Long gone are the days of having to shell out a few thousand bucks for a huge drum machine rig.
While computer and laptop programs have certainly bridged the gap to a brighter rhythmic tomorrow, they can be unwieldy, hard to learn, and expensive.
What is an Online Drum Machine?
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An online drum machine is basically a browser program that allows you to compose beats on the fly. They operate in different ways depending on the design, but the basic idea is that you’re given a timeline, instruments, and a method of adding notes to the timeline with a simple click.
No program to buy, no disc to install, no worrying about system requirements.
If you have an internet device (phone, laptop, tablet) and a browser, you can start using the drum machine online right now.
But How Does It Work?
It seems too good to be true, yes, which is a great reason to be skeptical.
However, new online drum machines work through HTML 5, basically the new browser code that’s been kicking Flash to the curb for quite some time now. HTML 5, unlike Flash, was designed from the ground up to compatible on all platforms, including touch screen tablets and phones.
HTML 5 is also built in to most modern browsers now, which means you already have it. Don’t worry about updates or downloading – you can use a drum machine online right now.
What’s the Learning Curve on an Online Drum Machine?
Low. Or, shallow, depending on the metaphor.
The online drum machine software is designed for ease-of-use – they know you might not have a full keyboard and mouse and a huge monitor. The form factor is small, the labels obvious, the buttons intuitive.
Check out an online drum machine like drumbit, for instance. You’ll be doing most of your work down at the big graph of squares.
Each square is labelled on the left with instrument (crash, open hihat, etc), and labelled at the top with its place in the music. Each square represents a sixteenth note, and you can simply tap the squares on each instrument to play around. That’s it.
What If I Want More Than the Basics?
If you’re looking for something a little more robust, no problem at all. Most online drum machines have tempo controls, different sample kits, filters, panning, compressors, and volume and pitch for individual instruments. Some even have demo samples you can mix in, or just put on to learn from.
How Do I Keep My Beats?
It’s easy to save the track you’ve created – most online drum machines have a save icon that, when tapped, drops a file right onto your device’s download folder.
Others have the option of getting an account on the website and saving your tracks into the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about files at all until it’s time to import them into your own audio software for mixing.
But Which Online Drum Machine to Pick?
If you’re asking what the best drum machine is, it depends greatly on what your needs are.
Now, for the most part, many online drum machines have a very similar setup, and it’s just a question of which one you like the most. Maybe the colors strike you right, or the interface on one is a little more intuitive than another.
I found one online drum machine, for instance, with extremely tiny widgets for placing the notes, making it harder on touch screens.
If you’re using your laptop or desktop and a mouse, that won’t be a problem for you. It might not even be a problem on tablet with large screens. But if you’re on an iPad mini or a phone, that’s going to be a deal breaker.
Drumbit, mentioned earlier, is a great choice because it sits somewhere in the middle of simple and complex.
However, if you’re trying to learn, a website like Virtual Drumming not only has online drum machines, but it also has drum games and training regimes for learning both mixing and playing.
If you’re an expert or just love to dive into a deep pool head first, try something like GrooveLab. GrooveLab has all of the features mentioned above, plus a more complex and feature-stuffed interface and the ability to export files to WAV, Midi, whatever you need.
Don’t Neglect the Phone Apps, Either
Though not quite in the same ballpark as an online drum machine, there are many apps on Google Play and in the App Store for making beats. Just check out your app store of choice and search for “Drum Machine” to find dozens of good options.
Go Now, and Lay Tracks
With so many options at your fingertips, who needs a complicated physical drum machine or an expensive computer program?
You can jump on an online drum machine in seconds, which is really useful if a beat suddenly pops in your head and you’re not home with your gear.
Be agile. Be everywhere.