Drum machine sets the rhythm

The entire twentieth century, there have been significant changes in the acoustic space of musical art. With the development of industrial culture, society has plunged into a new acoustic atmosphere filled with urban and industrial noise. Urbanized sound atmosphere significantly enriched the traditional classic-romantic style, becoming an integral feature of urban culture. One of the means of expression of modern rhythms has become a drum machine.

drum machine

The development of sound recording technologies and electromusical instruments has had a significant impact on the formation of a new sound atmosphere. Now the composer had the opportunity of total control over the sound reality, carrying out the search for new, unusual sounds through the synthesis, combination and transformation of sound objects.

drum machine

What it is

The drum machine is an electronic programmable music device that allows you to emulate percussion instruments. Thanks to step-by-step programming, you can create and edit drum fragments (drum-loops) in any sequence, with a variety of timbre sounds, etc.In the built-in sequencer, you can arrange the necessary sound segments for a particular song or melody, that is, the machine can be replaced at the stage of recording or creating a composition of a live drummer.

virtual drum machine

Drum machines can be in the form of a separate device or emulated on a computer. It’s not that a virtual drum machine is better than a physical one. In order to build a high-quality virtual system, you will need to purchase a MIDI interface, a software sequencer, a sound source, and other elements to the computer itself.

Many models are equipped with "pads" - special keys that allow you to physically accompany the musicians. Both acoustic percussion and “robotic” unusual sounds are often integrated into the memory of the machine.

The history of the drum machine

The development of electromusical instruments significantly influenced musical culture. Popular among the artists of the 70s rock music industry (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rick Wakeman, ELO, Pink Floyd) electronic musical instruments contributed to the renewal of the timbre palette and the integration of two worlds - synthetic and natural sounds.

Kraftwerk group

The appearance on the rock scene of the German bands Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk actually marked the beginning of a non-academic electronicmusic, where most traditional instruments were supplanted by synthesizers. However, the most widespread use of sound synthesis technologies is observed precisely in the field of dance electronic music. It was a stimulus for engineering creativity and experiments with the technology of extracting and transmitting sounds. Owing to these processes, the first drum machine Linn LM-1 with digital samples appeared. It was designed by Roger Lynn. The LM-1 went on sale in 1979, but the model did not become popular due to the overpriced price ($ 4,999).

Roland TR-808

Legendary drum machine Roland TR-808

In 1980, the company Roland releases the legendary drum machine TR-808. Unlike Linn LM-1, which used samples of "live" percussion instruments, the TR-808 was a synthesizer in the classical sense of the term with a pronounced "electronic" sound. TR-808 was initially positioned as a rhythm box for creating demo recordings - an inexpensive alternative to acoustic percussion instruments. Such a utilitarian, “casual” orientation played a significant role in promoting the TR-808 (as well as later TR-909) in the music industry.

Immediately after the release of TR-808 gained some popularity.The first team to use the drum machine was the Yellow Magic Orchestra (Japan) with the tracks “1000 Knives” and “Music Plans”. TR-808 can also be heard in the compositions of “Sexual Healing” by M. Gay, “Wherever I Lay My Hat” by P. Young, “Planet Rock” by Africa Bambat, “Confusion” New Order and in the works of other popular bands of the 80s.

Linn LM-1

Linn electronics

Gradually, the popularity of TR-808 faded away. Rival Linn Electronics has released more advanced drum machines (in particular, the LinnDrum model). They were characterized by an “imitation” approach to sound design both in the sphere of timbre and in the sphere of rhythm. The use of "live" samples and the "humanization" of the rhythm became the hallmark of Linn Electronics products. The sound of these devices can be heard in a considerable number of pop songs of the 80s: ABBA, M. Jackson, Prince, J.-M. Jarre, P. Gabriel, D. Gruzin and others.

Unexpected popularity

Compared to Linn Electronics products, the TR-808 sound seemed too unnatural, which led to a loss of popularity and production shutdown in 1984. The TR-808 became available in thrift stores at a discounted price. Chronologically, this coincided with the emergence of such styles of electronic music as house, electro and techno. The availability of the TR-808 and its special tonal characteristics led to a significant popularization of these styles.The characteristic recognizable sound of the TR-808 has become a landmark for electronic music, a determinant factor of its timbre identity. The appearance of the house style is associated with this device.

TR-808 was used by almost all musicians and producers in their compositions, many of which became classics. Over the 16 years of its existence, the TR-808 has been used more frequently than other models. Over the years, its sound went out of fashion, later it returned - and so on in a circle.

Sound quality

The TR-808 includes the following tools:

  • Bass Drum;
  • Toms;
  • Snare Drum;
  • Congas;
  • Claves;
  • Rimshot;
  • Handclap;
  • Maracas;
  • Cymbal;
  • Open Hi-Hat;
  • Cowbell;
  • Closed Hi-Hat.

The sound of most instruments was far from their natural counterparts, which was unusual for that time. While critics considered the timbres of the TR-808 unnatural (compared to, for example, the instruments of Linn Electronics), its futuristic sound seemed extremely relevant in the context of electronic music. In fact, the emergence of the TR-808 and subsequently the TR-909 (1983–85) became the basis for the approval of a new type of timbre - “synthetic drums”. They are still extremely popular in many styles of music, such as pop and rock, hip-hop, R & B, electronic dance music and many other directions.

Modern tendencies

A large number of modern software and hardware synthesizers of electronic drum instruments and sample libraries are built on the timbres of the virtual drum kit model proposed by Roland in the 80s in their products.

An interesting trend in modern studio practice is the convergence of the natural and synthetic timbres of percussion instruments. In many styles (rock, metal), a fairly common technique is triggering - replacing natural instruments (mainly a drum and bass drum) with previously recorded samples to achieve a more uniform and dense sound, which, thanks to repeated repetition of the same sample, eventually approaching the mechanistic beat of drum machines.

Experiments with sound

The possibilities of drum machines allow you to create unusual, fresh sounding compositions. A characteristic reception is the combination of acoustic timbres with a drum machine to provide traditional timbres with uncharacteristic tonal qualities. For example, the so-called acute attack.At the same time, the effect of “revitalizing” synthetic timbres is used, giving the sound more naturalness. So, in the composition “Take On Me” of the A-Ha group, we can observe the combination of the drum machine LinnDrum sounds with the “live” hi-hat and cymbals.

These simple music computers have become a symbol of the revolutionary changes of modern music. Originally intended to replace acoustic percussion instruments, drum machines became the driving force behind the development of most musical styles.

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