Alan Rodriguez
Product Design
Front-end Development

Emergent Drums

Generate countless drum samples using AI
Started by a good friend of mine, Berkeley Malagon, Emergents Drums is a music production plugin that can generate endless drum samples, all royalty-free. I joined him early in the project, and together with a small, rag-tag team, we developed the idea from an early alpha only available in the browser, all the way to launching a fully-loaded VST3 plugin. I designed nearly everything from the brand, website, and plugin. I worked closely with JUCE developers and our growing Discord community to refine and shape the plugin experience. Berkeley and I also built and maintain the website using NextJS and a custom backend and inference server.

Skateboard 🛹

When I joined Berekely on Audialab, he had just finished an early version of an inference server that could generate any drum sample. As impressive as it was, he needed an interface to make it accessible to everyone. I started with a simple interface with just a single pad with volume and reverb controls, and a similarity slider, which would adjust how close to the last sample the next generated sample would be.
We needed test users, so we tapped into as many music production communities as we could, leveraging the increasing hype around AI at the time. We gathered them all into a Discord server and sent a link to the prototype. There was so much feedback and feature requests, we had to create a Trello board to keep track of them all.
We didn't know it at the time, but this rapid prototyping and feedback loop would be the foundation of our development process. We often refer to this first version as the skateboard, as it was just enough to get us moving. This quick iteration and feedack loop allows us to stay agile and make choices quickly. The consistent communication and transaprency with the community has helped us build a loyal following, and a product that is truly community-driven.
Skateboard 🛹Skateboard 🛹

Scooter 🛴

We got lots of incredible feedback from the community, and we were able to prioritize and implement a lot of it. We added more pads, generation history for each pad, keyboard shortcuts for auditioning the sounds together, and a way to download all of the samples at once.
This scooter version was a huge hit with the community, and we started to see a lot of people using it in their music. We also started to see a lot of people asking for a way to use it in their DAWs, so we knew the next step was to make our first VST.
Scooter 🛴

Is it a sequencer?

My first thought was to design a sequencer. I love sequencers, and it's how I've always mad drumbeats. I researched all of the popular sequencers, and started sketching and iterating. There were so many controls and features to think about, and I started to wonder if this was the right direction.
I decied to share these thoughts and sketches early with the community, even though I felt a bit vulnerable about sharing early work. This turned out to be a great decision as it was very clear that they already have sequencers they've invested in and enjoy using. They did not want another one. They wanted something that could generate unique sounds, and they wanted it to be simple and easy to use.
Is it a sequencer?Is it a sequencer?Is it a sequencer?

No, it's a drum machine

I went back to the drawing board, and started to think about what a simple drum machine would look like. I started with a simple 4x4 grid, with each pad representing a different sound. With the complex sequencer features removed, I was able to focus on the core features--sample generation and sound shaping controls.
As I iterated, I started to also hone in on the color palette and typograpy, going for a minimal look with a smart use of colors to help users quickly identify the different pads and controls.
No, it's a drum machineNo, it's a drum machineNo, it's a drum machine

A real plugin

We worked with a talented JUCE developer to bring Emergent Drums to life. Of course, we frequently shared updates with the community, so we could quickly address any glaring issues with our first real plugin.
One of the most vital pieces of feedback we received was the need for a compact view, so users could quickly generate samples without taking up too much screen real estate, especially on laptop screens. I went back into Figma and designed a compact view, which we were able to implement and ship in a matter of days.
A real pluginA real plugin

Website & beyond

Now that we had our first product, we needed a website. Emergent Drums was our first product, but it's also one of our flagship product. So I created a product-focused homepage, with clear hierarchy and a minimal, dark-themed layout to match the plugin.
After designing, I built the site using NextJS, complete with Stripe integration, parallax scrolling effects, and connections to the backend to handle user accounts and downloads. I also worked with Berkeley to write all of the content, and create a marketing plan.
Since the launch, we've built a small team, grown the community, and have shipped new products, including Emergent Drums 2, which includes a new AI model called Creamy and Deep Sampling technology, which allows users to generate samples from their own library.
Website & beyondWebsite & beyondWebsite & beyondWebsite & beyond