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Al Krow

Drum machines - what are you using?

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Posted (edited)

I fancy getting to grips with decent drum lines on something a bit more intuitive for programming than my Alesis SR18.

I see that Behringer are bringing out their analogue RD 808 (a clone of the Roland TR-808) which looks like a lot of kit for £300

behringer-rd808-knobcon1-e1548772588924.jpg

Roland have their own successor, the digital TR-08, which is similarly priced at £319, but is a fair bit more compact:

Image result for roland tr-08

 

And then of course there is software such as EZDrummer 2 for around £90

Toontrack EZDrummer 2

Be interested to know what hardware or software you guys are using, what you're using them for and how easy you find them to program and be creative on?

Edited by Al Krow

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Akai MPC 2000xl SE.

808 Clones are 'one trick ponies' - they are so bass heavy, there's no room for the bass line !

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Posted (edited)

I've kind of got 3 drum machines. The Roland R-8 (left) and the Alesis SR-16 (right) are the conventional ones. But I also have an Arturia Beatstep Pro triggering 4 drum synth modules (centre).

The SR-16 is great for heavier, slightly un-natural, sounding drums. Perfect for industrially sounding tracks. The R-8 has really nice sounding natural stuff, but they can be edited more. Programming the R-8 is a lot nicer than the SR-16, I tend to midi them together and use the R-8 as a sequencer.

The synth modules are totally electronic sounding, them being synths not sample based. They can, using a computer based editor, recreate most classic early drum machine sounds. There's one module each for bass drum, snare, hi hat and clap. The Alesis and Roland machines have taken a bit of a back seat since the synth ones have been in use.

 

Space is getting cramped. I need to reorganise the whole working space. There's another desk behind me, when I was taking the photo.

 

IMG_4796.JPG

Edited by bartelby
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Posted (edited)

@bartelby you've hit my issue on the head when you say that the R8 is a lot better to programme and edit than the Alesis SR16, a point which would equally apply to SR18.

It's a desire for a much improved work flow that is driving me to look beyond my Alesis SR18. 

@sammybeeyou say that the 808 clones are bass heavy - I'm interested to know what you're basing that on?

The Behringer is only just available, have you managed to try one out already? I'm kinda surprised you can't cut down / edit out the bass heavy element, if you want to? 

Edited by Al Krow

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I’m currently enjoying using several iOS apps. Patterning is very interesting, has great sounds and an unusual, creativity inducing interface.

Funk Drummer by Lumbeat is also very good, but I truly hate the interface.

Lastly, I still go back to DrumJam from time to time.

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10 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

 

@sammybeeyou say that the 808 clones are bass heavy - I'm interested to know what you're basing that on?

The Behringer is only just available, have you managed to try one out already? I'm kinda surprised you can't cut down / edit out the bass heavy element, if you want to? 

I'm basing it on owning an 808 ( an original TR-808 from the 1980's) many moons ago. The reason people use/buy them, is primarily for the big kick drum. It's massive and completely swamps everything else. Buying an 808 and turning down the kick drum, would be like buying a Porsche and driving everywhere at 20 mph :) They are great machines though, but only for a certain niche style of house/hip hop music.

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30 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

It's a desire for a much improved work flow that is driving me to look beyond my Alesis SR18. 

I've been on a voyage with Drum Machines since the late 1980's & owned most of the popular ones (as well as more esotoric ones). I acquired an Akai MPC in about 2004 and have consistently used since it for the workflow. It's a sample based drum machine, so the sound never dates and the Akai is very intuitive, musical and flexible. It's also a fully fledged sequencer & is my weapon of choice for live use. When at home, writing or noodling on guitar or bass I tend to turn to Logic's drummer for instant results. Nothing beats a real drummer though!

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My band in the 80s had an actual Roland TR808 (when it was one of the best drum machines available and cost a serious amount of money), and if the Behringer is an exact clone, you'll be disappointed at the lack of pattern memory available. With only 32 16-step patterns (or 16 32-step patterns) available we would struggle to get more than a single song in memory at a time.

