Best Drum Machines Apps (2019)
While tapping out the rhythms of life on your iPhone or iPad, you want a drum machine that delivers on sound, form, and function.
So, we’ve rounded up the best iOS apps for frustrated finger drummers and beat programmers. These drum machines give you fabulous sound while offering a good range of creativity and possibility for rhythmic adventures. Drum machines often evolve into doing a lot more than percussion and you may find sequencing, groove making, and songwriting in these machines too. They will all cost you a handful of dollars but they are undoubtedly worth the investment.
Best Drum Machine Apps (2019)
*Prices shown below may have changed since writing
Street Price: 19.99 (at time of writing)
Building on the success of the original app, Patterning 2 takes things further and deeper with its unique and beautiful cyclic interface. It’s a sublime beatmaking experience in which you can lose yourself for days.
As the timeline spins around the circle you can tap in beats, swipe in velocity and build patterns. Each drum sound has its own track within the circle so you can always see as well as hear how they relate to each other. Each track can have up to 64 steps. You can automate parameters, lean on the ratcheting and swap kits out on-the-fly. The new version has a page of drum pads if you’d rather record live.
You have complete control over the tempo, rhythms, pattern direction, and which way things are going. There’s randomization on everything and you can record automation and sequence MIDI for running external gear or other internal apps.
There are hundreds of downloadable kits and you can work on those samples with envelopes, filters and a bunch of effects.
Nothing else looks like it or works like it.
Street Price: $9.99 (at time of writing)
Featuring 6 channels of high-quality synthesized drums taken from 13 different percussive synth engines, Elastic Drums is all about crafting your own groove.
There are synth engines for creating kicks, snares, hi-hats, claps, toms, wobbles, FM sounds, granular, synth, and samples. Within each are 12 parameters for tweaking and shaping your sounds, all of which can be automated within your patterns.
Elastic Drums uses a 16-step grid for sequencing, making it easy to paint patterns across the 6 channels. You can set the length and tempo individually for some experimental polyrhythms. Over the top, you can run a load of different effects on either the audio or on the way the steps work with ratchets and glitches, repeats and freezing. There are loads of control and loads of fun and endless creativity to be had.
FunkBox Drum Machine
Street Price: $4.99 (at time of writing)
This is outrageously good! FunkBox is a vintage styled drum machine that pulls in hundreds of classic sounds and kits from a wide range of classic drum machines. It comes with 36 preset and very cool drum patterns to get you finding your groove. You can then start editing them into your own patterns or simply start from scratch.
You can work on patterns on the grid sequencer or by banging on the pads. You can mix and match samples and build your own custom kits and mix in samples of your own. Each kit can have 8 sounds and you have mixing controls with panning and accent.
It’s not really any deeper than that. Great vintage sounds built into a fabulously shabby interface with the best grooves on the planet.
Beat Maker 3 – BM3
Street Price: $24.99 (at time of writing)
Beat Maker is an entire music production studio but at the heart is a thumping MPC style drum machine with a workflow that’ll let you perform and shape your ideas quickly and easily.
It all starts with the 4×4 grid of drum pads which can be any kind of instrument or sample. You can load up kits from the extensive library or start sampling in your own sounds. Set it looping and you can build up patterns and rhythms with ease. You can record and chop things on-the-fly, assemble, resample and sculpt every sound, loop, and possibility. You can write patterns with one-shot hits or start pulling in loops which can be beat and pitch matched to your project.
Patterns can be arranged in the sequencer page into complete songs and mixed with instruments, virtual synths, and MIDI sounds. There’s a decent mixer at the end of chain for adjusting levels and applying effects.
BM3 is a beat-heavy music production studio that’ll take your beat making to the next level.
Street Price: $4.99 (at time of writing)
Impaktor takes the idea of on-screen finger drumming and throws it out! With Impaktor, you don’t tap the screen, you thump your desk, bang your knees or tap on a table. It can take any surface and turn it into a playable percussion instrument. Impaktor uses the sounds you make via the inbuilt microphone to excite the physical models of instruments within the app. So, you can slap things like you would a real drum!
Inside the app, Impaktor simulates the behavior of membranes, cymbals, metallophones, and strings producing tones like tabla, djembe, marimba, cymbals, metal bars and all sorts of electronic or industrial sounds in response to your slapping.
The synthesis inside Impaktor is quite comprehensive and semi-modular. You have access to all the controls, every parameter can be modulated and there are filters, exciters, and amplifiers to play with. There are no samples in here, it’s all done with synthesis.
When building patterns you use the 6-track audio recorder which captures what you’re doing in real-time. So, this is not about programming beats, it’s about recording your live percussion performances. There’s nothing quite like it for crafting your own unique drum sounds.
Street Price: $9.99 (at time of writing)
BeatHawk comes from UVI who produce a lot of professional sample-based instruments for DAWs and music production. And so it will come as no surprise to learn that BeatHawk comes packed with high-quality UVI sounds, instruments and effects. But you can also import your own samples or record direct into the app and spread your sounds across the drum pads.
BeatHawk is much like Beatmaker 3 with its MPC style interface, sampling ability, and full-on music production capabilities. It has 16 tracks, each with 16 patterns in which you can bang out your beats or generate musical parts. You can apply envelopes and high-quality effects, tweak and sculpt your sounds and samples into the perfect kit, complete with choke groups and one-shot or looping modes.
The strength here is probably in the range and quality of the sample library and expansion packs combined with an engaging interface and fast workflow. There is also a lot more than drums going on with instruments, MIDI and inter-connectivity with other apps.
Groove Rider GR-16
Street Price: $18.99 (at time of writing)
Styles itself as a professional Groove Box for step-sequenced music production inspired by hardware drum machines and rhythm boxes. It comes with everything you need to make beats and build a groove to run your party.
It has a powerful 2-oscillator synthesizer engine plus a wide range of PCM drum samples. It comes packed with a factory library of patterns and grooves to get you started. The interface more or less stays on one page, giving you access to all the controls you need for beat-making just like a hardware machine. But you’ll also find deeper levels of editing, mixing, automation and effects hidden in there somewhere.
The synth engine has a polyphony up to 32 voices and can be whatever you like in terms of synthesis and sound design. You can split it across 16 channels and up to 4 voices per step with complete control over what that step is doing. There are 22 master and 34 insert effects, 6 arpeggiators and 50 rhythm patterns. It has a ridiculous amount of power in this app.
The Groove Rider GR-16 looks stunning and would out-groove the iElectribe, iMaschine or iMPC any day of the week.
Street Price: $5.99 (at time of writing)
It’s an emulation of one of the most celebrated drum machines ever invented – the Roland TR-808. And it does it brilliantly.
The sound is spot on and so is the look. The feel of that vintage machine has been captured perfectly with all the same parameters and possibilities of the original. But, of course, with digital emulations, you can build in things that were not possible before and that means we have the advantage of a grid-based sequencer so that we can see all the tracks of beats all at once and edit them together. It’s these sorts of visual enhancements that make emulations fabulous.
You can create patterns live or build up songs through pattern chaining. It can interact with other apps on your device and even work over MIDI.
Developer Elliott Garage has a similar EGDR909 for people who prefer those slightly updated sounds. Either way, these are so much fun if you are after a traditional drum machine experience.
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