Soon, music features could arrive the same way episodes do in Netflix. Since unveiling its “Membership Program” at the beginning of the year, Cakewalk has been putting out free monthly updates for its members. And now there’s one that’s pretty newsworthy.

We are spoiled for choice when it comes to powerful music tools, but getting features baked into a DAW offers some additional convenience and integration – and, let’s face it, you might wind up using a tool that you otherwise wouldn’t buy on its own.

“Everett” (sharing a name with the make of piano I had growing up) released this week adds a new Drum Replacer if you have SONAR Platinum and a membership. It’s the first time I can think of a Drum Replacer showing up in a DAW.

And that’s a big deal I think to anyone recording drums or producing. It offers some unique options even if you’re just producing ‘in the box’. The folks at Cakewalk have put together some nice suggestions in a video playlist. Possibilities:

1. Layer samples.
2. Use your own samples.
3. Extract hits.
4. Convert audio to MIDI.
5. Create percussion from a melody.

In fact, apart from tuning percussion or getting creative with drum recordings, you can view this as a powerful remix tool or means of generating new ideas. Its laser focus on beat detection, and the dedicated interface that go with it, can be more precise and easier to approach than the related slicing / transient detection / groove extraction features in Ableton Live. (I see on the forums from 2011 a nice set of tips on how to replicate this functionality. The approach is different, but you can get some similar results.)

And with all due respect to Apple, I think this sort of update is a hell of a lot more useful than things like the weird and gimmicky automatic drum generation feature “Drummer” in Logic Pro. I’d really like to see more features on the production side – as Logic 9 did with its own drum replacement, and this year’s update did with MIDI editing functionality. Cupertino is also on a regular update cycle, though not monthly – I’m definitely hoping they do keep the production/pro tools coming.

Since you need Windows to run SONAR, here’s what drum replacement looks like in Logic.

And if you want a dedicated tool for any DAW, Drumagog certainly leads the pack. Nicely enough, you can get a basic version starting at $99, and it supports Mac and Windows back to OS X 10.4.11 and Windows XP (rare these days). It remains the standards bearer, though of course integrated functionality “for free” is always nice.


Cakewalk has put some other nifty extras into its membership program, but this is by far the most interesting. The other software from them to watch is undoubtedly Rapture, which has gotten a major overhaul and remains one of the more compelling soft synths out there, one I think is sorely unsung. It’s nice to see the Rapture Kick Start Expansion Pack, which focuses on finding the kick you want. (Yep, from techno to EDM, the dance market just keeps growing – and whether it’s four on the floor or not, you’ll want, um, something on the floor, probably.)

And I think this monthly update cadence is one to watch. Don’t be surprised if other DAWs pick up the idea and run with it.

What’s New in Cakewalk SONAR