14 Best Drum Apps for Musicians (Do You Have Special Students With Limitations? Read This!)

The possibilities are endless so let’s not limit ourselves or our students!

(Some of these apps are currently on sale so I have underlined those prices – if these apps grab your attention you will want to act fast to get that price!)

Todays technology give us so many more options for ourselves and our students. When was the last time you sent home a drum set with one of your students? When was the last time your students lit up with excitement when they heard music that was performed by them but you and that student know there is no way that could ever have happened on a traditional instrument? I am not just talking about students with physical and mental limitations either but this is the scenario that inspired me to write this blog post. I have several students who REALLY love performing but when one is limited to a wheelchair it puts a damper on their dream of playing drum set.

What can we give to our students to heighten their involvement, to increase their level of music creation and to give them a greater sense of accomplishment? The majority of us are of course looking for ways to perform music live with our students but we should not limit our search to just that realm. We need to open doors for possibilities allowing students to create/compose/manipulate music outside of live performance as well.

Apps To Just Play –

These apps can all be used by ANYONE to play drums with… and in some cases do a whole lot more than “just play drums”! This first batch of apps can all be easily integrated into any ensembles performance by simply plugging the iPad/iPhone into an amp via the headphone jack and a simple cable. These apps greatly expand the options for students with limited mobility or capabilities.

GarageBand small iconGarageBand by Apple ($4.99 or free) An app to get!

Apple was genius when it created GarageBand opening recording and creation to an entire world of people! GarageBand gives you so much more than just a drum set you get keyboards, guitars, bass guitars and even strings along with the ability to record audio! All of these instruments feature Apples “smart” instrument playing which allows ANYONE to create some very interesting music easily even from that touch screen. Even if the person has a limited skill set or capabilities.

DrumJamDrumJam by Sonosaurus ($7.99) An app to get!

An exciting and powerful tool, opening up the world of rhythm in a completely hands-on and inspiring way. DrumJam gives you patterns to play along with that are quickly and easily created by dragging percussion instruments onto a grid that determines the frequency and volume that they are played with. Or you could just tap the dice and have DrumJam instantly create a new pattern from the selected drum kit. THEN the fun continues when you play along on the pads that have been specifically designed by a percussionist. These pads give you amazing control and produce some inspiring jams that are not possible on just a simple drum machine drum pad.

DrumJam is an app you can PLAY! DrumJam is an app you are going to WANT to play because it is so much stinking fun!

DrumKick Small IconDrumKick by Mark Jeschke (Currently on sale for $0.99) An app to get!

DrumKick is the ultimate live performance drum app on-the-go! It gives you the freedom to play a great-sounding, intuitively laid-out drum kit anywhere—without the hassle of lugging your entire acoustic set to the show. Simply plug into a P.A. system, headphones, a boombox, or an amplifier, and you’re ready to rock!

– Connect to your Bluetooth-enabled laptop or device with MIDI over Bluetooth which then allows you to do the next little trick…

DrumKick is the only stereo drum app that allows you to play the kick drum with your foot!

With DrumKick installed on two iOS devices, such as an iPad and an iPhone, you can use the iPhone as a Bluetooth remote to play the kick drum with your foot! It also works with two iPhones or iPod touches. Or, you can mix and match.

Give one student the kick drum iPhone and have two kids working together to perform a drum set part! Team building skills, a greater sense of community along with a great deal of fun will ensue!

Drums!Drums! A Studio Quality Drum Kit In Your Pocket by Cinnamon Kelly Ltd. ($0.99) –

  • – Three amazing drum kits that come as standard.  (Two other kits via In App Purchase)
  • – Play along to songs in your music library using the built in music player.
  • – Record and Share (IAP) your drumming either alone or along to music. Choose from either your music library or a previously recorded track .
  • – Left and right handed drum layouts.
  • – Play with either a single or double kick drum setup.
  • – Switch out the second kick drum for either
    • a cowbell (IAP)
    • tambourine (IAP) or
    • wood block. (In App Purchase).

Real DrumReal Drum by Rodrigo Kolb (Free) –  You do not need to know drumming with Real Drum. The app comes with 60 lessons rhythms with tutorial for you to learn to play. It also comes with 24 songs to play along, and still allows you to track songs live. For example, you can play a song from your library and accompany it on drums.


Apps That Offer More (but probably not for live playing with a group) –

These apps are not great apps for students to perform with although it could be done. These apps do give you access to an entire new world of music that is easily created and manipulated by anyone! These apps are easy to figure out and are some of the same apps professionals are using to create studio recordings all over the world.

ImpaktorImpaktor by BeepStreet (Currently on a 60% sale for $6.99) An app to get!

Impaktor is without doubt one of the most fun drum apps out there. It is a semi-modular drum synth app that can convert you finger drumming (or any rhythmic audio) into a drum line via the device’s built-in mic – which is undeniably cool.

This would be an amazing app to perform live with but as it responds to all sound coming into the microphone the possibilities are limited in a live setting.

iMaschineiMaschine 1 by Native Instruments ($4.99) –

iMaschine puts professional groove production in the palm of your hand. “The subway just got way more fun.” (GIZMO) – “A brillliantly designed little app, far more flexible than beatboxes and more than the sketchpad it is billed as.

