A Review By: Alphonso Soosay
An electronic Drum machine, is also called a rhythm (tempo) machine, is actually an electronic digital drummer. Smaller and lighter than a Laptop, the Electronic Drum machine comes with various repeating drum patterns and styles to serve as the basic tempo for everything from heavy funk, country-rock to jazz, pop, jazz-funk, salsa and waltz. Tempo or beats per minute (BPM) is adjustable, and some Drum machines also include percussion sounds. Like most digital devices, the drum machine has a LED screen for cycling through “patches” or tracks named according to music genre. “Hard Rock” might be one category, with 10 or more track variations called HR-1, HR-2, HR-3, and so on. Each track within the category will differ from the others in some way. One might use the kick drum on an extra beat, while another might include toms-toms or a cymbal ride.
Preset patches offer the user a wide variety of ready-made choices. Switching to another genre or category offers a whole new set of relative choices. A drum machine can come with several “drum kits” that each have their own “voices” or effects. Other handy patches of the drum machine include beginnings, breaks and endings. These can be put together with the standard patterns to pre-program an entire song, a great tool for songwriters and soloists to play along with.
Many models come with pressure-sensitive pads for finger drumming. Pads are each assigned a drum sound, such as Bass, Kick, Snare, Hi-Tom, Low-Tom, Cymbal crash and more. Play for fun or record your patch to digital memory for later use. You can even record an existing patch while adding your own sounds to it, making tracks customizable.
A Drum machine might also include a synthesized Bass Guitar track. Bass “voices” or effects can include slap, tinge/; pick, Synths and acoustic. It’s easy to practice your chops or write original songs while playing live with a “trio.” Some Drum machine models allow you to enter chord progressions to automatically transpose the Bass so that it will play along with you, rather than the other way around. This is another great feature for songwriters putting together a demo or recording tunes for their own pleasure.
Most Drum machines do not have speakers, but feature a wide variety of inputs and outputs. The headphone jack along with the ¼ inch mono jack for guitar will allow you to play for hours without disturbing the household or neighbours. Line-out can be used for external amplification, to run to a recording system, mixer or other device. Connections vary between models but many also include a MIDI jack.
The Drum machine is a basic tool for any guitarist, worth its weight in gold for its ability to provide great sounding Drum tracks anytime, anywhere. Practice is much more enjoyable and interesting when playing with a Drum machine and song-writing becomes more inspired. A Drum machine is a great gig tool. Program it to accompany your session at the local club. Electronic Drum machine features vary widely, so if a particular function is important to you, be sure it is included before purchasing it. A basic model starts at less than $250, but Drum machines are also integrated into many other devices, including digital effects processors and personal recording studios. If you are going to purchase one of those in the near future, you might save money by looking into those devices as well.
Alphonso Soosay / Musician / Recording Engineer