Drum machine

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A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument that creates percussion. Drum machines may imitate drum kits or other percussion instruments, or produce unique sounds. Most modern drum machines allow users to program their own rhythms. Drum machines may create sounds using analog synthesis or play prerecorded samples.

Electronic musical instrument musical instrument that produces its sounds using electronics

An electronic musical instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound using electronic circuitry. Such an instrument sounds by outputting an electrical, electronic or digital audio signal that ultimately is plugged into a power amplifier which drives a loudspeaker, creating the sound heard by the performer and listener.

Drum kit collection of drums and other percussion instruments

A drum kit — also called a drum set, trap set, or simply drums — is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments, typically cymbals, which are set up on stands to be played by a single player, with drumsticks held in both hands, and the feet operating pedals that control the hi-hat cymbal and the beater for the bass drum. A drum kit consists of a mix of drums and idiophones – most significantly cymbals, but can also include the woodblock and cowbell. In the 2000s, some kits also include electronic instruments. Also, both hybrid and entirely electronic kits are used.

Percussion instrument Type of musical instrument that produces a sound by being hit

A percussion instrument is a musical instrument that is sounded by being struck or scraped by a beater including attached or enclosed beaters or rattles struck, scraped or rubbed by hand or struck against another similar instrument. The percussion family is believed to include the oldest musical instruments, following the human voice.


Drum machines have had a lasting impact on popular music. The Roland TR-808, introduced in 1980, significantly influenced the development of dance music and hip hop. Its successor, the TR-909, introduced in 1983, heavily influenced techno and house. The first drum machine to use samples of real drum kits, the Linn LM-1, was introduced in 1980 and adopted by rock and pop artists including Prince and Michael Jackson. In the late 1990s, software emulations began to overtake the popularity of physical drum machines.

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

Roland TR-808 Drum machine

The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, commonly known as the 808, is a drum machine manufactured by the Roland Corporation between 1980 and 1983. It was one of the first drum machines to allow users to program rhythms instead of using preset patterns. Unlike its nearest competitor at the time, the more expensive Linn LM-1, the 808 generates sounds using analog synthesis rather than playing samples.

Hip hop music music genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping

Hip hop music, also called hip-hop or rap music, is a genre of popular music developed in the United States by inner-city African Americans and Latino Americans in the Bronx borough of New York City in the 1970s. It consists of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted. It developed as part of hip hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing/rapping, DJing/scratching with turntables, break dancing, and graffiti writing. Other elements include sampling beats or bass lines from records, and rhythmic beatboxing. While often used to refer solely to rapping, "hip hop" more properly denotes the practice of the entire subculture. The term hip hop music is sometimes used synonymously with the term rap music, though rapping is not a required component of hip hop music; the genre may also incorporate other elements of hip hop culture, including DJing, turntablism, scratching, beatboxing, and instrumental tracks.


Early drum machines

The first programmable drum machine was invented by Al-Jazari, an Arab engineer in the Artuqid Sultanate (modern Turkey), and described in The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, written in 1206. His programmable musical device featured four automaton musicians, including two drummers, that floated on a lake to entertain guests at royal drinking parties. It was a programmable drum machine where pegs (cams) bump into little levers that operated the percussion. The drummers could be made to play different rhythms and different drum patterns if the pegs were moved around. [1]

A program is a set of instructions used to control the behavior of a machine “software”.

Artuqids Turkmen dynasty that ruled in southeast Anatolia (Diyarbakır, Mardin, Hasankeyf, Harput) and northern Syria (Aleppo) in the 12th and 13th centuries. They continued as vassals at Mardin until 1409.

The Artuqids or Artuqid dynasty was a Turkmen dynasty originated from Döğer tribe that ruled in Eastern Anatolia, Northern Syria and Northern Iraq in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Artuqid dynasty took its name from its founder, Zaheer-ul-Daulah Artuk Bey, who was of the Döger branch of the Oghuz and ruled one of the Turkmen atabeyliks of the Seljuk Empire. The Artuqid rulers viewed the state as the common property of the dynasty members. Three branches of the family ruled in the region: Sokmen Bey's descendants ruled the region around Hasankeyf between 1102 and 1231; Necmeddin Ilgazi's branch ruled from Mardin between 1106 and 1186 ; and the Mayyafariqin Artuqid line ruled in Harput starting in 1112, and was independent between 1185 and 1233.

