What Is a Drum Machine?

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What Is a Drum Machine?

The Program of Rhythm

The advent of the drum machine brought upon a new renaissance of synthesis, and these sounds continue to dominate or at least be present in nearly every genre streaming today. But what does a drum machine actually do?

Roland TR-909

A Synthesized Beat

The advent and use of the Roland TR-808, TR-909, and other drum machines freed artists from having to record physical drums. These analog machines mimicked percussive elements, such as kick, snare, hi-hat, and more through manipulation of analog sinewaves. The machines allowed you to program a tempo and rhythm in which a sequence would execute and trigger these sounds (hence the term "sequencer"). In this way, rhythm could be programmed, looped, and recorded, and it would quickly be adopted into a variety of genres.

Novation Circuit Rhythm

The Modern Way

While the vintage appeal of older analog drum machines exist, manufacturers have found new ways to reinvent the drum machine for the modern home producer. There are many digital emulations of analog circuitry, which seamlessly integrate with modern DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). Many machines are completely innovative, and are not modeled after vintage synths, but seek to modernize the workflow behind sequencing beats.

A Lasting Legacy

Drum synthesis is here to stay, and knowing its rich history while enjoying your favourite records will help you become a better producer. You may find that getting your hands on a tactile drum machine will help your workflow, inspire you, or drive a more authentic production experience. Experiment and explore the many different drum machines available, and see what works for you.

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