Drum machine

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Roland TR-808

A drum computer [ ˈdɹʌmkəmˌpjuːtɚ ], also called drum machine [ -məˈʃiːn ] or EDM ( electronic drum machine ), is an electronic musical instrument for generating percussive tones and programming musical rhythms .


In principle, drum computers are synthesizers , i.e. devices for electronic sound generation. The sound synthesis takes place either generically or with the help of recorded samples .

Classic drum computers consist of electronics for generating and storing sounds and rhythm sequences. There are models in completely analogue construction, as well as in the form of hardware made from digital components.

Modern devices increasingly work with more software z. B. in microcontrollers or programmable hardware. or are implemented entirely in software for PCs. including versions as open source.

In contrast to the classic synthesizer with integrated piano or keyboard keys, the sound on the drum computer is usually triggered via:

Common drum tones are bass drum , snare , hi-hat , cymbals , hi / mid and low tom as well as handclap , rimshot, tambourine , bongos or rattles . Important sound parameters such as volume , tone duration , pitch or attack and decay (rise and fall of the tone envelope ) can often be set.


The first drum computers were simple machines that could only play preprogrammed rhythms like mambo , tango , etc. The target group were mostly solo entertainers . An example of this type of drum computer, which was also used in home organs , is the "Rhythm Ace" series by the Japanese company Ace Tone, which has been manufactured since around 1967.

From the late 1970s and early 1980s, the first freely programmable drum computers came onto the market. The sound generation was analog, so the sounds didn't sound very natural. A well-known example of this type of drum computer is the Roland TR-808 from 1980, but also its predecessor, the CR-78 CompuRhythm from 1978. Rhythms could be programmed using the built-in step sequencer and played via an interface with others Synchronize devices.

Analog drum computers are mostly sought-after collector's items today. Its sounds are still widely used today, especially in hip-hop and electronic dance music . For this reason, they are often found in the form of samples in newer, digital drum computers.

The Linn LM-1 , used by Prince and Michael Jackson , among others, was influential in pop music. It came on the market in 1980 and, unlike the Roland drum computers, relied on a sample-based and therefore more natural sound generation. These were 8-bit mono WAVs that were stored in EEPROMs . Commercially, the $ 4995 and later even down to $ 5500, LM-1 was a flop; only the cheaper successor, the LinnDrum , sold successfully.

From the mid-1980s, MIDI became established as an interface. This led to the fact that increasingly only the sound generation took place in the device and it was controlled externally via the MIDI interface.

At the same time, the first machines for drum accompaniment developed on computers. Drum synthesizers have already been implemented on home computers . One of the first programs in 1985 was the Funky Drummer for the C64. This was played via an internal sequencer or the keyboard.

At the end of the 1980s, the first programmable sequencers appeared in keyboards, which could also play drum sequences and already provided simple sounds.

At the beginning of the 1990s, consumer keyboards were already on the market that could be played and programmed in real time with drum pads and whose sounds could be changed.

From the mid-1990s, hardware drum computers became less widespread, as they were increasingly integrated into synthesizer workstations such as the Korg M1 or replaced by samplers . With the accompaniment functions integrated in the keyboards, previously programmed patterns could be switched in real time during the performance depending on the melody, which made it possible to dynamically accompany other musicians using fill ins, drops and endings.

In the mid-2000s there were also powerful software versions based on samples and emulators based on the physical modeling method based on mathematical functions. Software drum computers are now available as free freeware for tablets that can even be used on stage.

Today drum computers are used for composing on the go, as well as by DJs for live performances and are used as a supplement to electronic drums that are played with trigger pads. Current manufacturers of hardware drum computers include Roland , KORG , Elektron , Zoom and Alesis .

Well-known examples

See also

Web links

Commons : Drum machines  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

DRUMMACHINES - Extensive collection of information about drum machines

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Nyssa Backes: Electronic Drum Machine (EDM) . In: Electrical Engineering . January 1, 2018 ( online [accessed July 12, 2020]).
  2. ^ Matthew John Yee-King: The evolving drum machine. 2007, accessed in 2020 .
  3. Mickey Delp: Anatomy of a Drum Machine. DELP, 2010, accessed on July 12, 2020 .
  4. ^ Dan Felicetta, Arun Swain: Step Sequencer Drum Machine. Cornell University, 2011, accessed July 12, 2020 .
  5. Tom Hlina: ATMega-based analog drum computer with 16 steps. In: Blinking Noise. 2011, accessed July 12, 2020 .
  6. Juergen Schuhmacher: Drum computer with VA synthesis in FPGAs. In: 96khz.org. August 2012, accessed on July 12, 2020 .
  7. Marco Scherer: Test: AIR Music Drum Synth 500.BEAT, April 12, 2020, accessed on July 12, 2020 .
  8. Antonio Piraino, Alessandro Cominu: Hydrogen - software synthesizer. In: hydrogen.org. 2020, accessed on July 12, 2020 .
  9. Rainer Nickel: Style - information on drum computers. In: http://www.drummachines.de . 2010, accessed in 2020 .
  10. ^ Robert Lynn: Past Products Museum. In: businesscatalyst. R.Lynn, 2018, accessed in 2020 .
  11. Funky Drummer V1.1 (1985). In: CSDb. Retrieved August 4, 2020 .
  12. Kai Schwirzke: Kraftzwerg: Yamaha PSS 790 home keyboard. TOS: 03/1991, accessed on August 4, 2020 .
  13. ^ Richard Vogl, Peter Knees: An Intelligent Drum Machine. In: NIME. Johannes Kepler University, Linz, 2017, accessed in 2020 .
  14. 6 freeware drum machines for no-budget productions :: bonedo.de. Retrieved July 12, 2020 .
  15. ^ Black Box: Oberheim DMX & DX, drum computer. In: AMAZONA.de. January 10, 2016, accessed July 12, 2020 .
  16. Black Box: Roland TR-606 analog drum computer. In: AMAZONA.de. December 5, 2008, accessed July 12, 2020 .