Automaton A self-operating machine

An automaton is a self-operating machine, or a machine or control mechanism designed to automatically follow a predetermined sequence of operations, or respond to predetermined instructions. Some automata, such as bellstrikers in mechanical clocks, are designed to give the illusion to the casual observer that they are operating under their own power.

Rhythmicon (1932) and Joseph Schillinger, a music educator Joseph Schillinger and the Rhythmicon.jpg
Rhythmicon (1932) and Joseph Schillinger, a music educator
Rhythmicon (1930–1932)

In 1930–32, the innovative and hard-to-use Rhythmicon was developed by Léon Theremin at the request of Henry Cowell, who wanted an instrument which could play compositions with multiple rhythmic patterns, based on the overtone series, that were far too hard to perform on existing keyboard instruments. The invention could produce sixteen different rhythms, each associated with a particular pitch, either individually or in any combination, including en masse, if desired. Received with considerable interest when it was publicly introduced in 1932, the Rhythmicon was soon set aside by Cowell and was virtually forgotten for decades. The next generation of rhythm machines played only pre-programmed rhythms such as mambo, tango, or bossa nova

Rhythmicon electronic drum machine

The Rhythmicon—also known as the Polyrhythmophone—was the world's first electronic drum machine.

Léon Theremin Russian inventor

Lev Sergeyevich Termen, or Léon Theremin in the United States, was a Russian and Soviet inventor, most famous for his invention of the theremin, one of the first electronic musical instruments and the first to be mass-produced. He also devised the interlace technique for improving the quality of a video signal, still widely used in video and television technology. His listening device, "The Thing", hung for seven years in plain view in the United States Ambassador's Moscow office and enabled Soviet agents to eavesdrop on secret conversations.

Henry Cowell American composer, music theorist, pianist, teacher, publisher, and impresario

Henry Dixon Cowell was an American composer, music theorist, pianist, teacher, publisher, and impresario. His contribution to the world of music was summed up by Virgil Thomson, writing in the early 1950s:

Henry Cowell's music covers a wider range in both expression and technique than that of any other living composer. His experiments begun three decades ago in rhythm, in harmony, and in instrumental sonorities were considered then by many to be wild. Today they are the Bible of the young and still, to the conservatives, "advanced."... No other composer of our time has produced a body of works so radical and so normal, so penetrating and so comprehensive. Add to this massive production his long and influential career as a pedagogue, and Henry Cowell's achievement becomes impressive indeed. There is no other quite like it. To be both fecund and right is given to few.

Chamberlin Rhythmate (1957)

In 1957, Harry Chamberlin, an engineer from Iowa, created the Chamberlin Rhythmate, which allowed users to select between 14 tape loops of drum kits and percussion instruments performing various beats. Like the Chamberlin keyboard, the Rhythmate was intended for family singalongs. Around 100 units were sold. [2]

Tape loop Audio recording technique

In music, tape loops are loops of magnetic tape used to create repetitive, rhythmic musical patterns or dense layers of sound when played on a tape recorder. Originating in the 1940s with the work of Pierre Schaeffer, they were used among contemporary composers of 1950s and 1960s, such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who used them to create phase patterns, rhythms, textures, and timbres. Popular music authors of 1960s and 1970s, particularly in psychedelic, progressive and ambient genres, used tape loops to accompany their music with innovative sound effects. In the 1980s, analog audio and tape loops with it gave way to digital audio and application of computers to generate and process sound.

First commercial product – Wurlitzer Sideman (1959)
Wurlitzer Sideman (1959, inner view) Wurlitzer Sideman drum machine (inside) front view.jpg
Wurlitzer Sideman (1959, inner view)

In 1959, Wurlitzer released the Sideman, which generates sounds mechanically by a rotating disc, similarly to a music box. A slider controls the tempo (between 34 and 150 beats per minute). Sounds can also be triggered individually through buttons on a control panel. The Sideman was a success and drew criticism from musicians' unions, which ruled that it could only be used in cocktail lounges if the keyboardist was paid the wages of three musicians. Wurlitzer ceased production of the Sideman in 1969. [2]

Wurlitzer American company of music boxes and instruments

The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, usually referred to as simply Wurlitzer, is an American company started in Cincinnati in 1853 by German immigrant (Franz) Rudolph Wurlitzer. The company initially imported stringed, woodwind and brass instruments from Germany for resale in the U.S. Wurlitzer enjoyed initial success largely due to defense contracts to provide musical instruments to the U.S. military. In 1880, the company began manufacturing pianos and eventually relocated to North Tonawanda, New York, and quickly expanded to make band organs, orchestrions, player pianos and pipe or theatre organs popular in theatres during the days of silent movies.

