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Bring that beat back! (press "start")
December 27, 2006 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Of course you know the rhythm box/drum machine has had a profound impact on modern music-making, but how much do you know about its history? Was the Rhythmicon the very first rhythm machine? