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Brain: One Stroke Done | Recording Magazine

Reviewer: Justin Peacock Back to Brain: One Stroke Done product details

Loops are cool, inspirational and plentiful. But they're often inflexible, limiting your possibilities. You don't have control over variations, fills and mixing. But what if you had the loops as multitrack files? Now that would be cool. And what if you had not just loops, but entire songs with lots of variations, fills and ideas? That, too, would be sweet. Well, the Big Fish Audio title Brain: One Stroke Done does just that for $199.95.


One Stroke Done comes on two data DVDs, and is really compatible with any DAW; each performance includes a Pro Tools session and OMF file. If you're a Pro Tools user it's great because the session is set and lined up to the grid. DAWs that can import OMF files will also be loving life. Other users can simply import the 24-bit audio files to a common starting point. The 2-disc DVD set contains 36 different drum performances by Brian "Brain" Matia. Brain has performed with a huge number of popular touring rock acts, establishing himself as a solid, musical performer. Each performance is basically the drum track of a song, with intelligently crafted verses, choruses, bridges, etc. With all of these sections you can simply chop things up and edit (arrange) a song. Each performance file has the drum tracks in multitrack format. You get kick, snare, hat, stereo toms, stereo overheads and stereo room tracks. Stereo reference mixes are included in one folder so you can quickly browse and audition each performance without opening every session. Additionally, a variety of individual drum samples are included in a folder on the second DVD. It's worth mentioning that this title is also available in AIFF/Apple Loops/REX/WAV for $99.95 and in Submersible Music Drumcore format for $79.95.


Installation is simple: just copy the files to a hard drive! There is no copy protection. You might opt to just install the stereo reference tracks on your hard drive, only copying the full session files when necessary. The entire library, samples, and reference mixes requires 8.46 GB of disc space. There is not much documentation. The DVD insert contains a short description of each performance, its tempo and Brain's inspiration for the idea. The license language is quite simple and conventional. You are purchasing the right to use the library in a derivative work; Big Fish Audio owns the content and your license is non-transferable, so you can’t sell the DVDs.

In use

I don't use loops all that often. It's usually too time-consuming to sort through multiple libraries and thousands of loops to find something that really works. But One Stroke Done is a very different subject. Immediately after getting this library for review, I listened to the stereo reference tracks with my writing/producer partner Dave Hedin. The track called "Sorry" had a great 6/8 vibe that we were immediately drawn to. Usually when we write, one of us will bring in a chord progression, a hook or even an entire tune, and we'll get to work on it. Writing from the One Stroke Done library provided a new and really cool opportunity to try a different creative process. I copied the file to a work drive, opened it up in Pro Tools (the files are from Pro Tools 5.1, so almost any current system will be compatible) and created a new Session. As ideas developed I was able to quickly grab verse and chorus sections, copy, paste and move things around in grid mode. Using Beat Detective and tick-based tracks, I quickly changed the tempo of the original tracks and we were off to the races. The sound quality of the recordings is excellent. Every performance has the same basic drum sound, which I would describe as open, roomy, crispy and sustained. This is not a tight, punchy drum sound. It's a little more Bonham-eque in character. I played around with mixing these tracks quite a bit. While the original sounds are light on processing (a good thing!), the recordings are pretty roomy sounding. I like this, just not on everything. To get a tighter pop/rock tone I had to use some compression and expander/gates to dry things out. I had some good success, however the overheads always had the room tone present. The room mics sounded really great, but I rarely wanted to use them since there was so much room sound in most of the other mics. In addition, the usual drum miking/mixing issues are present. There's a lot of high hat bleed in the snare track; the kick drum has a lot of snare bleed and room tone; the toms are always ringing and would need to be edited/gated for a tighter overall sound.


No one has released a drum library like this, so One Stroke Done is the first of its kind. This is really quite surprising as it's such a unique and most importantly musical tool, much more flexible than the endless loop libraries on the market. While I really doubt you'll find a track here that will work with a song you have already written, it's a cool way to write, using rhythm as your ispiration. So is it worth the dough? Absolutely. The playing is great and the parts are thoughtful. I would suggest listening to the demos at to get an idea of the performances. If you like the demos I think you'll be happy to own the library. My only reservations about the drum sounds really have more to do with taste than anything else. With some good mixing, and possibly some creative sample triggering, you'll get the sounds you want and have some great new song ideas along the way.

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