Music box automatic musical instrument

A music box or musical box is an automatic musical instrument in a box that produces musical notes by using a set of pins placed on a revolving cylinder or disc to pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb. They were developed from musical snuff boxes of the 18th century and called carillons à musique. Some of the more complex boxes also contain a tiny drum and/or bells in addition to the metal comb.

Raymond Scott (1960–1963)

In 1960, Raymond Scott constructed the Rhythm Synthesizer and, in 1963, a drum machine called Bandito the Bongo Artist. Scott's machines were used for recording his album Soothing Sounds for Baby series (1964).

First fully transistorized drum machines – Seeburg/Gulbransen (1964)
Seeburg Rhythm Prince (without left panel).jpg
Seeburg/Gulbransen Rhythm Princeusing mechanical wheel, as seen on bailed out left panel
Seeburg Select-A-Rhythm.jpg
Seeburg/Gulbransen Select-A-Rhythm, an earliest fully transistorized rhythm machine

During the 1960s, implementation of rhythm machines were evolved into fully solid-state (transistorized) from early electro-mechanical with vacuum tubes, and also size were reduced to desktop size from earlier floor type. In the early 1960s, a home organ manufacturer, Gulbransen (later acquired by Fender) cooperated with an automatic musical equipment manufacturer Seeburg Corporation, and released early compact rhythm machines Rhythm Prince (PRP), [3] although, at that time, these size were still as large as small guitar amp head, due to the use of bulky electro-mechanical pattern generators. Then in 1964, Seeburg invented a compact electronic rhythm pattern generator using "diode matrix" ( U.S. Patent 3,358,068 in 1967), [4] and fully transistorized electronic rhythm machine with pre-programmed patterns, Select-A-Rhythm (SAR1), [5] [6] was released. As the result of its robustness and enough compact size, these rhythm machines were gradually installed on the electronic organ as accompaniment of organists, and finally spread widely.

Keio-Giken (Korg), Nippon Columbia, and Ace Tone (1963–1967)
Korg Donca-Matic DA-20 (1963) KORG Donca Matic DA-20 (1963) clip1.jpg
Korg Donca-Matic DA-20 (1963)

In the early 1960s, a nightclub owner in Tokyo, Tsutomu Katoh was consulted from a notable accordion player, Tadashi Osanai, about the rhythm machine he used for accompaniment in club, Wurlitzer Side Man. Osanai, a graduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Tokyo, convinced Katoh to finance his efforts to build better one. [7] In 1963, their new company Keio-Giken (later Korg) released their first rhythm machine, Donca-Matic DA-20 using the vacuum tube circuits for sounds and mechanical-wheel for rhythm patterns. It was a floor-type machine with built-in speaker, and featuring a keyboard for the manual play, in addition to the multiple automatic rhythm patterns. Its price was comparable with the average annual income of Japanese at that time. [8]

Then, their effort was focused on the improvement of reliability and performance, along with the size reduction and the cost down. Unstable vacuum tube circuit was replaced with reliable transistor circuit on Donca-Matic DC-11 in mid-1960s, and in 1966, bulky mechanical-wheel was also replaced with compact transistor circuit on Donca-Matic DE-20 and DE-11. In 1967, Mini Pops MP-2 was developed as an option of Yamaha Electone (electric organ), and Mini Pops was established as a series of the compact desktop rhythm machine. In the United States, Mini Pops MP-3, MP-7, etc. were sold under Univox brand by the distributor at that time, Unicord Corporation. [8]

In 1965, Nippon Columbia filed a patent for an automatic rhythm instrument. It described it as an "automatic rhythm player which is simple but capable of electronically producing various rhythms in the characteristic tones of a drum, a piccolo and so on." It has some similarities to Seeburg's slightly earlier 1964 patent. [9]

In 1967, Ace Tone founder Ikutaro Kakehashi (later founder of Roland Corporation) developed the preset rhythm-pattern generator using diode matrix circuit, which has some similarities to the earlier Seeburg and Nippon Columbia patents. Kakehashi's patent describes his device as a "plurality of inverting circuits and/or clipper circuits" which "are connected to a counting circuit to synthesize the output signal of the counting circuit" where the "synthesized output signal becomes a desired rhythm." [10]

