January 9, 2006


by Chris Randall

So I scored a copy of FXpansion's BFD for Christmas, from Santa Claus of all people. While there are some issues, which I'll touch upon briefly, the basic idea of the plug is to completely obviate that most annoying of creatures, the drummer. And it does this in pretty convincing fashion. After spending some time learning the ropes, I threw it in a song and was immediately impressed with the fact that I couldn't tell it wasn't a real drummer. I imagine a good drummer could tell, but those are few and far between, so there's not much danger there.

Of course, the ability to actually program drums that sound like drums is a plus, so some experience with the real thing is necessary; it's not a Magic Box or anything. There are some included MIDI grooves in various modern styles, and I suppose they're usable, but not my cup of tea. The plug (which is essentially a sample playback engine) makes it relatively easy to get a kit that _sounds_ like a set of drums; the actual programming needs to be _played_ like drums in order to complete the illusion.

The included kits are pretty good. Some modern kits and some vintage ones, for a range of sounds. I like the Slingerland set the most, except the foot is just about the biggest piece of flab you're gonna find. So I swap that out with one of the other feet, and I'm in business. You get control over the 3 sets of ambient mics (room, overhead, PZM) and the close-mic'd set. Adjusting these parameters to taste gets you your sound, whatever is appropriate to the song.

CPU-wise, it isn't much of a hit. It is hard on RAM and the drive, but I've got tons of both, so not much problem there. The only real problem I have is getting a good balance between the foot and the snare. Just using the stereo version of the plug, it's difficult to find a place where you can hear both. You have to use a lot of room or overhead to really hear the snare, and when you run the plug through a compressor, it brings out the room more, so it's a bit of work to not end up with "When The Levee Breaks" kind of shit.

The other problem, and it isn't so much of a problem as a matter of taste, is that normally when the foot gets hit, or the lower toms, the snare will also make quite a bit of noise. There is none of this here; they obviously turned off the snares on the drum kits when making the samples. This one added bit would really set it off, I think.

UPDATE: If I paid more attention, or read the manual or something, I'd know that this isn't the case. Some of the kits have the snare on for every hit, and others have an extra foot 1/2 step below the normal one (that I didn't notice because it was on the bottom key of my controller) that has the sound with the snares active. Thanks to musicjon for pointing out that I'm stupid. Don't make a habit of that!

Anyways, this is a stellar piece of work, and Angus and company should be proud of it. I strongly recommend it if you do any sort of music that requires "real" drums, and you don't want to go through the heaving mess of problems that Captain Caveman brings to the table. It's $329, and worth every penny.




Jan.09.2006 @ 12:24 PM
HA! "Captain Caveman" HA!

Jan.09.2006 @ 1:40 PM
Similar in concept, but apparently better in execution is the Drumkit From Hell Superior. I think it uses Kontact or some such as the sampler and they've got craploads of DVDs of different kits.

My friend, who is a drummer and a songwriter, uses it and swears it kicks BFD's ass.


Jan.09.2006 @ 1:48 PM
I just got Reason Drumkit Refill 2.0 and it works the same way. Mutli-sampled, left/right hits, multiple hi-hat samples (not just clamped-tight and wide-open), etc. There's close mics on each drum, then overheads, then room mics. It souds REALLY good, and it's only $100 if you already own Reason.

You don't mention Reason much on here, so I'm not sure if it's verboten and requiring of scorn, but I find it a useful tool, and having "real" drums inside it it pretty handy....


Jan.09.2006 @ 1:56 PM
Most kits in BFD have a kick sample with snare bleed mapped to B (1/2 step below the usual GM kick note)

Jan.09.2006 @ 2:08 PM
Chris Randall
Heh. I didn't notice that because I had the kick on the lowest note of my controller. RTFM, right?

Fuckin' duh.



Jan.09.2006 @ 8:10 PM
I've done a couple of things with the multi-out version, using comps and EQ on the individual close mics, stereo comp on the room. Tre-fucking-mendous. Too big for the mix, ususally, but it did make me figure out the pattern from (speaking of Bonham) Fool in the Rain, so it was educational.

On the other hand, I just got to work with the BFD/DLX kits from Albini, and there is a TAMA rig in there that blows me away... worth checking out if you're not sold on the blend of the kit pieces in the regular collection- or if the room is too lively for you.



Jan.10.2006 @ 10:09 AM
D' MacKinnon
Have you used the DFH Superior yet? That's the only other product out there I think that can compete with this. I have the original DFH sample CD but it's not nearly as good.

Oct.09.2007 @ 10:27 AM
Jesus man, what?s your problem with drummers? Did some drummer touch you in a bad way or something?

I don?t know why you would encourage the further disassociation between music and humans. Fundamentally, music, at least GOOD music, is about the interplay between musicians. This program might be cool; but it ain?t got no soul.




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