Today we will be reviewing DRUMS, a recent addition to UJAM’s Symphonic Elements series. The series, which started with the first volume STRIIIINGS, is designed to be a set of great-sounding and mix-ready tools that are easily usable by composers of all skill levels.
UJAM kindly provided us with a review copy of DRUMS to check it out.
DRUMS is, in essence, a phrase-based library based on multi-layered percussion performances. Similar to the previous STRIIIINGS library, the different phrases have been sourced directly from Hans Zimmer’s personal sound collection. DRUMS includes its own virtual instrument plugin so you don’t need any third-party software sample to use it.
DRUMS features a selection of different percussion sections in order to increase its versatility. The library features more than 1200 phrases that cover 50 different styles.
Despite this, the library is fairly compact, taking only 1.4 GB of hard drive space.
DRUMS’ interface is similar to the one of STRIIIINGS. Each phrase is divided into “Low Drums” and “High Drums”, so both parts of the full sound can be isolated or deactivated as required. There is an array of effects available that can be applied to each, such as EQ, compression, and so-called motion effects.
The bottom part of the interface controls the variations of phrases that can be played. A range of white keys is used to trigger the phrases. The higher you play in this range the more powerful and energetic the phrase is going to be. Black keys are mainly used to add one-shot elements such as fills, hits, and so on. Crossfading between High and Low Drums is possible as well, along with modulation controls to vary a phrases’ intensity and presence. All in all, DRUMS presents a very clear interface that is easy to understand without the need to refer to the manual countless times.
Since DRUMS is a phrase-based library, the quality of the included presets is essential in assessing the overall product. The virtual instrument includes more than 20 different style categories:
DRUMS PRESETS CATEGORIES
As we can see from this list, the categories offer quite some variety and aim to cover a wide range of cinematic settings: action, suspense, thriller, just to name a few. In practice, I was pleasantly surprised by how varied the different phrases sounded. On top of having very different patterns obviously, the patterns are made of different percussion elements too: Depending on the style you choose, you get different ensembles of taikos, metals, brushes, and so on. I even found more original and surprising phrases: fully processed glitchy rhythms, almost reminiscent of hybrid pulses, but more sophisticated. Each preset has a distinct feel and I was happy to not find a lot of overlap in the library’s content.
We also found that the phrases were very easy to integrate into tracks. The trap some phrase-based products fall into is that their content is designed to stand out too much, making them either very recognizable or very difficult to integrate into a work in progress. The phrases included in DRUMS are luckily not affected by this: you will find both subtle rhythms that will help give momentum to a track in a very discrete fashion, as well as more powerful drum sequences designed to support action climaxes.
One thing I’d wished for is the opportunity of exporting MIDI files out of DRUMS. This function would have been a great time saver when it comes to layering with other sounds. I’m not sure whether this function was deliberately omitted, or if it may be considered for a future update down the line. Nevertheless, as we are dealing with rhythmic patterns, it is still relatively easy to follow the phrases and manually perform any additional layering over the desired hit points.
The library comes with a built-in version of “Finisher”, UJAM’s own multi-effects product suite (also available as stand-alone products). In DRUMS, multiple instances of Finisher are directly integrated into the interface. The Finisher in DRUMS includes 66 presets, each preset being its own array of effects. These allow users to manipulate and change DRUMS’ phrases completely, sometimes beyond the point of recognition. Some presets cover motion, like “The Syncopator”, which introduces more and more swing as you increase the effect. That makes it a very effective tool for a drum library. Other presets, like “Evil Drones”, for instance, dramatically transform the sound sources and turn percussion into glitchy synth stabs.
DRUMS is equipped with a global instance of Finisher that affects the whole signal. In addition, you get four independent “little Finishers” – two for the Low Drums and two for the High Drums layer.
As with their previous virtual instrument STRIIIINGS, UJAM offers a ready-to-use library with DRUMS that focuses on its ease of use, its clear interface, and high sound quality. The product is aimed at composers who want to get good-sounding cinematic percussion grooves quickly and painlessly.
The phrases offered are nicely varied and should cover most needs in a cinematic context. The use of diverse percussion groups to create the presets is highly appreciated as it avoids tonal overlaps and repetition.
Again, the inclusion of a MIDI export function would have been a plus, but this little shortcoming does not diminish the quality of the product overall. We are definitely looking forward to more releases in the Symphonic Elements series.
Symphonic Elements: DRUMS is available through UJAM’s online store for a price of €169. There’s also a bundle version available that combines DRUMS and STRIIINGS for €229.