Musonix Publishing

Drum practice software: learn drums online

Drum practice software: learn drums with automatic feedback as you play-along

Melodics & Drumeo alternatives

Performous.org FREE: The All in One Music Game for Drums / Vocals / ... -  open source  for desktop computers

Opened for me on a Windows 10 desktop PC but not a similar laptop. Also designed for Mac and Linux. I'm not sure how to test this and find out more about what it does. A separate download is called Composer, for importing songs in "various formats including Frets on Fire Midi", so you are in with a chance if you want to try and import songs. A blog post - https://www.extremraym.com/en/reaper-ultrastar-reascripts/ - and a couple of projects on Github mention converting music to Ultrastar format, but it could take some time. I don't know how much quicker  it is if you don't need the karaoke lyrics.

Apart from drums and vocals, there are settings for "dance mat" and "5 button guitar controller".
Unusually, different players can use the software at the same time together.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soYIbsVmcyU&t=24s is the Youtube demo. 

"Playing drums is like the real thing, especially if you happen to be lucky enough to have one of those professional MIDI drum sets. For the rest of us the el cheapo band game controllers will have to do."


PurelyMusic.com: Purely Guitar / Bass / Acoustic Guitar / Viola / Violin / Cello / Fiddle / Ukulele / Piano / Drums / Busouki / Lute / Mandolin @ £40 ONCE per instrument or £4 monthly with regular reductions

My drum version showed nothing about my playing on the Karaoke screen as I played, or on the notes at the end which track about how long you have practiced each lesson. The only feedback was the built-in tuner.

If you watch the firm's videos like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srCfsHwe7iI, it shows a cursor moving jerkily along the stave, which is hard to follow. So don't buy this without trying the trial first: trial versions available on app stores and CNET for Windows desktop.

For Windows, including old versions, Mac, IOS, Android, Kindle Fire. Discount vouchers sometimes show on the order page. The desktop version can import XML3 music written for the one instrument, otherwise you have to use the 200 or so exercises included. Schools can pay £350 for up to 40 devices on one site. There are free test downloads with one exercise on App stores and CNET for Windows. 

Requires Adobe Air, now at https://airsdk.harman.com/

Roland DT-1 £45 ONCE for any midi drum kit connected to a mac or PC computer or tablet

Works with Midi drum kits - not just Roland - and PC or MAC.
Reads MIDI files, often free from sites like Bitmidi, Midisfree, Free Midi, Midi World. 
It reads nearly all of them, plays them, and shows the drum score and your own playing, with red crosses where you hit the wrong note.
There are 57 bundled exercises and some lift music to get you going.
Allows your choice of speed down to 20 beats per minute, allows just snare and kick-drum, shows a diagram of what parts of a drum kit to hit, and allows you to make a tricky part of the track into a loop  to practice over and over. You can also mute the original drum track.
Music shops can order this from Roland as a CD or it's on sites like ebay, sent from Japan. Roland has a stake in Melodics, below, which makes them much more money so they don't promote the DT-1 or change it at all. The good side of this is that second hand copies are just as good as new ones. Gear4Music charge £45 for a new disc; other music shops can order it. Prices are about the same if you want to sell on Ebay.

GIGAJAMONLINE.com £10 monthly or £140 ONCE Drum / Keyboard / Guitar / Bass. Occasionally reduced a lot.


30 exercises take you to grade 5 with a careful structure - even lesson plans - and slow progression of difficulty. Each lesson has pdf notes, like the textbook that this is, a downloadable play-along, and a rather watchable TV interview describing the tasks. I have not yet discovered a Karaoke-style display of the notes, but you can play an exercise from the print-out and the sound file if I understand right.

