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Drum machine

Related: dance music - electronica - drum - machine - Roland


Drum machines are sequencers with a synthesizer and/or sampler component that is tailored to make the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments.

The original drum machines were referred to as rhythm machines because they only played preprogrammed rhythms such as mambo, tango, etc. Around 1980 the first user-programmable drum machines appeared, allowing musicians to create any rhythm they wanted. The Roland TR-808 was one of the first and most popular of the programmable drum machines and the sounds that are particular to that machine have become pop music clichés, heard on countless recordings. Early examples such as the TR-series used a method of synchronization called DIN-synch, or synch-24. Some of these machines also output analog voltages CV/Gate that could be used to synchronize or control analog synthesizers and other music equipment.

Drum machines are typically programmed by specifying which sixteenth notes of a bar a given drum will sound on. By stringing differently-programmed bars together, fills, breaks, rhythmic changes, and longer phrases can be created. Drum machine controls typically include Tempo, Start and Stop, volume control of individual sounds, keys to trigger individual drum sounds, and storage locations for a number of different rhythms. Most drum machines can also be controlled via MIDI.

Stand-alone drum machines had become less common by the year 2000, being partly supplanted by samplers, computer software-based sequencing with virtual drum machines, and workstation synthesizers that have drum sequencing built in. TR-808 and other digitized drum machine sounds can be found on archives on the Internet. However, drum machines are still being made by companies such as Roland Corporation (under the name Boss), Zoom, Korg and Alesis, whose SR16 drum machine has remained popular since the early 1990s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drummachine [Sept 2004]


By the time [the Roland 808] had really started to make its mark around 1987, it was almost a decade old and the cabaret pianists who had originally bought it had also forgotten about it. It’s sad to say that despite its quaint charms, the 808’s familiarity has bred contempt. Although it can be heard used in an almost inspirational manner on Rhythim Is Rhythim’s ‘It Is What It Is’ and it’s distinctive bass drum boom is still sworn by, it never really had the punch to power house like the TR 909.

Still, Marvin Gaye’s "Sexual Healing" is built around it and many mid-eighties soul records would be largely empty had it not been made available. Add to this the fact that, even now, you can’t make an electro record without sampling the endearingly crap cowbell sound, and it’s clear that the TR 808 will go down in rhythmic history. - John McCready via http://www.mccready.cwc.net/guide808.html

Japanese music machines

Much has been written about Kraftwerk being the originators of house. While this is a nice idea, the truth is far more complex. Due to the relatively cheap availability of drum machines and synthesisers from Japanese companies like Roland (the feted 808 and 909 drum machines both originated in Japan) something was bound to happen anyway. -- John McCready

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