A week later and everything still applies. A great piece of music software from a responsive indie developer.
Just started working with it this weekend; about 16 hours total. Its been a long time since a piece of software for my DAW left me totally gobsmacked so forgive the long post.
I've been evaluating Jamstix along with TabTrax using Toontrack SD2 and SaviHost to get a sense of workflow outside of Cubase for just creating drum arrangements that I can save for importing into Cubase after I have a basic groove and rudimentary arrangement worked out.
I'm not a great drum programmer; it's never been as intuitive as actually playing a simple backbeat on a kit. Therein, however, lies my dilemma. I can play solid enough rudimentary backbeat but not much more. I also don't have the room in my flat to set up my Roland kit nor would my downstairs neighbor much like it. As a result I've been searching for a relatively intuitive way to lay down drum parts. It appears thus far that Jamstix will allow me to adopt the kind of workflow I was struggling to achieve using EZplayer and TT Solo. I've only just scratched the surface of Jamstix and it feels like it will only become more useful the deeper I get into it.
I found a drum tab that had the general vibe I was going for to seed my drum part.
Pasted the drum tab into TabTrax and auditioned it inside TabTrax to make sure the tab wasn't wonky.
Saved the tab as a MIDI file with TabTrax.
Opened Jamstix using SaviHost and chose a kit from TT SD2
Imported the MIDI file I saved with TabTrax.
Auditioned the Jamstix drummers and then...
... it got really interesting.
The parameters Jamstix provides to mold a drum part into something suitably inspiring is amazing.
After the drum track was where I wanted it in Jamstix, a very good start, I saved it as a MIDI file, opened Cubase, imported the file, worked out a simple bass guitar part to start getting a better sense of things, recorded the bass part so I don't forget it, then did a little drum editing in Cubase, went back to the bass part for a bit, and so on.
I had some pretty serious reservations about using tabs or canned MIDI files; anything that I didn't put time and effort into programming or playing myself. Jamstix requires plenty time and effort, however, to make a track your own. Once a MIDI file is loaded into Jamstix you can start working with it to make it your own. Starting out with a simple Richard S. or Charlie W. style backbeat you can gradually add accents, cymbals, hi-hat, toms, embellish, take away then add again.
Working from a converted tab was successful so next I loaded a MIDI file from the Steve Ferrone Platinum Samples MIDI Groove Library and after working with it for about an hour I knew I didn't have to concern myself about feeling like I was cribbing. I compared the file that I derived from the MIDI groove to the original, there was a significant difference. It retained a family resemblance and the vibe I sought out to begin with but it was quit distinct from the original. I even listened to the bass part with the original MIDI file and it still worked, albeit, in a very different way. The analogy I'll use is a drummer coming in, laying down a groove, and after working with him for an hour or so, getting the part where I want it to be without completely ignoring his creative input.
I spent most of my 20's playing out and recording in garage/indie bands with drummers who couldn't stop "jamming" enough to critically listen to the song the band was playing or even in between songs to listen to suggestions that would allow a more sympathetic approach to the needs of the song verses their ego.
There were, however, a couple of exceptional drummers who would listen, try well thought out variations, not just "jam" along, and actually be a partner in helping the band write and arrange. They didn't fall into the stereotype of, "What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians?" They were solid musicians not "just" drummers. Working with MIDI files and converted tabs in Jamstix vs other programs that use loops or emulate drum machines reminds me of working with those exceptional drummers as apposed to the chuckleheads.
IMO, TabTrax + a couple of supplemental MIDI Packs + Jamstix + TT SD2 = the best you can get when you can't get a good drummer with a well tuned kit.
My complaints thus far are few. I tried to get Jamstix to play from inside Cubase and it didn't work until I used jBridge. It would also be nice to have expansions that only include players and styles without any Jamstix drum kits. Small complaints to be sure, however...
Toontrack SD2 is my primary drum program and I have all the SDX libraries, only two of the EZX. Jamstix doesn't include drum maps for any of the TT SDX libraries outside of NY v2. I've already modified the Allaire kit mapping in Jamstix for Music City, renamed it accordingly and saved it but it appears that not all articulations are available for mapping.
To get started with Jamstix for $99.00US is a bargain. Add a MIDI library for $30-$40, and TabTrax for another $30 and you are still in bargain territory.
Here's the best part of Jamstix:
Timely feedback and support from the developer; the best I've experienced since I started patronizing indie developers.