If the software is called Xtractor 5, it can only work-out feedback at the end of each lesson; the next "xtractor" software might work in real time. Unusual features are getting more all instruments on one licence, cheap exam grading up to grade 5 from London College of Music at University of West London, and a range of licences for schools and music hubs. There is a free version which just demonstrates the software as applied to one instrument. It's called "debut level".

schools.gigajam.com for educational discounts. Pricing is per pupil in a year group, and low.
One Scottish education authority subscribes to Gigajam and runs a music bus round all of their schools that need it, allowing pupils to see a music teacher once a month and practice online in between if they're keen. The simplest way to get feedback or exam marks is with a midi interface but Gigajam woll work with videos of performances as well.

Melodics.com/pricing  $30 monthly or $150 yearly for Drums / Piano

For Windows 10 64-bit, some IOS and OSX, used with midi keyboards, drum kits, and pad controllers. Occasionally reduced at sale times, but you still have to have a Windows 10 64-bit laptop near the drum set or something else compatible.

Large collection of videos and online lessons graded by difficulty. One review says that the licence covers Piano as well. If you like piano-roll notation - dots falling down the screen like a waterfall - then there's instant feedback on how well you play to the notation; it doesn't mention practising from drum tab or staves as far as I can see. Melodics have been known to knock $50 off their annual price at sale times.



Drumeo.com/order $29 monthly or $250 yearly

Large collection of videos and online lessons. The idea of individual teaching is stretched: you can upload a video of your playing and get feedback, and there are weekly live sessions with some kind of forum discussion, but it is mainly a set of videos and software practice aids.
There are a few longer reviews online which offer voucher for a six month trial, which looks a good idea. They also have some free videos linked from their site. Drumeo have been known to knock the yearly price down to $200 on sale days at the end of November: they pot offers on drumeo.com/drumshop

DOESN'T WORK Does anyone know how to make Friendjam, ex Roland, import songs?

This doesn't work unless there's some way to import songs since Roland pulled the plug on the download site to stop it working.
http://web.archive.org/web/20180301144018/http://roland.com/FriendJam/V-Drums/ is a copy of the old web page and some of the download sites have a a transcript. There is a childrens' version with a brighter, rainbow-coloured drumset diagram.

It shows some 57 songs, "downloading" if you click on them. I can't see how to import your own songs now Roland have pulled the plug on theirs.

For Roland midi drums designed between the first V-drums and 2019; runs on Windows and MAC. Downloadable from sites like CNET, or the web archive version of Roland's former page.
Requires Adobe Air, which your machine might not download automatically because it has moved to
https://airsdk.harman.com/ 
https://www.roland.com/ca/support/support_news/1804021100/ "no longer ... available do download after ... 2018. Any customer that has already downloaded the applications can continue to open and use them. However, worldwide ranking will be disabled and no further support will be available". I don't think they were real friends anyway.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQpdV8EmxG0 and other online videos show more about what it does while playing Japanese lift music.
If you know how to make this work, please email, attention of John Robertson, using the address at the bottom of the page. Thanks if you do.


Buying Drums for practice

Rock-bottom price for delivered drum kits is £210ish for a new non-name kit on Gear4Music.
Other shops might have a better price; they're just the cheap one that advertises.
Delivery will be subsidised out of the margin on the drums.
It's tricky to know where to get parts for these kits that often turn-up as broken spares-or-repair kits on ebay.
Next cheapest costs notice-ably more. 

If you can collect a working set from a second-hand seller nearby, it will probably be better value, unless you mess-up as I did and even then it's probably better value. Getting a set that's likely to have spares available proved important. Ebay sellers might consider offers just under the Gear4music price.

If you're buying for yourself and can carry drum kit parts in a few trips or load a car, then second-hand drum kits with brands on them are about the same price as the cheapest online offer. Maybe less. Brands like Roland, Alexis, and one that claims to fold-up small called Tourtech. If you can collect from a music shop there might be better quality for the price as well. Yamaha electronic drums have a lot of fee exclusive pracitice software that won't work on other brands.

