the teachings of noiz...

lessons in noiz

Working with Drum Machines

The ever so menacing and sometimes tempermental Drum Machine...

How can i work with this thing? What ever in the world can it do for me?
What should i get?
Is it true that they can make great coasters or door stops?

Working with a drum machine is the next best step for you after the metronome. It can do so many things a metronome can't do plus it can save your rhthmic ideas. The drum machine is a device composed of many different sounds that can be arranged into patterns which will play back for you over and over. With this you can do many different things but the first thing that will help us acquint ourselves with the drum machine is using it as a metronome on steroids.
 
Make a new pattern with only the bass drum on all four beats. Now play a basic rock beat along with this. Once you are comfortable make a new pattern with bass drums on 1 & 3 and snares on 2 & 4. Play along again listening closely to the timing of your strikes with the sounds from the machine. If you can consistently make identical timing with the machine you will notice the sounds of the drum machine will "dissappear." In other words they will not be as present in the sound spectrum. When you drift in your timing you will notice the sounds from the machine will "reappear."
 

The next step will be to add a hi-hat sound. Add only eight notes through the entire pattern. Play along switching your hi-hat playing from eighth notes to sixteenth notes. Listen again to the sounds from the machine making note of what you consistently make "dissappear." Use the added hi-hat sound as a subdivision for your other notes. If you hear your self drifting let the hi-hat get your timing back together.
 

After working up these basic exercises make up your own patterns and play along with them. Pay close attention to your timing with the sounds coming from the machine.
 
Now here is the really interesting part. Take your new patterens and play your own different patterns over them. The machine is now a second drummer. Play your one pattern along with the machine and stay as consistent with it as possible. Use the more frequent sounds to subdivide your beats and get you back on track if you drift a little.
 
What else can a machine do for you? It can greatly improve your understanding of beat subdividing and also help you to comprehend dificult musical passages. Now we sort of have a grasp on the subdividing thing from the above exercises. But you could put in a pattern you saw in a magazine or elsewhere and get another perspective on the musical phrase. Say you found a cool pattern and you are trying to learn it. You have the bass drum part and the snare but when you add the ride it doesn't quite all click. Using the drum machine you could put the pattern in by step mode. This allows you to place notes into the pattern one beat at a time. After you do this you could play the pattern back and get a better perspective on just what the pattern is supposed to sound like.

 
There are hundreds of drum machines out there and even more virtual ones. Finding the right one for you can be a search. If you want something that has mostly preset patterns(which i am highly against) you could use one of the smaller more affordable Roland / Boss machines. An old machine is also a diehard best bet. Something like an old Korg DDD-1 or DDD-5 and the Alesis HR-16. If you want to get into something really adventurous there are the Akai MPC machines and other unique creatures like the Jomox or Elektron brand of machines. These machines offering quite a bit more than your standard drum machine.


 
Here are a few drum machines I use:

Dr. Beat The Korg DDD-5

My old diehard machine.
Known to many as Thanos.
watch metronome
The Rave-O-Lution 309

Silly name...
ok...stupid name.
Awesome machine.

But alas...it died and is not much more than a paperweight now.