In which a stupidly named program is conceived.

DrumBurp is a project I’ve been working on, off and on, over the last 6 months or so. I’ve only really been concentrating on it since around the start of January.

The idea is to create a really simple program for the fast creation of tablature for drum kit. There are some good programs out there, notably TabTrax and DTab, but none that really seem to do what I want. For the creation of general music notation I’m a big fan of Nted, but again it doesn’t quite fit for what I need.¬†There are two things that I really want:

  • A cross-platform editor – I work on both Linux & Windows from time to time so something which will run on both is important.
  • Fast, simple creation of drum tab – so with some programs I could notate anything I’d ever possibly want to. But 99.999% of the time, I just want to write a simple bit of drum music down as quickly as possible, especially if I’m listening to and tabbing a piece of music. The interface should be helping me to do that, not making me click through a million menus and drop-down boxes just to say that I want a flam instead of a normal strike.

Now, Nted produces absolutely beautiful notation, and it’s cross platform, but it’s painfully slow to write drum music with. DTab & TabTrax are (I believe) Windows only, and they both have a couple of quirks that mean they don’t quite work for me – TabTrax has an idiosyncratic notion of time counting which I can’t wrap my head around, and it’s interface has never quite worked for me. DTab, on the other hand, is almost there, but it doesn’t have a great amount of flexibility in which note heads you can add. They’re both pretty good pieces of software, and enough people use them to show that they’re obviously doing something right, but when I’ve used them I’ve always felt like I’m fighting the interface – it’s getting in the way rather than making it easy for me.

The final straw was that no program I’ve used has ever given me a way of saying “You see this hi-hat right here? Yep, that one. I’m probably going to hit that 8 times-a-bar for the next n bars, so go ahead and write that down for me, would ya?” It just feels like I’m working for the computer’s convenience, rather than the other way around. So, DrumBurp was born.

My big thing with this is that I want the interface to always be about getting the essential information into the machine as fast as possible. I don’t know about you, but my memory of a groove or fill expires pretty quickly when I’m trying to work it out, and I need to get as much of it out of my head and into the magic box as soon as possible. We’ll see how successful I am…

So far I have a pretty good prototype. I’ve written some reasonably complicated pieces with it, and it does a nice job of both representing them on the screen and exporting them to ASCII. I guess at some point I’ll put up some screenshots, and maybe think about trying to find some beta-testers. I’m not looking to make any money out of this – I just want to have a tool that I can use, and if anyone else finds it useful, so much the better.