"Tremendously useful but highly unstable"
Version: eTrigger 0.521
When combined with a "virtual midi cable" program like LoopBe1, eTrigger really does absolutely everything I wanted between my DIY drum kit and my sample software (XLN's Addictive Drums). It:
* Let's me combine multiple input sources into a single MIDI input. I have two drum brains and my DAW forces me then to choose "ALL INPUTS" in order to receive my whole kit, but this means nobody can play the midi piano at the same time I'm drumming or the piano goes to the drum samples. eTrigger and LoopBe1 solve this.
* Allows me to change the mapping of the MIDI notes from my drum brains to my sample software, which allows me to use Addictive Drums' default map instead of making a custom one in AD itself.
* Automatically varies velocity to reduce "machine gun" effect.
* Allows a single incoming MIDI note to randomly trigger any of a pool of designated notes as output (further reducing the machine gun effect and sounding -- especially on HiHat -- more like a real drum).
* Much, MUCH more!
Only one con with this software: it's VERY unstable. I'm on Windows 7 64-bit, and I do run several dual trigger pads. I've read those cause the program more trouble than single triggers. Here are problems I (and others, based on the forum) have encountered:
* Can't SAVE, must SAVE AS. Every tweak requires a SAVE AS a new file name; simply hitting SAVE often corrupts the saved file, destroying your work to that point.
* Crashes while editing, crashes while playing, crashes when you sit and look at it. Version 0.521 seems to crash whenever it feels like it, and it feels like it about every five minutes. That requires a lot of saving your work, which couples with the SAVE AS bug to be even more frustrating.
* Occasionally decides to ignore input from dual-trigger pads. Every so often, a cymbal will just stop sounding. The software sees it, because clicking LEARN captures the incoming note. But the meters do not react and no sound issues. This requires me to delete and rebuild that track.
The software currently retails for $79 for a full version, and I'd pay twice that if it worked as advertised all the time. It's absolutely brilliant in the number of problems it solves elegantly for drummers trying to build our own kit or trying to work around the shortcomings of a cheap kit (and God help us for attempting either). It starts by offering solutions to the two biggest downfalls of less-expensive electronic kits: paltry velocity curves that allow too much "machine gun" effect, and HiHats that are limited to open/closed.
eTrigger solves the former with a simple, adjustable automatic setting that forces the software to vary the velocity of any hit that follows a hit of the same input velocity. The user sets the time (in milliseconds) that must elapse before two back-to-back notes are allowed to have the same velocity. Never mind if that's confusing; it works and it is transparent to you the user and injects no perceptible lag into the system.
eTrigger solves the cheap HiHat problem by allowing multiple different ways to trigger different sounds (send different midi notes) even if the input midi note is the same. For instance, with your open/closed-only pedal in the closed position, striking your hat will always send the same midi note (e.g., note 42). But you can tell eTrigger to change that note on output based on velocity, or to do it randomly, or in a set sequence, or even via midi CC if your kit has that capability. So, effectively you are playing your hat closed as normal and sending 42-42-42-42-42-42 but eTrigger is sending 42-50-51-53-52-50-42, etc. where each of those notes is a slight variation of "open" and perhaps different types of strikes (tip, bell, shank, etc). So, suddenly, your very mechanical cheap hihat sounds very, VERY real and expressive and natural. You can do the same thing with your ride or snare -- any instrument where you are likely to play lots of notes in rapid succession (retriggers) and therefore encounter the less-than-natural machine gun effect. I tell you, it works so well that this feature alone would be worth the $79 if eTrigger would just keep running without crashing constantly.
But the above only scratches the surface of what eTrigger does. It also allows you to tweak your velocity curves to an overwhelming level of detail, allows you to remap your entire kit, allows you to take input from multiple sources (e.g., your Roland TD-6, your Alesis Trigger IO, a percussion controller like Alesis Performance Pad, etc.) and map the notes to your sample software all via eTrigger. This allows you to add as many drum pieces as your sample software has MIDI notes. Want four toms, three crashes (with choke), ride, tambourine, cowbell, handclaps, stick clicks, conga, etc, etc, etc? Add as many brains as you want, set the tracks up in eTrigger and route them via LoopBe1 (free separate download from nerds.de) to your software (BFD2, Toontrack, Addictive Drums, SampleTank, etc) and you have a huge, huge kit.
Even what I've written here so far only captures the major things that eTrigger does. It really allows a level of tweaking, smoothing, note randomization, etc. that is truly remarkable and potentially very powerful.
But alas, it crashes constantly. It crashes while you're building and defining your kit. It crashes while you're editing the tracks. It crashes while you're playing your drums. It crashes while you're RECORDING yourself playing your drums, which is a real groove kill. It drops sync on kit pieces suddenly and seemingly at random. Cymbal 1 suddenly makes no sound. Delete the track, remap it, changing the midi note being sent from your kit to eTrigger. Voila, Cymbal 1 is back. Play for awhile and Cymbal 2 disappears. Same drill. A few minutes later, Cymbal 1 is gone again. Frustrating doesn't begin to sum it up. It is, in fact, a deal breaker. For as many problems as eTrigger solves and as brilliantly as it goes about solving them, at the end of the day, it just crashes too much and has too many show-stopping, quirky bugs as detailed in this summary and the CONS section above.
To be fair, eTrigger seems to be the work of a lone programmer, called Aquawicket. He used to release new versions regularly and frequently post on the eTrigger forums, but lately he seems to have gone quiet. I'm guessing -- and it really is nothing more than a guess -- that the law of diminishing returns just finally took its toll on him. What probably started as a labor of love probably turned into a lot more labor than love. So, the latest version as of this writing is about 18 months old and still unstable, and the forum is pretty quiet other than the occasional bug post by someone who downloaded the demo.
Now, I could be wrong. Aqua might be lying low because he's diligently working on an update that will solve everybody's problems and if he is, then when that update releases, I'm going to pay retail for this software without blinking. Until then, I can only advise you to download the 30-day free trial and see if you encounter the same stability issues. If you don't, then you are home free and are likely going to be blown away by how tremendously useful eTrigger is. If it has as many problems on your rig as it does on mine, though, I think like me you'll let your demo expire and make a note to keep checking for an update. It's so close to perfect right now, I really hope such an update comes out.
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