Ace Tone commercialized its preset rhythm machine, called the FR-1 Rhythm Ace, in 1967. It offered 16 preset patterns, and four buttons to manually play each instrument sound (cymbal, claves, cowbell and bass drum). The rhythm patterns could also be cascaded together by pushing multiple rhythm buttons simultaneously, and the possible combination of rhythm patterns were more than a hundred (on the later models of Rhythm Ace, the individual volumes of each instrument could be adjusted with the small knobs or faders). The FR-1 was adopted by the Hammond Organ Company for incorporation within their latest organ models. In the US, the units were also marketed under the Multivox brand by Peter Sorkin Music Company, and in the UK, marketed under the Bentley Rhythm Ace brand. [11]

Early preset drum machine users

A number of other preset drum machines were released in the 1970s, but early examples of the use can be found on The United States of America's eponymous album from 1967–8. The first major pop song to use a drum machine was "Saved by the Bell" by Robin Gibb, which reached #2 in Britain in 1969. Drum machine tracks were also heavily used on the Sly & the Family Stone album There's a Riot Goin' On, released in 1971. Sly & the Family Stone was the first group to have a number #1 pop single that used a drum machine: that single was "Family Affair". [12] The German krautrock band Can also used a drum machine on their song "Peking O". The 1972 Timmy Thomas single "Why Can't We Live Together"/"Funky Me" featured a distinctive use of a drum machine and keyboard arrangement on both tracks. Another early example of electronic drums used by a rock group, is Obscured by Clouds by Pink Floyd, from early in 1972. The first album on which a drum machine produced all the percussion was Kingdom Come's Journey , recorded in November 1972 using a Bentley Rhythm Ace. French singer-songwriter Léo Ferré mixed a drum machine with a symphonic orchestra in the song "Je t'aimais bien, tu sais..." in his album L'Espoir , released in 1974. Miles Davis' live band began to utilize a drum machine in 1974 (played by percussionist James Mtume), which can be heard on Dark Magus (1977). Osamu Kitajima's progressive psychedelic rock album Benzaiten (1974) also utilized drum machines, and one of the album's contributors, Haruomi Hosono, [13] would later start the electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra (as "Yellow Magic Band") in 1977. [14]

Drum sound synthesis

A key difference between such early machines and more modern equipment is that they use sound synthesis rather than digital sampling in order to generate their sounds. For example, a snare drum or maraca sound would typically be created using a burst of white noise whereas a bass drum sound would be made using sine waves or other basic waveforms. This meant that while the resulting sound was not very close to that of the real instrument, each model tended to have a unique character. For this reason, many of these early machines have achieved a certain "cult status" and are now sought after by producers for use in production of modern electronic music, most notably the Roland TR-808. [15]

Programmable drum machines

Eko ComputeRhythm.png
Eko ComputeRhythm (1972),
One of the first programmable drum machine.
PAiA Programmable Drum Set (1975).jpg
PAiA Programmable Drum Set (1975),
one of the earliest electronically programmable drum machine.

In 1972, Eko released the ComputeRhythm (1972), which was the first programmable drum machine.[ citation needed ] It had a 6-row push-button matrix that allowed the user to enter a pattern manually. The user could also push punch cards with pre-programmed rhythms through a reader slot on the unit. [16]

Another stand-alone drum machine released in 1975, the PAiA Programmable Drum Set was also one of the first programmable drum machines, [17] and was sold as a kit with parts and instructions which the buyer would use to build the machine.

In 1975,[ citation needed ] Ace Tone released the Rhythm Producer FR-15 that enables the modification of the pre-programmed rhythm patterns. [18] In 1978, Roland released the Roland CR-78, the first microprocessor-based programmable rhythm machine, [11] with four memory storage for user patterns. In 1979, a simpler version with four sounds, Boss DR-55, was released.[ citation needed ]

Digital sampling

Linn LM-1 (1980) Linn LM-1 Drum Computer.jpg
Linn LM-1 (1980)

The Linn LM-1 Drum Computer (released in 1980 at $4,995) was the first drum machine to use digital samples. It also featured revolutionary rhythmic concepts such as swing factors, shuffle, accent, and real-time programming, all of which have since rooted themselves in beat box technology. [19] Only about 500 were ever made, but its effect on the music industry was extensive. Its distinctive sound almost defines 1980s pop, and it can be heard on hundreds of hit records from the era, including The Human League's Dare , Gary Numan's Dance , Devo's New Traditionalists , and Ric Ocasek's Beatitude . Prince bought one of the very first LM-1s and used it on nearly all of his most popular albums, including 1999 and Purple Rain .

