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FXpansion BFD Horsepower

Americana-flavored Drum Sample Expansion Pack for BFD 3


by Phil O'Keefe



Drums. They are the very foundation of most popular music styles, making them all but essential for most productions. However, they're also one of the more difficult instruments to record well. First you need a well-isolated room so your neighbor's lawnmower doesn't make an unscheduled and unwanted guest appearance on your once in a lifetime take, and hopefully it's a good sounding room too so that it augments the sound of the drums rather than detracting from them - and that's all before taking the drummer, the drum kit, recording engineer and equipment into consideration.

You need more gear to capture a drum kit than you'd need to record a singer or guitarist, and while they can fairly easily track real guitars and vocals, live drums are often too much for many people to try to tackle in their home studios. What to do? Some turn to loops, samples and/or MIDI drum grooves, but a lot of the loops and samples on the market are targeted towards Hip Hop, EDM and other popular modern genres that tend to use more heavily processed and electronic percussion sounds. Well if you're into country, rock, blues, jazz and other "Americana" genres and are looking for more natural sounding kits, FXpansion had you in mind with their BFD Horsepower expansion pack for BFD3.
 

                                          


What You Need To Know

  • BFD Horsepower is an expansion pack for FXpansion's BFD3 virtual drum instrument. It features "Americana" type drum sounds that are designed to work with a variety of musical styles such as roots rock, alt-country, garage rock, folk and blues.

  • BFD Horsepower requires FXpansion's BDF3 running on a suitable Mac (OS X 10.8.6 or later) or PC (Windows 7 or later) computer. It is not compatible with BFD 1.x, BFD2 or BFD Eco.


 

  • You get a stick kit, and a brush kit. Each is offered in three versions - a Natural version and two Processed versions, for a total of six kits. The Processed versions are very tasteful and not at all heavy-handed; instead they have a more produced and refined "mix-ready" sound that isn't over-processed.  

  • The drum samples were recorded and produced in-house at FXpansion by Drew Vernon and Michael Bugh using a five-piece Gretsch USA Custom kit. The drums included are a 20x14" kick, a 14x5" wood snare, and three toms; 12x8" and 13x9" rack toms and a 16x16" floor tom.

  • You get two variations on the kick - damped and resonant. The resonant version is completely undamped and rings out considerably, while the damped version decays much more quickly, as you'd expect.

  • Similarly, you get a few different snare variations to pick from, including low tuned (with snare on / off options), as well as high tuned, which also includes snares on and off versions. The high tuned snare was damped with a tea towel, while paper damping was used on the low snare samples.

  • The toms are really note-worthy. They're dynamic, punchy and have just the right tonal balance. A far cry from the typical toms you so often get that sound two-dimensional and out of place with the rest of the kit, fart out when you play them too hard or just flat-out sound unrealistic, these are some of the best sounding "natural" tom samples I've heard in ages.

  • For the brass, the producers decided on a balanced sounding mix of Sabian hi hats and Zildjian cymbals. The hats are 14" Sabian AA's, and you get all the expected playing varieties. You also get a useful set of cymbals, with a 19" Zildjian K Dark crash and a 20" Zildjian A Custom crash, as well as 21" Zildjian A Custom ride. I would have liked one or two smaller crash or accent cymbals, but what is included sounds very good.

  • There's no additional percussion included except for one bonus tambourine, which is a newly-processed version of a tambourine sourced from the regular BFD3 library.

  • All of the instruments are very playable using pad controllers, with plenty of tonal variation and dynamic responsiveness with various MIDI note velocities. The net effect is very natural and realistic sounding.

  • For further tonal variety, FXpansion includes some character mic channel options - a highly compressed and saturated mono tom-side of the kit mic, as well as a FX plate reverb channel and a lo-fi "trashcan" mic. These allow you to go from a very natural, clean and warm sounding kit to one that is more vintage sounding, lo-fi and trashy.

 

Limitations

  • Chalk it up to personal tastes, but I'm not particularly crazy about the sound of the snare; whether it's the source drum or the way it was set up, it's a bit dark and wooly and it can be a little tricky to get it to cut thru unless it's a relatively sparse mix. Then again, sparser mixes are far from uncommon for the styles BFD Horsepower is targeting, and you always have the option of substituting one of the other BFD3 snares if you prefer. This snare's sound wouldn't be out of place on an Americana track, it's just not particularly outstanding.

  • With a 22GB download that expands to consume 48GB of storage space with a full installation, it's big! Make sure you have sufficient hard drive space, and allow plenty of time for the multi-file downloads. If storage space is really limited for some reason, you can also opt for a 24GB medium sized installation or a 16GB small one.  The good news is that while it took a while, the download, installation and authorization process went off smoothly.

  • This kit needs more cowbell.



Conclusions

If you're into Americana-style musical genres you'll really appreciate the earthy authenticity and authoritative punch of the BFD Horsepower drum expansion pack. It's really cool that FXpansion are supporting musicians who are into alternate styles and not sticking with only the most popular genres, even though you'd have to assume they'd be the biggest sellers. BFD Horsepower works seamlessly with BFD3 and provides very natural and authentic sounding kit variations that work equally well whether you're programming your own beats, playing in real time using a MIDI pad controller or kit, or using prepackaged commercial grooves such as those offered by FXpansion. The overall sound is very appropriate for the intended genres with the flexibility of keeping it clean or mucking things up a bit, and while the snare sound isn't my favorite the toms are outstanding, and the entire kit is expressive and dynamic. It sounds like a real kit, and you can tell care was put into getting the kits sound dialed up and working "in the room" when it was recorded, which adds considerably to the realism.

It's not magic, and the realism of any sample library like this will be directly proportional to the skill in which it is used, but if you do your part you can get very convincing drum tracks out of BFD Horsepower. Think and groove like a good drummer, play the parts using pads or a MIDI kit, and stay away from the quantizing and you'll be rewarded with drum tracks that even other musicians will think are recordings of a real drummer and expertly miked acoustic drums.


Resources

FXpansion BFD Horsepower Drum Sample Expansion for BFD3 ($149.00 MSRP / "street")

FXpansion's product web page    


You can purchase BFD Horsepower from:

B&H Photo Video




FXpansion Soundcloud audio demos:










__________________________________________________

 




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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