British drummer Joe Crabtree, best known for his drumming with UK classic rock bandWishbone Ash, has developed new software for the drummer and musician. Crabtree, who has been creating music software for a number of years, has introduced the RhythMachine, OctopuSequencer, Pyramid and PolyNome.
RhythMachine is a tool for generating rhythms and melodies and orchestrating them on the drum kit or pitched instruments. It can be used for ear training, creating vamps to solo over or generating grooves and fills.
“I began work on my first piece of software, the RhythMachine, back in 2008,” Joe explains. “It was inspired by some lessons I took in New York with Robby Ameen. In my lesson with Robby we were playing double drums – both playing a songo groove with a left foot clave. We’d play 3 bars of groove, then Robby would keep the clave going and play a 1 bar melodic fill on the toms. We’d go around the 4 bars again and my challenge was to mimic what he had played. It was challenging and I wanted to develop some software that would replicate that scenario. I wrote RhythMachine to do exactly this.”
OctopuSequencer is a tool for creating multi-layered grooves consisting of overlapping time signatures. Its core feature set allows the user to easily program and manipulate grooves in order to discover new ones.
“To play the songo groove in RhythMachine I had to build a step sequencer,” says Joe. “I built in the ability to choose any subdivision rate between 1 and 32, and to loop at any point in the sequence. Once I’d written the step sequencer I realized that I could stack them, and that having four independent step sequencers would allow me to program some of the kind of grooves that Virgil Donato, Marco Minnemann and Mike Mangini were playing – grooves which are essentially combinations of different time signatures layered over each other. That concept evolved into the OctopuSequencer.”
Pyramid is an advanced metronome which allows the user to easily program polyrhythms and the rhythmic scale. It includes features which make it easy to learn how unfamiliar rates and polyrhythms sound.
“Someone who’d bought OctopuSequencer asked me how they would use it to program in the rhythmic scale where you work your way up through all the subdivisions between 1 and 16,” Joe explains. “OctopuSequencer wasn’t designed to do this, so I spent a few weeks working with that idea and developed The Pyramid. It’s much simpler than OctopuSequencer but is an invaluable tool for all musicians (not just drummers) who want to become more familiar with unconventional subdivisions.”
PolyNome is the ultimate metronome for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch. “Soon after writing Pyramid I met Lucas Ives, a New York-based drummer who used to work for Pixar,” says Joe. “He had experience coding for the iPhone so we worked together to develop PolyNome, which is basically the metronome that I wanted to own. It has all the functionality of Pyramid and more. We built in the option to program clicks with bars of rest so you can use it to improve your internal clock which is proving to be a very popular feature among all musicians. So far we’ve had great feedback from Dave Weckl, Jon Riley, Peter Erskine, Will Lee and others. In the words of Dennis Chambers – it’s the shit!!!”
Joe Crabtree has been teaching drums for 16 years. He has recorded and toured with UK progressive rock ensembles Pendragon and the David Cross Band and has been a member of legendary UK classic rock band Wishbone Ash for the past 5 years. Joe’s website features many free lessons and software for drummers. “Joe is a drummer who has it all, he has an unbelievable ability to learn complex songs fast with an accuracy and power that makes it feel as though he has been in the band for years,” says Nick Barrett of Pendragon. “He has an astonishing flair for playing odd time signatures and straight fours with easy flowing technique,” adds David Cross, formerly of King Crimson.
Along with the marketing of his new software, Joe is preparing for a world tour with Wishbone Ash on the heels of their critically acclaimed new CD release ‘Elegant Stealth‘. Joe also has a regular column in Drumhead Magazine in the US.
Finally Joe has this to impart to drummers around the world: “Never forget why you started playing drums in the first place. I’ve seen so many drummers get caught up in the business side of things and end up hating the instrument. I’ve always said that if it gets to the stage where I’m not enjoying it I’ll get a regular job and keep drumming for fun.”
For more information on RhythMachine, OctopuSequencer, Pyramid and PolyNome visit www.JoeCrabtree.com