Many of the drum sounds on the LM-1 were composed of two chips that were triggered at the same time, and each voice was individually tunable with individual outputs. Due to memory limitations, a crash cymbal sound was not available except as an expensive third-party modification. A cheaper version of the LM-1 was released in 1982 called the LinnDrum. Priced at $2,995, not all of its voices were tunable, but crash cymbal was included as a standard sound. Like its predecessor the LM-1, it featured swappable sound chips. The LinnDrum can be heard on records such as The Cars' Heartbeat City and Giorgio Moroder's soundtrack for the film Scarface .

It was feared the LM-1 would put every session drummer in Los Angeles out of work and it caused many of L.A.'s top session drummers (Jeff Porcaro is one example) to purchase their own drum machines and learn to program them themselves in order to stay employed. Linn even marketed the LinnDrum specifically to drummers. [20]

Oberheim DMX.jpg
Oberheim DMX (1981)
SCI model 400 drumtraks.jpg
SCI Drumtraks (1984)

Following the success of the LM-1, Oberheim introduced the DMX, which also featured digitally sampled sounds and a "swing" feature similar to the one found on the Linn machines. It became very popular in its own right, becoming a staple of the nascent hip-hop scene.

Other manufacturers soon began to produce machines, e.g. the Sequential Circuits Drum-Traks and Tom, the E-mu Drumulator and the Yamaha RX11.

In 1986, the SpecDrum by Cheetah Marketing, an inexpensive 8-bit sampling drum external module for the ZX Spectrum, [21] was introduced, with a price less of than £30, when similar models cost around £250. [22]

Roland TR-808 and TR-909

Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer (1980) Roland TR-808 drum machine.jpg
Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer (1980)

In 1980, the Roland Corporation launched the TR-808 Rhythm Composer. It was one of the earliest programmable drum machines, with which users could create their own rhythms rather than having to use preset patterns. Unlike the more expensive LM-1, the 808 is completely analog, meaning its sounds are generated non-digitally via hardware rather than samples (prerecorded sounds). [23] Launched when electronic music had yet to become mainstream, the 808 received mixed reviews for its unrealistic drum sounds and was a commercial failure. [24] [25] Having built approximately 12,000 units, Roland discontinued the 808 after its semiconductors became impossible to restock. [26]

Over the course of the 1980s, the 808 attracted a cult following among underground musicians for its affordability on the used market, [25] ease of use, [24] and idiosyncratic sounds, particularly its deep, "booming" bass drum. [26] It became a cornerstone of the emerging electronic, dance, and hip hop genres, popularized by early hits such as Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" [26] and Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock". [27] The 808 was eventually used on more hit records than any other drum machine; [28] its popularity with hip hop in particular has made it one of the most influential inventions in popular music, comparable to the Fender Stratocaster's influence on rock. [29] [30] Its sounds continue to be used as samples included with music software and modern drum machines. [31]

The 808 was followed in 1983 by the TR-909, the first Roland drum machine to use MIDI, [32] which synchronizes devices built by different manufacturers. [33] It was also the first Roland drum machine to use samples for some sounds. [33] Like the 808, the 909 was a commercial failure, but had a lasting influence on popular music after cheap units circulated on the used market; alongside the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer, it influenced the development of electronic genres such as techno, house and acid. [34] [35]

Later machines

E-mu SP-1200 E-mu SP-1200 (111607sp1200).jpg
E-mu SP-1200
Alesis SR-16 (1991) Alesis SR-16, Devi Ever OK.jpg
Alesis SR-16 (1991)

By 2000, standalone drum machines had become less common, partly supplanted by general-purpose hardware samplers controlled by sequencers (built-in or external), software-based sequencing and sampling and the use of loops, and music workstations with integrated sequencing and drum sounds. TR-808 and other digitized drum machine sounds can be found in archives on the Internet. However, traditional drum machines are still being made by companies such as Roland Corporation (under the name Boss), Zoom, Korg and Alesis, whose SR-16 drum machine has remained popular since it was introduced in 1991.

There are percussion-specific sound modules that can be triggered by pickups, trigger pads, or through MIDI. These are called drum modules; the Alesis D4 and Roland TD-8 are popular examples. Unless such a sound module also features a sequencer, it is, strictly speaking, not a drum machine.