These days I'd go with a DAW based solution every time. 

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

My band in the 80s had an actual Roland TR808 (when it was one of the best drum machines available and cost a serious amount of money), and if the Behringer is an exact clone, you'll be disappointed at the lack of pattern memory available. With only 32 16-step patterns (or 16 32-step patterns) available we would struggle to get more than a single song in memory at a time.

These days I'd go with a DAW based solution every time. 

 

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Behringer haven't tweaked the memory specs a bit.

EDIT: I googled a bit:
"64-step sequencer with storage of up to 64 patterns and 16 songs with continuously variable swing"

Edited by bartelby

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1 hour ago, bartelby said:

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Behringer haven't tweaked the memory specs a bit.

EDIT: I googled a bit:
"64-step sequencer with storage of up to 64 patterns and 16 songs with continuously variable swing"

I'd forgotten that the original TR808 only had a single song memory, because we only used one at a time, and recorded the result. The only band I have ever seen using one live used some creative pattern writing and real-time pattern changing (along with the fill and auto fill functions) to get around this limitation.

Looks like Behringer have doubled the pattern memory, and added another 15 songs. However when a typical song can use up 16+ patterns quite easily, so the expanded song memory isn't that useful.

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Alesis SR16 - there is a good reason why this is the best selling drum machine  ever. As a hardened technophobe I must say that this is soooo easy to use -  one of the few bits of technology that truly is intuitive. I can use it so it proves they're idiot-proof. It's even programmable for those who aren't happy with the existing patterns and prepared to have a go at programming their own. 

Tonewise....you wouldn't fool anybody into believing it's a real drummer but it's close enough for most people not to worry. I use mine through a Behringer BDi - this means a much broader tonal package. 

Since they sold many millions of these you can pick them up used on eBay for stupid prices. I've even thought about buying a spare but they're so reliable there really is no need.

 

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1 hour ago, TheGreek said:

Alesis SR16 - there is a good reason why this is the best selling drum machine  ever. As a hardened technophobe I must say that this is soooo easy to use -  one of the few bits of technology that truly is intuitive. I can use it so it proves they're idiot-proof. It's even programmable for those who aren't happy with the existing patterns and prepared to have a go at programming their own. 

Tonewise....you wouldn't fool anybody into believing it's a real drummer but it's close enough for most people not to worry. I use mine through a Behringer BDi - this means a much broader tonal package. 

Since they sold many millions of these you can pick them up used on eBay for stupid prices. I've even thought about buying a spare but they're so reliable there really is no need.

 

I hope the buttons are better than its predecessor, the HR16. Mine had started sticking after only a couple of years of use.

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1 hour ago, TheGreek said:

Alesis SR16...It's even programmable for those who aren't happy with the existing patterns and prepared to have a go at programming their own. 

Mick - don't disagree with any of your positive comments. The SR16 and 18 are really good bits of kit and also not exorbitantly priced.

But I think I'm correct from what your saying, that you're pretty much using its presets rather than writing your own progs? If so, yes it's gonna be just fine for your needs or indeed something like a BeatBuddy by Sigular Sound would also hit the mark (and be much more compact).

My query for this thread is 'cos I'm looking to move on from presets and the Alesis SR16/18 interface is not the easiest for programming your own drum lines in my experience.

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2 hours ago, Al Krow said:

Mick - don't disagree with any of your positive comments. The SR16 and 18 are really good bits of kit and also not exorbitantly priced.

But I think I'm correct from what your saying, that you're pretty much using its presets rather than writing your own progs? If so, yes it's gonna be just fine for your needs or indeed something like a BeatBuddy by Sigular Sound would also hit the mark (and be much more compact).

My query for this thread is 'cos I'm looking to move on from presets and the Alesis SR16/18 interface is not the easiest for programming your own drum lines in my experience.

