Drum Machines and Samplers: Rhythm at Your Fingertips
Drum machines have matured immensely in the last 100 years. Back in the early 1930's, D-Rail invented the Rhythmicon - a large, gangly forerunner of today's drum machines. Fast forward to 1980, when the Linn LM-1 burst onto the scene as the first drum machine to use digitally sampled sounds - attracting acts like Prince and Devo. The Linn LM-1 would ultimately be overshadowed by Roland's TR-808, also released in 1980. The analog TR-808 (and later TR-909) have continued to shape electronic, hip-hop, house, R&B, and other genres - see Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and Kanye West's 808's and Heartbreak. While drum machines were originally conceived to fill in when live drums and drummers weren't available, they've revealed avenues of creativity all their own.
With breakthroughs in MIDI, software, etc., today's drum machines are more capable and affordable than ever. The phrase, drum machine, refers to an electronic instrument that has a) built-in sequencing, and b) an onboard controller used for playing beats, grooves, or rhythmic compositions. Drum machines are often played, or controlled, via touch-sensitive pads. Drum machines typically come with plenty of built-in drum sounds, and the ability to modulate and shape these tones; many units also have bass and synth tones. Built-in sequencers allow users to program up to sixteen instruments simultaneously for complex beats and compositions. Several inputs and outputs, MIDI support, and onboard effects come standard.
Today's Variety of Drum Machines
Sweetwater carries a host of different drum machines, each with their own special features and advantages. The Alesis SR-16 is a powerful, yet affordable place to start: it has 233 included sounds, twelve playable pads, and two footswitch jacks. While the SR-16 is digital, the Korg Volca is analog; it boasts a 16-step sequencer, Sync I/O, and a unique stutter effect built-in. Better yet, it weighs less than a pound, so players can carry it anywhere. The Roland AIRA TR-8 combines the signature sound capabilities of both the 808 and 909 drum machines, plus additional new features. On the other hand, the Elektron Machinedrum SPS-1 UW MKII has a 64-step sequencer, and onboard 12-bit sampling.
Drum Machines vs. Drum Modules
It might be useful to briefly differentiate between drum machines and drum modules. Drum modules are sound modules which specialize in percussive sounds - but without a built-in sequencer, they're not technically drum machines. Drum modules also lack built-in triggers; they can't be played in their standalone form, and must be connected to some external playable controller or interface. Most of the time, drum modules act as the "brain" of electronic drum kits; they generate sounds triggered by external pads.
If a module sounds more like what you're looking for, Sweetwater carries a huge selection of drum modules too. Check out the Roland TM-2 Trigger Module, or the Nord Drum 2 Electronic Drum Module. The Pearl r.e.d.box Sound Module is another powerful model, with 1000 onboard drum sounds. From drum machines and samplers to e-drum modules - Sweetwater has them, and our Sales Engineers are happy to help you find your groove. These machines have something for musicians of every genre, and every budget.
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.