by N. Halpern
“Drums From the Big Room: The Mixes,” is a finely produced two-disc drum loop library from Sony Creative Software, performed by Steve Ferrone, a venerable session drummer (Duran Duran, Alan Parsons, Bee Gees), and member of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers since the early 1990s. This collection is a pared-down version of the 2005 release “Drums From the Big Room,” (also still available), which provided many of these same performances, but in full multi-track versions in which, along with the “full mix” of each loop, comes separate WAV files of hi hat, kick, snare, rooms, overheads, etc. A few instances of multi-track performances are included as “bonus loops” in this collection.
Mr. Ferrone’s performances are tight, crisp and confident. He never drags or pushes the beat, but the resulting aural is not one of over-editing or quantization - it comes off as nothing more and nothing less than the work of an immaculately professional session drummer. True to the collection’s title, the sound is indeed big and robust. Greg Ladanyi’s mixes are excellently balanced, combining a clean sense of detail and nuance with a powerful, live sound.
The collection is organized into 5 main folders: Jazz, Pop, R&B, Reggae, and Rock, each of which contains several subfolders of ‘songs.’ Each song is handily marked and (and it’s attendant files meta-tagged) with it’s BPM. Within each song folder can be found anywhere from 12-50 loops, including various beat variations, fills, intros, and outros. Let’s take one of the Rock songs - “Down & Dirty” - as an example. Locked in at 173 BPM, a full 44 loops explore variations of a driving rock beat at this tempo, including such variations at moving between hi hat, ride, and tom-based beats. There are also 6 intros and outros. On the other end of the spectrum, ‘Jazz Bossa Mover’ includes 14 loops. Each of these signify a very similar Bossa Nova feel, but provide significant and natural variation within the framework given.
This library contains a wide range of applications for producers and composers. Firstly and most obviously, they can be used categorized, adding a credible drum performance to an exercise in a given genre. The Reggae beats, in particular, would be well suited in this context. But on the other hand, the clean, straightforward nature of the performances also means that these tracks need not necessarily be used only in the context of the genres in which they are labeled; rhythms can and do transcend and cross genre and style all the time. For instance, I’m working on a mock-up of a variation on a theme for a TV score. In it’s original iteration, it’s a driving, neoclassical piece driven by piano and harp. For this variation, I experimented with sections of the “Bossa Mover” beat which syncopated compellingly with the right-hand rhythms of the piano. This quickly inspired the creation of a counter-line on the bass guitar, and an interesting variation was born. For me, it’s within a context such as this one that this library truly shines.
This is an excellently conceived and executed drum collection - one of the finest of its sort - which should continue to be a handy tool for producers and composers for years to come.