If the programming of the SR16 is anything like the HR16 then it is fairly straight forward - there's real time input where you tap the drum pads while a metronome sound plays or step time using the LCD display. At the time this was a perfectly easy and acceptable way of doing things

However if you are used to the modern DAW interface on a computer, I can see that the interface of the Alesis drum machines might well be a step backwards in user-friendliness.

If you want something easy to program with a clear graphical interface then you really need to be looking at one of the DAW-based drum programming plug-ins. If you want stand-alone hardware be prepared to have to learn a new set of skills in order to get the best out of it. 

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Review of EZ drummer 2 here  www.soundonsound.com/reviews/toontrack-ezdrummer-2  from our friends in Bar Hill, from 5 years ago. 

There are a mind boggling amount of expansions, different kits etc, now available five years after this review. 

Toontrack often sell bundles at a reduced price and have a plethora of their own videos available along with the usual Youtube stuff from others.

I don't think anybody could fail to be impressed by the capabilities of this software, it is as flexible as you want it to be and sounds amazing. And if not there is always Superior Drummer ! 

There is an expansion pack of electronic drums if that floats your boat.   

Al, download a demo and see if it works for you. Will cost you Sweet craddock Adams.

Did that get through the profanity filter...  Er no it didn't 

Edited by blisters on my fingers
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@blisters on my fingerscheers for that.

Use an * if you're getting pis*sed off by being censored... 😄 

Only hesitation with software is how does a laptop stack up against hardware in a rehearsal / live situation in terms of usability / interface to amps and sound quality / tweakability? I'm probably being completely luddite in asking this!

There's something comforting about being able to tweak knobs in real time, right? 😁

Edited by Al Krow

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10 hours ago, Al Krow said:

@blisters on my fingerscheers for that.

Use an * if you're getting pis*sed off by being censored... 😄 

Only hesitation with software is how does a laptop stack up against hardware in a rehearsal / live situation in terms of usability / interface to amps and sound quality / tweakability? I'm probably being completely luddite in asking this!

There's something comforting about being able to tweak knobs in real time, right? 😁

From personal experience the biggest factor in being able to make changes in the rehearsal room is persuading your other band members to shut the flip up while you are doing them.

TBH the rehearsal room isn't the place to make any but the simplest of changes. Bands that I've played that use lots of programmable equipment (of any kind) do all their programming at home and only do fine tuning in the rehearsal room.

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58 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

TBH the rehearsal room isn't the place to make any but the simplest of changes. Bands that I've played that use lots of programmable equipment (of any kind) do all their programming at home and only do fine tuning in the rehearsal room.

So it sounds to me that if I'm looking for something that has a "flexible semi-live" capability to it I should be looking for a hardware-with-knobs rather than laptop software with mouse and keyboard?

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When I was in a band with a less than reliable drummer. I always took a laptop to rehearsal, in case he didn't show up. We'd then use those sessions to write new stuff. I'd plug the laptop into the PA and use the Drummer in Logic.

We didn't use the Logic written stuff, but used it to map out the song's sections, draft dynamics etc. Using  a couple of DI boxes I'd record the guitar and bass.

I'd then go home and re-record the guitar and bass parts, if necessary. These would then be the demos to play to the drummer. He could put his own spin on the drums...

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4 hours ago, Al Krow said:

So it sounds to me that if I'm looking for something that has a "flexible semi-live" capability to it I should be looking for a hardware-with-knobs rather than laptop software with mouse and keyboard?

What is that you want to alter? Sounds? Rhythm patterns?

And when do you want to do it? In the rehearsal room as part of the fine tuning for a perfect sound/pattern that will be left alone once you find it? Or as part of the performance.

Bear in mind that many of the drum machines sporting lots of knobs actually have very little control over the sounds. Generally for each drum you find one you like and leave the controls alone after that.

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3 hours ago, BigRedX said:

What is that you want to alter? Sounds? Rhythm patterns?

