Hydrogen, a multiplatform and easy-to-use drum machine

Lately I am "playing" again at being a musician. Nothing serious, but some friends and I are going to get together every now and then for fun. We also played audio created or recorded on a computer, and I'm sorry, but there I remember Apple. Not even the almighty in terms of Windows software can overshadow the apple in this regard, but there are alternatives, and an interesting one that I discovered recently is called Hydrogen.

Hydrogen is a multiplatform drum machine, a very interesting one because it is free and you do not need to be an expert to use it. In fact, what you see in the video is only the second or third time that I have used it, and you can see that in a few minutes I have created some patterns that could be the beginning of a song. I have a real drum machine, an Alesis SR18, but, unless I need something serious and the best of sounds, I think I will stick with Hydrogen on the PC.

Hydrogen is very intuitive

I insist again that Apple is above the rest when it comes to creating, editing or mixing music. And its GarageBand is free, and it is the best DAW I have tried in 15 years. Are there better ones? Yes, but keep it free, feature-rich, and easy to use… sorry, but it's my favorite. And when we're on Linux, nothing comes close. Have i read out there Ardor or even Audacity? That just makes me want to laugh, really.

But hey, this article is about Hydrogen, and it's a good tool if what we want is to create drum beats. Like real (physical) drum machines, works with patterns that we have to edit and mix between them if what we want is to make a complete song. We enter the edition of the patterns by clicking on their name, then we click on the desired tool, box or effect and we click on play. Then, if what we want is to make a song, we just have to choose the order of the patterns. Simpler, impossible.

If we want, we can edit the effects from the right side. By clicking on the wave that appears when clicking on "Layers", we can modify it, and from "General" we can adjust some settings such as the gain or the force of the blow. They are options to improve the sound, which it contributes, but we will have to work if we are looking for a very different sound than the one it brings by default.

Possibility of downloading more battery kits

Hydrogen comes with a kit, the GMRockKit, installed by default, and that's what you have in the video. I repeat that it is something generic and that it works perfectly for most cases, but you may need other kits, such as a more aggressive rock or something more electronic. They can be found by searching the net, but from the same application, or so it should be (it is in the Flatpak version), you can download a good number of them. From the Drumkits / Import online menu, we just have to take a look and download something that interests us. I've tried one that played Death Metal, and yes, it has deeper kick drums and more timpani and so on.

And since I have mentioned Death Metal, where the double kick is used a lot, we go back a little, to the editing options, to mention something that seems important to me: "Res" is the resolution of the grid, or more specifically what amount of hits we can add. By default it is 8, but if we want to make a good double bass drum, we may be interested in choosing 16 or even 32. We can also change the size of the pattern, so that there are 5 instead of 4, for example (the 5 that is by default there are 4 actually), and change the view of the input, in case we have a midi keyboard and want to use it to record the hits.

Hydrogen allows export to .mid, .wav and Lilypond

It is also interesting that Hydrogen allows to export projects to Midi, so we can use them in any compatible software, audio, in different formats but not MP3, and LilyPond, a tool for creating scores. I would prefer the .wav to be mixed in other software or in .mid if I want to be able to edit it, but the choice is up to each one.

I'm not going to lie to you: I for the drums, if I want the best sounds, I will use the Alesis SR18 and for something a little less good I will use the GarageBand of the iPad, because it is simple and that is tactile also adds, but, for example, the Apple software doesn't export to .mid if you don't use other paid software, and programming the Alesis does its job. The good thing about Hydrogen for me is that it is multi platform, which means that I can also share it with friends, and it does export to .mid. Each software has its strengths, and for those with only one PC, Hydrogen is worth it.

Installation on Linux

As explained on their official website, no packages are offered for Linux due to the large number of installation managers and systems out there, and they recommend us to open the software center and do a search to see if the package is there. Most likely it is, and there is a repository for Ubuntu / Debian (here! the information) from which the app will be updated first. Another option is to install the flatpak package or, on Arch Linux-based systems, install the AUR version.


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