A machine that produces drum patterns with percussion to create music is called a drum machine. Users would be able to program beats and create music through analog synthesis. A performer may also use drum machines to perform live with the press of pads and buttons that enables the machine to sound as if it’s a real drum.
During the 20th century, drum machine made waves, and it’s popular in circular music production and live performances. In 1980, the Roland TR-808 was released, and it became the backbone of hip-hop, dance music, and most electronic music genres. Also, in 1980, the Linn LM-1 came into limelight, and it was the first drum machine to sound like a real drum. This machine is popular in rock and pop music as notable music artists like Michael Jackson adopted it. By the time the 1990s ends, the machines had been replaced by software versions, and this was a major turnaround as the music industry ditched the traditional drum machines.
History of Drum Machines
Al-Jazari, who was an Arab engineer, invented the first drum machine ever in a city in Artuqid Sultanate, now known as Turkey. The machine had pegs that collide with levers to produce sound, and the rhythm can be changed by changing the position of the pegs. Another drum machine, the Rhythmicon, was introduced in the year 1932 by Leon theremin. It had the ability to play sixteen patterns and rhythms, and it gives the musician the option of choosing the pitch they preferred. This machine, however, was very hard to play. The Chamberlin Rhythmate came into being in 1957; it was created by Harry Chamberlin, who was an Iowa engineer. There are 14 loops that users can choose from to produce different sounds and beats. All these machines listed are made for private uses with limited productions.
The first drum machine to be made for commercial use is the Wurlitzer Sideman in 1959. Another machine was later introduced, the Rhythm Synthesizer made by Raymond Scott. The inventor was also a musician, and he used the instrument to produce his album ‘Soothing Sounds’ in 1964. Also, in 1964, Seeburg/Gulbransen drum machines were made, and it became the first transistorized drum machine. Tsutomu Katoh, a Tokyo nightclub owner, uses a machine to play music in the club every night in the 1960s. Tadashi Osanai, who used to play the accordion, met with Osanai, and he persuaded him to start a company, Keio-Giken, and the company created the Donca-Matic DA-20. The machine had an inbuilt speaker to aid the sound produced. It was also known for its high price. Other drum machines evolved in the late 1960s till the early 1970s.
Programmable drum machines later became the norm in the early 1970s with the first machine, and the Eko Compute Rhythm was made in the year 1972. It lets users operate it by pressing on buttons on a row, and the machine would respond. Roland made an upgrade to this technology and produced a programmable machine that runs on microprocessors in 1978. the machine also had memory storage for saving patterns.
In 1980, the drum machine went digital. The Linn LM-1 was created to work digitally with features that surpassed the programmable machines. The use of this machine causes a reduction in the employment of drummers, and most of them started to learn how to operate drum machines.
One of the drum machines that changed the music industry is the Roland TR-808, which was a programmable machine. The significant feature it had that made it a sought-after machine is the ability to create rhythms. Users can make different rhythms without the use of patterns installed. The machine was adopted by most hip-hop and dance artists, including the electronic singers.
The TR-909 was later introduced, and it includes MIDI, making it easy for it to connect with different devices. Although the machine wasn’t successful commercially, it made an impact on the music industry, especially in techno and acid, as well as house music.
Each drum machine has its specific programming; some allow the user to create beats using pads and levers like the first drum machine in history. The levers and pads produce sound just as they collide, and the impression would resemble that of a drum been beaten. Along the line, more upgrades were made, and other features were added that made the drum machine work without pads. This involves users creating their preferred sounds and rhythms to correspond with the music. Most later programmed drum machines to have memory storage installed with which the programmer can store pre-made patterns and access it in the future. All patterns created can be saved with the sequence and beats. These machines had about 16 patterns with the ability to use the patterns to make different beats to suit different genres of music. Advanced machines made later came with MIDI for effective connection. This allows users to connect them with other MIDI-enabled devices.
When compared with live drumming, drum machines had been criticized by scientists, who stated that these machines are far from being perfect. A source stated that “…scientific studies show there are certain aspects of human-created rhythm that machines cannot replicate, or can only replicate poorly“, this implies that drum machines still have a long way to go in their quest of working like real human drums. Apart from this, human drummers can switch from rhythm to another in correspondence to the change in the music, but programmed machines are unable to do this. The ability to manipulate beat and put it in different sections of a song can only be done by humans. These make drum machines to be less efficient when it comes to comparing them with live drumming by humans.