And when do you want to do it? In the rehearsal room as part of the fine tuning for a perfect sound/pattern that will be left alone once you find it? Or as part of the performance.

Bear in mind that many of the drum machines sporting lots of knobs actually have very little control over the sounds. Generally for each drum you find one you like and leave the controls alone after that.

Well actually it's a really good question! But I think the only way I'm going to find out is by 'sucking it and seeing'.

I just have a 'gut' feel that a hardware solution is going to be easier to flex outside the comfort of home than a software one. I dunno if that chimes?

Neither the software or relatively budget hardware options are going to break the bank at £90 / £300 respectively and both are likely to help me get a deeper understanding of the other half of the rhythm section which has gotta be a good thing. I guess the answer maybe to try both. Starting with the cheaper software and then jumping to hardware if I am finding that limiting and as blisters pointed out I can download a demo for free...

Edited by Al Krow

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On 14/04/2019 at 11:28, bartelby said:

I've kind of got 3 drum machines. The Roland R-8 (left) and the Alesis SR-16 (right) are the conventional ones. But I also have an Arturia Beatstep Pro triggering 4 drum synth modules (centre).

The SR-16 is great for heavier, slightly un-natural, sounding drums. Perfect for industrially sounding tracks. The R-8 has really nice sounding natural stuff, but they can be edited more. Programming the R-8 is a lot nicer than the SR-16, I tend to midi them together and use the R-8 as a sequencer.

The synth modules are totally electronic sounding, them being synths not sample based. They can, using a computer based editor, recreate most classic early drum machine sounds. There's one module each for bass drum, snare, hi hat and clap. The Alesis and Roland machines have taken a bit of a back seat since the synth ones have been in use.

 

Space is getting cramped. I need to reorganise the whole working space. There's another desk behind me, when I was taking the photo.

 

IMG_4796.JPG

Roland R8 and baby brother R5 are still great machines. I don't have either anymore but wish I had. I'm sure I came across the R8 manual in the loft a bit ago and I still have some sound cards knocking about. I'll have a scout for them if you want them? Gratis of course? 😀

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Al, what is it that you want your drum patterns for ?

Is it for songwriting purposes or to take along to a rehearsal if your drummer is unavailable ?

Are you aiming for realistic drum patterns with realistic drum sounds or are you more interested in using a drum machine with lots of tweakability- tweakableness-knobtwiddly ness.??? Cos there is nothing wrong with that - huge amounts of fun.

But that can all be achieved with software with the addition of a midi controller. You could tweak and trigger drum loops and edit sounds in real time and save all your creations ready for the next rehearsal or the next stage of the song.

Are you using a DAW  and if so which one ?

 

 

 

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26 minutes ago, blisters on my fingers said:

Al, what is it that you want your drum patterns for ?

Is it for songwriting purposes or to take along to a rehearsal if your drummer is unavailable ?

Are you aiming for realistic drum patterns with realistic drum sounds or are you more interested in using a drum machine with lots of tweakability- tweakableness-knobtwiddly ness.??? Cos there is nothing wrong with that - huge amounts of fun.

But that can all be achieved with software with the addition of a midi controller. You could tweak and trigger drum loops and edit sounds in real time and save all your creations ready for the next rehearsal or the next stage of the song.

Are you using a DAW  and if so which one ?

I think it's going to be mainly for songwriting purposes and to understand drums more deeply. Never been to a rehearsal without a drummer so far, my lot always seem to turn up! Maybe I've just been ridiculously lucky! 

I need to get off the pot and make a decision on a DAW. There's a whole 'nother thread on that one I know. I guess I'm tossing up between Ableton and Reaper. Very different price points for the two I appreciate, but it's about the time investment getting up to speed for me that this is the key: I'm fortunate that my bands pay their way so investing in gear / kit / accessories isn't a particularly a big deal for me (although I'm still a big fan of value for money!)

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