It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a way to make jam sessions in the garage more enjoyable, if you’ve a complete sound studio at home, or if you just like banging on stuff, an electronic drum machine is a great investment piece for any percussionist.
We know you have a lot of questions about drum machines and we’re happy to answer them! So sit back, grab a drink and let’s start shedding some light on the mysterious drum machine.
What Is An Electronic Drum Machine?
As the name would imply, an electronic drum machine is an electronic device that was created to imitate the sounds made by drums and other percussion instruments. Unlike the instruments the machine is intended to sound like, a drum generator is just a box-like device that has a selection of knobs, buttons and keys on it.
What Can I Use A Drum Generator For?
The drum machine can be used in a wide variety of musical genres; however it is most commonly used for electronic genres. The drum machine is usually part of the foundation of the song, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t experiment!
With traditional musical genres like rock and roll, a drum machine will be used to get a clean sounding demo quickly and easily without actually setting up a complete drum kit.
The History Of The Drum Machine
In the early 1930s, Léon Theremin was contacted by a man named Henry Cowell to create an instrument that was capable of playing several rhythmic patterns at once that were too difficult to play on already existing instruments.
Theremin’s invention was called the Rhythmicon and while there was a quite a bit of interest in the device when it first came out, it was quickly forgotten for several decades until the introduction of the Chamberlin Rhythmate in 1957.
The Rhythmate allowed the player to create up to 14 tape loops of various drums sets and other percussion instruments playing different music. Unfortunately, this too didn’t gain popularity like the Rhythmicon.
The drum machine didn’t become a household hit until the mid-70s. The reason why the machine became so popular was because the device had more sounds built into the device, making it appealing for musicians who wanted to do something different with their music.
We previously mentioned that a drum machine is basically a box with dials and buttons, but it’s a little more involved than just that.
Pressure Sensitive Pads
There are pressure sensitive pads that you can strike with your finger tips to make different sounds. Each of those pads can be programmed with a different sound, thus allowing you to truly create a unique sound.
This means that you can tap out the drum beat with your fingers, but also throw in a car horn, a door slamming shut, or even a cow bell if that’s what you want.
The beauty of drum machines is that if you don’t know what kind of sounds you’d like to program into the device, you don’t have to! That’s because many drum machines that are worth their price will have a variety of pre-programmed sounds installed.
This means you can experiment with your sound as soon as you hook the unit up without having to program anything.
Programming And Editing
We touched lightly on being able to program sounds into a modern drum generator, but you also have the ability to mix those sounds in with the sounds that’ve already been programmed into the device.
Keep in mind that the higher-end drum machines will have a larger sound library than that of an inexpensive machine. If variety is important to you, you’re going pay for it.
Can A Drum Machine Sound Better Than Live Drumming?
In a world where a lot of the things we do is done electronically, it’s not surprising that many musicians and producers are using electronic drum machines to record music. But we have to wonder if the sound from a drum machine can be better than a real live drummer.
In all honesty, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Drum machines are great for certain genres of music and even recording sessions because you can get a great sound consistently every time its played. However, with an electronic drum machine, you’re not going to get the variety or “feel” that you get from listening to a live drummer.
This is because a drummer has the ability to change the way they play. They can change the volume, the intensity, and even the speed at a moment’s notice. Drum machines cannot give you that type of freedom or the same kind of intensity. The music a drum machine plays is pre-programmed and there isn’t much for change.
So in short, drum machines have their place in the music world, but it isn’t suitable for every situation.
Maybe calling a drum generator magical is a bit of a stretch, but when you actually stop to think about what that little box can do? You have to admit it is pretty impressive and it’s a great tool for musicians who want to try out a new sound.
If you’re thinking about spicing up your band’s sound or if you just want something to play around with to make cool sound effects or audio tracks for a video, a drum machine is a good option.
The question is, however, how serious do you want to get because you can find affordable machines under $150, or you can purchase professional grade equipment for several thousands of dollars.
Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts about drum machines and their place in the music world. We want to hear from you!