4-on-the-floor on Roland TR-707 Four to the floor Roland TR-707.jpg
4-on-the-floor on Roland TR-707

Programming of drum machines varies from product to product. On most products, it can be done in real time: the user creates drum patterns by pressing the trigger pads as though a drum kit were being played; or using step-sequencing: the pattern is built up over time by adding individual sounds at certain points by placing them, as with the TR-808 and TR-909, along a 16-step bar. For example, a generic 4-on-the-floor dance pattern could be made by placing a closed high hat on the 3rd, 7th, 11th, and 15th steps, then a kick drum on the 1st, 5th, 9th, and 13th steps, and a clap or snare on the 5th and 13th. This pattern could be varied in a multitude of ways to obtain fills, break-downs and other elements that the programmer sees fit, which in turn could be sequenced with song-sequence — essentially the drum machine plays back the programmed patterns from memory in an order the programmer has chosen. The machine will quantize entries that are slightly off-beat in order to make them exactly in time.

If the drum machine has MIDI connectivity, then one could program the drum machine with a computer or another MIDI device.

Comparison with live drumming

While drum machines have been used much in popular music since the 1980s, "...scientific studies show there are certain aspects of human-created rhythm that machines cannot replicate, or can only replicate poorly" such as the "feel" of human drumming and the ability of a human drummer to respond to changes in a song as it is being played live onstage. [36] Human drummers also have the ability to make slight variations in their playing, such as playing "ahead of the beat" or "behind the beat" for sections of a song, in contrast to a drum machine that plays a pre-programmed rhythm. As well, human drummers play a "tremendously wide variety of rhythmic variations" that drum machines cannot reproduce. [36]

Labor costs

Drum machines developed out of a need to create drum beats when a drum kit was not available. Increasingly, drum machines and drum programming are used by major record labels to undercut the costly expense of studio drummers. [37]

See also

Related Research Articles

Roland Corporation is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972. In 2005, Roland's headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has factories in Taiwan, Japan, and the USA. As of March 31, 2010, it employed 2,699 employees. In 2014, Roland was subject to a management buyout by Roland's CEO Junichi Miki, supported by Taiyo Pacific Partners.

Music technology (electronic and digital) Music technology

Digital music technology encompasses digital instruments, computers, electronic effects units, software, or digital audio equipment by a performer, composer, sound engineer, DJ, or record producer to produce, perform or record music. The term refers to electronic devices, instruments, computer hardware, and software used in performance, playback, recording, composition, mixing, analysis, and editing of music.


A groovebox is a self-contained instrument for the production of live, loop-based electronic music with a high degree of user control facilitating improvisation. The term "Groovebox" was originally used by Roland Corporation to refer to its MC-303, released in 1996. The term has since entered general use, and dates back to the Movement Computer Systems Drum Computer in 1981.

Roland TR-909 synthesizer model

The Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer is a drum machine introduced by the Roland Corporation in 1984. It succeeded the TR-808, and was the first Roland drum machine to use samples and MIDI. Though it was a commercial failure, the 909 became influential in the development of electronic dance music such as techno, house and acid.

Roland MC-303

The Roland MC-303 is the first of a series of musical instruments known as a Groovebox. It combines a simple sound module with a sequencer to record and store notation, along with controls aimed at encouraging the musician to improvise the music while it is playing. Despite the number in its name and the hype it received at its launch, the MC-303 has more in common with other MC prefixed synthesizers, which contain built-in sequencers, than it does with the famous Roland TB-303. As the first Groovebox, the MC-303 was the first in a line of inexpensive products specifically targeted towards house DJs and amateur home musicians rather than professional producers. It was superseded by the Roland MC-505. It is the predecessor to the Roland D2, Roland MC-307, Roland MC-909 and the Roland MC-808.

Roland CR-78

The Roland CompuRhythm CR-78 is a drum machine launched in 1978.

Tadao Kikumoto is Roland's senior managing director and head of its R&D center. He designed the TB-303 bass synthesizer and the TR-909 drum machine. He was also the chief engineer of the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

Akai MPC

The Akai MPC is a series of integrated samplers designed by Roger Linn and produced by Akai from 1988 onwards. The MPC had a major influence on the development of electronic and hip hop music, allowing musicians and producers to create elaborate tracks without a studio and opening the way for new sampling techniques.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, also known by the nickname Taro, was a Japanese engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He founded the musical instrument manufacturers Ace Tone, Roland Corporation, and Boss Corporation, and the audiovisual electronics company ATV Corporation.