Create a beat on 16 pads. Add a melody with the keyboard. Spice up your track with a field recording or lay down vocals, and even sample directly from iTunes.

iMaschine 2iMaschine 2  by Native Instruments (currently on sale for $4.99)

Make, Arrange and Share.

  • – Use 16 pads for real-time drum sequencing on your iOS device
  • – Quickly create beats without finger drumming using Step Mode
  • – Use the Arranger to structure your track by adding, moving, and deleting different patterns on the fly
  • – Play always-in-key melodies and basslines by combining Chord, Scale, and Arpeggiator features with the Smart Play keyboard
  • – Use Note Repeat in Keyboard and Drum Pad Modes to create rolls, fills, and fast note attacks with note ranges from 1/4 notes to 1/32 notes
  • – Better organize your sounds using multi-colored pads and groups

This YouTube video gives you a real sense of what can be accomplished here in the iMaschine apps – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyRBSn6CU0M

Patterning Large IconPatterning by Olympia Noise Co. (currently on sale for $7.99)– An app to get!

App Store best of 2015 Runner Up  for App of the Year!

As beautiful as it is powerful, Patterning is an amazingly simple app to figure out quickly by anyone! Yet it is also a deep and flexible drum machine unlike any you’ve encountered before. With its elegant circular interface, Patterning transforms the iPad into a seriously inspiring tool for making beats.

Create dynamic drum patterns with the swipe of a finger. Make evolving, poly-metric rhythms, four-on-the-floor dance party jams, or laid back R&B grooves. Use Patterning’s independent loop settings to explore untapped rhythmic possibilities. Automate parameters to create intricate & complex beats. Arrange patterns on the timeline to construct songs. Use the built-in effects–delay, reverb, distortion, and 3-band EQ–to add atmosphere, shimmer and noise. Connect to other apps with Audiobus, Inter-App Audio, and MIDI.

Patterning supports Ableton Link (making it easy to perform with other people on other apps LIVE!)

iMPC Pro Small IconiMPC Pro by Akai Professional ($12.99) –

iMPC Pro is a 64-track music production powerhouse for your iPad. With built-in sampling functionality, a massive sound library, effects, and over 30 performance-driven features. This is for sure one of those apps that COULD be used in a live performance!

Advanced features lets the user go as deep as they want to go though with features like Loop Slicing & Time Stretching! “Slice Loop” lets you mark the beats in your samples and automatically match phrases and loops to Sequence tempo. Change pitch & play 16 Levels without affecting playback tempo.

This app has a bunch of YouTube videos online that demo the capabilities possible within the app.

iMPC Pro supports Ableton Link (making it easy to perform with other people on other apps LIVE!)

Session Band DrumsSession Band Drums  by UK Music Apps Ltd. (Currently on sale for $2)

– Create stunning drum tracks for any song in minutes with SessionBand – the world’s only chord-based audio loop app.

Containing over 800 precision-cut, 5 channel drum loops played by Ralph Salmins – one of the world’s top drummers, SessionBand Drums – Volume 1 is the fastest way to create studio quality drum tracks – wherever you are and whatever your ability.

Elastic Drums LargeElastic Drums by Mouse on Mars ($6.99) –

Offers six channels of synthesized drum sounds, a step sequencer and four FX channels. It’s highly tweakable, and produce sounds ranging from those you’d associate with a classic beatbox to truly ‘out there’ and original tones.

Elastic Drums supports Ableton Link (making it easy to perform with other people on other apps LIVE!)

DM1DM1 by Fingerlab ($6.99) –

DM1 is an advanced vintage Drum Machine. It turns your iPad into a fun and creative beat making machine.
Easy and fast to use, loaded with 99 superb electronic drum kits and beautiful hyper-realistic graphics, DM1 has been designed for a lot of instant fun.

Praxis Beats Drum MachinePraxis Beats Drum Machine (Currently on sale for $9.99) – If you are into creating all sorts of stuttering, glitchy beats with some manic rolls, then this is exactly what Praxis Beats is designed for. So, if you are using the ‘2 steps’ setting, and place a hihat hit, what you actually get within the time allocated to that single grid square is 2 hihat hits. Equally, use the ‘4 steps’ option with the snare and you get a short 4-hit snare roll….   or go bonkers and use the 16 step option all over the place and gets some really mad glitchy, buzzing sounds.

The reason I included Praxis in this list is the ability to control the beat with individual parameters down to 128th notes in a simple, intuitive interface. Instantly program complex loops with maximum precision.

  • Beat Automations –  Tap the ‘triangle icon’ (step automation) button (next to the ‘1 step’ button) and, when you then tap on an existing hit within the grid, the volume, panning and speed automation panel appears. Tapping the XY pad icon button opens a further pop-up panel that presents you with two XY pads and a set of effects options that you can assign to the X or Y axis of each pad. There are three basic filter options, delay, reverb, distortion, speed, volume and pan options to pick from

In Conclusion

It doesn’t matter our capabilities, our physical motor skills, our experience, or our training… there are a ton of apps out there that allow for some amazing performances on drums! Technology can help level out the possibilities for anyone by giving us access to tools and techniques that using traditional instruments would never be possible! Apps open the sonic palette of tones available at our fingertips. Apps give anyone the chance to create and share music that rivals music created in a professional recording studio by professional musicians with years of training and experience.

The new technologies coming out like Bluetooth MIDI and Ableton Link are opening even more doors for all of us! I will write more about these possibilities soon.


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