loop library, in which hot rods were used to imitate the drum sound on Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. It sounded too hard for brushes, yet too soft for sticks.
Again, this kit is useful for more than folk rock. It does the not-too-loud side of various rock styles well, and can even do a decent retro jazz sound (especially with the kick and snare mics turned to zero, or even using only one room mic for a mono sound). I suspect it would also be very useful to media composers who need to evoke the specific sound of an earlier era, and it’s also excellent for generating retro-sounding loops for resampling and using in more modern music. It won’t sound quite like sampling a classic soul record (unsurprisingly, they have another kit for that), but a classic rock or jazz record, sure. Since these drums sound kind of dirty, they contrast and combine nicely with a clean electronic kick, hi-hats, and claps for electro swing or deep house.
The Kontakt engine is a new one for Drumdrops, introduced with the Vintage Folk Rock kit. In addition to allowing access to each microphone channel, it offers a lot more tweaking power compared to the previous versions. Drums can be tuned and also have attack, hold, and decay time controls. Considering that the room sound is so important to these kits, especially the vintage one, tuning works best with slight adjustments made in the same direction to all the kit pieces. Otherwise, the elements start to sound like they’re in different-sized rooms. Still, tuning the kick and snare a little higher makes for a more jazzy sound, tuning everything down sounds convincingly like heavier psych rock. Using the envelope controls to slightly shorten the sound results in a decent emulation of a kit deadened with towels. These controls can also be used to shorten the sound more extremely, which sounds obviously artificial and seems like a terrible idea on paper. However, in the case of the Vintage kit, this does a good job of imitating the unnaturally short hits of cut-up drum breaks.
The interface also features four different humanization knobs, and a built-in multi-FX chain. The effects are extensive – two delays, two reverbs, a bitcrusher, an EQ, compression, transient control, and tape saturation. That’s all the effects needed to mix the drums entirely inside Kontakt, plus the delays and bitcrusher, in case you want to get psychedelic or glitchy. The compression and saturation effects are especially useful for maximizing the old-school nature of the Vintage kit. The Kontakt instrument can also access the included MIDI grooves, which, in addition to folk rock also include several other genres. The MIDI note assignments can also be freely remapped (with factory mappings for various electronic kits and popular virtual drum programs included), and hi-hat and snare articulations can be either spread across various MIDI notes or controlled by MIDI CC. All in all, the provided Kontakt instrument is a solid and flexible engine for virtual drums.
More than 30,000 samples worth of folk rock drums seems like something for the folk rock fanatic producer, but it’s a lot more than that. These are very detailed and useful kits capable of covering a lot of territory on the not-so-loud side of rock and some jazz as well. I especially like the Vintage kit, personally, not only because I’m a big fan of classic folk rock albums whose sound it gets right, but also because the recording method opens up the possibilities of all sorts of retro sounding drum grooves. The fact that the kits work in the free Kontakt Player is a big advantage for the users who don’t own the full version of NI’s flagship sampler).
If all this sounds like too much for your drum programming needs, the kits are also available as separate Kontakt instruments (although these require the full version of Kontakt, and won’t work in Kontakt Player), as well as various lighter versions starting with the one-shot sample packs which cost only five pounds each.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Use the discount code modernfolk20 at checkout to grab the pack for 20% OFF its regular price.
More info: Folk Rock Dual Kit Kontakt Player Pack (£90 standard price, 20% OFF intro discount)
Drumdrops are kindly giving away five free copies of the Folk Rock Dual Kit Kontakt Player Pack to five lucky BPB readers. To enter the giveaway, simply submit your name and email address in the form below. You will be subscribed to BPB’s and Drumdrops’ mailing lists, with the option to unsubscribe at any point. You can further increase your chances of winning by completing the bonus entries (subscribing to our YouTube account, following us on Twitter, etc.).
The winners will be announced on Friday, March 10th. Good luck everyone and thanks for reading BPB!Drumdrops Dual Folk Rock Kits
Folk Rock Dual Kit Kontakt Player Pack Review
More than 30,000 samples worth of folk rock drums seems like something for the folk rock fanatic producer, but it's a lot more than that. These are very detailed and useful kits capable of covering a lot of territory on the not-so-loud side of rock and jazz.