Roland MC-505

The Roland MC-505 is a groovebox conceived in 1998 as a combination of a MIDI controller, a music sequencer and a drum machine, and also has some of the prime features of synthesizers: arpeggiator, oscillators, voltage-controlled filter, control of attack, decay, sustain and release. It was released as the successor to the Roland MC-303 and is a compact version of the Roland JX-305 Groovesynth without the full set of 61 keys. It is also the predecessor to the Roland D2, Roland MC-307, Roland MC-909 and the Roland MC-808.

Roland MC-909

The discontinued Roland MC-909 Sampling Groovebox combines the features of a synthesizer, sequencer, and sampler, with extensive hands-on control of both the sound engine and the sequencing flow. It was intended primarily for live performance of pre-programmed patterns consisting of up to 16 tracks of MIDI data. It was released by Roland Corporation on October 8, 2002. This product was announced at the AES Fall Convention in 2002. It is the direct successor to the Roland MC-505, and is the predecessor to the Roland MC-808 which eventually ended the "Groovebox" line of products by Roland which began in the mid 1990s with the original MC-303. It was developed from the blueprint of Roland's own "Fantom" workstation and uses the same structure and operating system, with some differences regarding the Patterns section, not implemented in the Fantom.

Linn LM-1

The Linn LM-1 Drum Computer is a drum machine manufactured by Linn Electronics and released in 1980. It was the first drum machine to use samples of acoustic drums, and one of the first programmable drum machines. It became a staple of 1980s pop music, helping to establish drum machines as credible tools, and appears on records by artists including Human League, Gary Numan, Michael Jackson, and particularly Prince. The LM-1 was succeeded in 1982 by the LinnDrum.

Roland TR-505

The Roland TR-505 is a drum machine and MIDI sequencer from the same family as the Roland TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-626. Released in 1986, the unit can be used to sequence short, punchy, 12-bit samples. The drum kit includes basic rock drum sounds similar to those of the 707, plus a complement of Latin-style drum sounds similar to those of the TR-727, which was similar to the TR-707, but it had Latin instruments instead of rock drums.

Roland TR-606 drum machine

The Roland TR-606 Drumatix is a programmable analog synthesis drum machine built by the Roland Corporation from 1981 to 1984. It was originally designed to be used with the Roland TB-303, a monophonic analog bass synthesizer, to provide a simple drum and bass accompaniment to guitarists without backing bands.

Roland MC-808

The Roland MC-808 is Roland's latest and final groovebox, announced at the Winter NAMM in 2006. It is the successor to the late Roland MC-303, Roland MC-307, Roland MC-505 and Roland MC-909.

Korg Electribe R

The Korg Electribe R was released in 1999 as a dedicated electronic drum machine to complement the Korg Electribe A bass synthesizer. It features a 64 step sequencer and is MIDI-controllable. The sound is generated by digital signal processor circuits but can be manipulated in realtime. A cross modulation function can be applied to percussion synthesizers 1 and 2 in the ER-1 Mk II version. The only other differences were new preset rhythm patterns and the metal casing. Because of the easy programming possibilities and competitive pricing the ER-1 quickly became popular among DJs and studio musicians. The overall sound character can be described as, although synthetic, similar to classic analog drum machines. However, the sound remains completely "tweakable" allowing realtime human variation and interaction, not unlike 4 simultaneous percussion synthesizers. In 2010, Korg released iElectribe R, a software version of the Electribe R for the iPad.

LinnDrum digital drum machine

The LinnDrum is a drum machine manufactured by Linn Electronics between 1982 and 1985. About 5,000 units were sold.

Roland TR-707

The Roland TR-707 Rhythm Composer is a programmable digital sample-based drum machine built by the Roland Corporation, beginning in 1985. The TR-707 was a staple in early house music, particularly with acid house. It is also a staple of almost all electronic Arabic pop music. Because the TR-707 offers a limited number of instruments sampled at 12 bits, its sound is considered dated by modern standards. However, it is still in use because of its versatility in synchronizing with other hardware and its fully featured interface, comparable to that of high-end Roland drum machines such as the TR-808 and TR-909.

The timeline of music technology provides the major dates in the history of electric music technologies inventions from the 1800s to the early 1900s and electronic and digital music technologies from 1917 and electric music technologies to the 2010s.


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