How To Choose The Right Drum Machine? Learn Everything Your Studio Needs To Get Great Sounding Drums 2021


My goal is to make you a better producer. In Drum Machine 101 we are going to look at all of the possible solutions for you and your drums. So sit back and relax while we guide through the world of Drum machines.

Software

Welcome to the new world of Music Production. The past few years has seen the ability for computers to make music. First came the widespread use of computer sequencers, then virtual instruments began to develop in such a way that their sounds where very comparable to to their hardware equivalents. Soon after, as CPU power increased, companies started developing the Virtual Drum Machine.

Why The Virtual Drum Machine You Ask?

This can be explained in one world, SIMPLICITY. Originally as a producer you had 2 choices when it came to drum machines. You could use a sampler and program your sounds into this piece of hardware, often entailing an extensive time to program or set up, or you could buy a machine with a set of already programmed drum sounds, which you could slightly modify. These units usually had a built in sequencers and everything could be programmed into the drum unit to create your entire drum machine score.

Fortunately the ability and time it takes to program your instruments have dramatically been reduced. With software samplers starting to become the norm companies have built dedicated drum softsynth samplers. These have the ability to easily program your drum sounds layers sound on sound till you feel you have the perfect sounding snare bass drum, or whatever you are looking for. The other way to create drum sounds is through a drum synthesizer unit. These units let you program almost every aspect of a drum sound, similar to what you would do if you were using the legendary Roland TR-808 or 909. The sounds you create using these Drum machines are more synthesized sounding and often more useful if you are creating a more dance style production.

Here at the Music Production Attic we are not trying to tell you what’s better, but rather give you all the available information to decide which Drum Machine solution is best for you. As with anything in music there is no one right way of doing things. So without further delay. Here are your best options……

1) The first Section of Drum Machines Software we will talk about is Software Samplers. When it comes to Sampler Drum machines there is only one choice, Natives Instruments Battery. which enables you to program up to 54 sounds into this virtual drum machine. There you can route any of your sounds into the 16 different output option that battery has. Being able to keep your files organized and easy to use. Almost every aspect of your individual sounds can be programmed and altered this includes pitch velocity, tune, plus any effects you might want to add. This solution also comes with almost 3 CD complete with almost any drum sound you can imagine. If that’s not enough? Well Battery also has a line of sample CDs, Native Synthetic and Native Studio which sell for a reasonable price, but if don’t want to spend the extra money t you can use any one of your own sounds which you download from the internet or you can import sample cd formats such as akai. If you are serious about your Drums, we recommend this product. There is no other software sampler which does as much as battery, and with the ability to add your own sounds the possibilities are endless.

Like a lot of software instruments you will need a VST compatible sequencer if you want to incorporate the unit right into your sequencer. But if you don’t have a VST sequencer you can still use battery as standalone product.

The drum machine software sampler which has emerged, and been greeted with great success is FXPansion BFD Drum Module. Although similar idea to Battery the FXExpansion unit is more targeted to its crisp and truly real sounding analog drums. Over 7 kits with extra individual sounds this can be an extremely usefully instrument. Over 9 Gigs of files on 2 DVD’s this is a serious sound bank. The BFD drum module is available in VST, RTAS or AU(for plug ins info clicked here)

2) Your second Drum Machine Software solution are plug ins which let you design your own sounds. These programs work similar to synthesizers but the sounds which it enables you to create are more focused to that of what drums would sound like. So you are able to create amazing bass, snare, and hi hats etc with much ease. These drum machine software devices are often categorized by a very distinctive sound, and will very from device to device. Some will have built in sequencers and other wont. Many of these devices can be compared to the drum machines of the 80’s such as the Roland TR-808 or the oberheim DX. Like these machine the Drum machine software which synthesizes its own sounds will be give you much more sound control of the drum sounds you wish to produce, but are more synthetic sounding. If you make dance tracks, weather it be house, techno, trance, or some forms of hip hop, this is a great solution for you.

Drum Machine Hardware

Well Software isn’t for everyone. The fact is no matter how much better software gets people still like the ability to play with knobs and a dedicated machine. Depending on which type of sequencer you use often it can be very easy to communicate with these hardware devices and your computer. If you have the money to spend you can most likely exploit most of these drum machines harder than software. Furthermore they are less likely needed to be replaced as you upgrade you computer operating system. So Here’s what we’ve got for you.

1) Akai MPC 2000XL Has remained a staple in the production studio ever since it came out almost a half decade ago. This Drum Machine is essentially a sampler with a built in sequencer. You will be hard to find a hip hop studio which doesn’t own one of these. Although designed for drums, this drum machine could program almost any sample you’ve got. Its sequencer will let you have extensive programming abilities with the possibility of swing and advanced equalization functions. MAKE YOUR DRUMS SOUND REAL. If you want that real sounding drum machine sound without using samples then the MPC is your bag. On the down sound it does take some time to program. Either you must buy an external SSCI CD-Rom or use the floppy disk to load your samples. The machine does read Wav files and you can connect the MPC to your computer through a SSCI cable but this just presents some added costs. An MPC 2000 XL will sell for about $1300 US.

2) There are a large number of other possibilities with regards to hardware drum machines. These other choices offer less control and expandability than the Akai MPC 2000XL but you will find them at much less reduced price

The Aleisis SR16 has been a very popular drum machine. It is based around 230 realistic sounding drum samples. A nice bonus is the reverb effects which are included with the unit. This a much simpler drum machine but might be a very feasible solution for your studio

The Boss DR 770 and the Boss 670 Dr Rhythm are two pretty solid drum machines with reasonable price tags($275-$350 US). With over 400 presets and 260 sounds these machines will keep you well occupied. They have a built in sequencer and also have reverb, flanger and a few other effects.

3) Another great source for finding drum machines is getting hold of vintage used machines on the internet your local pawn shop. What’s so interesting about drum machines and other electronic musical instruments is that old can be very good. Certain instruments have a very unique sound and can be very sought after long after their production has ended. The most famous example would be the Roland TR-808, which has almost shaped the sound of dance music. Other notable machines would be the Roland R8, which offers a more human felling drum set. Unfortuanly these devices can be quite difficult to find. There value has in some cases increased since their production has ended, and therefore since the supply has generally decreased the demand can make these machine hard to come by. Of course the best place to purchase these instruments would have to be Amazon or Ebay . But there are a few other great online classified sites such as Sonic State and Harmoney Central

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