Schools and teachers tend to use and recommend Yamaha because they provide free practice software that only works on Yamaha products, and connection of electric drums to midi has always been easy to set-up. They don't make quite the cheapest throw-away models, so they're a safe bet. There are also deals between Yamaha, Roland, and some of the music practice aids like Gigajam, so if you are buying both at the same time for a school, you could ask the software company if there is anything off for buying Roland or Yamaha at the same time.

I messed-up when I bought an electronic drum kit, but it didn't matter except that it took a lot of learning-time to sort out. The closest likely kit on ebay was a very early model of Roland, from when they had 5-pin plugs and needed an adaptor called a UM-1 to connect to a computer. This was available online; the cheapest non-name ones don't work, I found. The rubber had worn-out in a pedal after two or three people learned to play on this machine (the seller said) so I had to learn about bits of rubber called "Roland Actuators", which are available, so I bought a rather slow learning experience for a few tenners as well as the drum kit. Otherwise, no harm done. I just had to learn about fixing midi drum kits before I learned about playing them. After a year or two practicing I begin to notice that the rubber pads and pedals don't offer many different sounds; maybe just one at one volume, which doesn't matter at first for practicing. The mesh pad has more sensitivity.

If you see a brand of electric drum-kit on ebay and wonder whether you could cope with worn-out bits, google and search ebay for the name and guess whether you could find parts like rubber for pedals. If you just see the same set sold as "spares or repair", then that's what will happen to yours.

A cashback site offers about 1% off ebay and offers at a few music shops including Musicroom and Bax-shop.

Ebay > Musical Instruments > Percussion > Drums > Drum Kits > Type: Electronic Drum Kit | Sort by Distance: Nearest First
... is the place to look, backed up by charity shops and the usual small ad sites (Gumtree, Preloved, Vivastreet and Reverb for music).

Drummers go to gigs with a foot pedal, snare, and surprisingly expensive cymbals.
Ebay > Musical Instruments > Percussio sn > Drums > Snare Drums
Ebay > Musical Instruments > Percussion > Cymbals
Ebay > Musical Instruments > Percussion > Parts > Drum Pedals 


That is about all I think I know about buying drums. Oh except those rubber desktop pads that you can roll-up. I bought one on ebay and forget why I gave it up quite quickly and sold it again. Maybe because the positions of the pads are so different to my music teachers' acoustic drum set. I don't remember it working with a midi teach-yourself drumming program either.


Maybe there is a good article about them on the net somewhere.

Buying amplifiers and headphones

This isn't important for a learner's guide, but a lot of Marshall amplifiers are still made in Milton Keynes, UK (unlike Vox now in Vietnam).
They reply to emails asking what's made where:

For Marshall:

  • All the vintage reissue amps
  • Studio series
  • JVM
  • Handwired Amps

Natal Drums :

You could  check with them before buying, even if buying secondhand or look on details plate on the case if you're allowed.
Angel and Curve's Carboncam headphones are made in Birmingham and more affordable on Ebay (Sennheiser are assembled in China). An ideal guide would list things made in democratic welfare states with good human rights records, but that's a hard list to put together. Nice things sound better though.


Old computer speakers with built-in amplifiers might be in the back of your drawer already or on this UK Ebay page: https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/3702/i.html


The Music History Handbook


The Music History Handbook is available online from Musonix.co.uk/the-music-history-handbook-978-0951721469 .  It is not yet available via book wholesale and retailers: you can only get it online. It's a book on colour-printed paper, so you only pay once. Musonix does not come back a month later to ask for the price again, please.


Rehearse Direct and Play

Software and apps don't help you play or jam or rehearse with other people, a band or "ensemble"as some people call it. A piece of UK legislation in the 1990s (if I have got this right) suggested that pupils should learn to "rehearse direct and play" in an "ensemble", but didn't say where the teaching money would come from! This booklet was printed and re-printed as a cheap pocket guide to read when you are on a bus to a rehearsal and unable to read your tablet or smartphone. It uses a technology called print on paper, but is still only £3.50+ postage: cheaper than a lot of apps.