A nifty little collection of tambourines, shakers, and claps, with the potential to really shake up your tracks – could that be something? Of course it could! Read on to see what we think of UJAMs latest conception in our GrooveMate One review.
What’s the deal with UJAM?
Those who have been around for quite some time might recall the Band-in-a-Box software package, which auto-accompanied performers in the early days of electronic music production.
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake the UJAM products as an extension of this auto-accompanying concept. What their product lines do, rather, is to give musicians a fast-track to a finished and professionally sounding piece of music whilst keeping creativity and flexibility with the user.
Under the hood, the products contain arrays of chained effects to further shape the sound of the plugins and keep them ready to be slammed on a variety of use cases.
This is truly an appetizing concept, especially for the bedroom producer who cannot always afford to record a pro musician or who may have very little time on his/her hands and just want to focus on the composition process.
As UJAM says: “our mission is to make music production faster, better, and easier.” And amazingly, when it comes to virtual instruments and to flavoring masters, this company seems to deliver over and over again.
Get into the groove, mate.
GrooveMate One is the first of a new UJAM product line, where not-so-expensive tools perform a rather specific task. In this case, it’s percussion in the form of claps, tambourines, and shakers.
There is very little to the plugin – no way to alter the onboard sounds, for example. Instead, its purpose is to embellish songs with some seasoning (tambourines on choruses come to mind).
Anyone could program some static tambourine samples and place them on a chorus, but the result would be not only unconvincing but often downright uninteresting. In contrast, with multiple samples randomly chosen between (“round-robin”), well-crafted rhythmic patterns, and slight deviations from the beat, the realism of the plugin is high.
Moreover, it truly gives fast results! Just dial in a preset, choose intensity, and off it goes.
The presets, in turn, are focused on pop music, but some other styles are included, such as bossa nova and sixties claps. I like the fact that some of the patterns are quite syncopated. Such patterns can work wonders on a song, so be sure to experiment with those and see if they are a good fit. For more ordinary pop-style patterns, it may be wise to bring up the swing/timing inaccuracy ratio for a more natural feel.
The output sound can be tweaked using the Mix knob, which, in typical UJAM style, combines compression, EQ, and more effects. To further differentiate between the presets and place them in their accurate setting, UJAM also added a few reverb types.
Of course, one could add such effects later separately in the effects chain. Still, the underpinning idea is that different presets come with different effect pre-configurations and to have these mixing decisions made fast and effortlessly.
Such a drag!
In summary, GrooveMate One offers presets, the mix knob, swing, and reverb – that’s about it. In truth, this is a concept with little flexibility. So if you’re like me, you may sometimes want to manipulate the grooves further. Luckily, this is easily accomplished: just drag the parts to a MIDI track and tweak them to your heart’s consent.
Surprisingly, one can even combine dragged MIDI parts with latch-mode playing to double up on the plugin’s output.
Like other UJAM virtual instruments, the plugin feeds on MIDI input. Therefore, the most straightforward use of GrooveMate One is to play it with a MIDI controller or a virtual keyboard in latch mode. This way, it keeps running, in tempo, as long as the song plays.
I’ve tried GrooveMate One on a somewhat cheesy pop song I wasn’t able to finish, as I found it lacked some sparkle during choruses. As this is the exact thing the plugin was meant for, I deducted this would be a great test case.
And boy, did GrooveMate One deliver! Though I placed it in the background, I could immediately feel the rising excitement. To put it this way: when I muted GrooveMate One, the song felt to be lacking some spice and that it’d better be unmuted again. To me, that’s evidence enough this is a keeper (especially given its low price tag).
A surprising shortcoming of the plugin is the inability to change the volume and panning of the individual instruments. The only way to change volumes (though defined as velocity) is to do so on the dragged MIDI tracks.
As sort of a workaround, GrooveMate One dedicates half its presets to single instruments (such as only tambourine), forcing the user to put several instances of the plugin on a song to control these things. However one does it, changing volume and panning is an unnecessarily cumbersome process, which to a small degree defeats the purpose of the entire concept.
To address this issue, I think it would be simple enough for UJAM to add volume and panning knobs for each instrument in a free update. I suggest the same for their coming GrooveMate products.
Another issue – also mentioned in the well-written manual, by the way – is that when dragged to a MIDI track, patterns will start on the second or third beat if they don’t contain any information on the first beat and need to be adjusted manually in the DAW.
I can’t say for sure, but I guess an easy fix would be to include an opening non-sounding note in such patterns, just to place something on the first beat of the bar. If possible, I hope UJAM fixes this as well, especially since this product line is all about efficiency.
GrooveMate One – Time For Applause
For the purpose described above, this plugin is worth a lot more than the asking price (19 euros/dollars). Well, I’d go even further: if you do any kind of music where it would be even thinkable to add tambourines, claps, or shakers to add some excitement, GrooveMate One will be a welcome addition to your toolset. I really can’t recommend it enough.
Until May 9th, GrooveMate One is priced half off, so just 9 euros/dollars if you hurry.
Well done, UJAM! It will be very, very interesting to see what the coming GrooveMate plugins will do.
More info: GrooveMate One (50% OFF until May 9th)
Ujam GrooveMate One Review
If you do any kind of music where it would be even thinkable to add tambourines, claps, or shakers to add some excitement, GrooveMate One will be a welcome addition to your toolset.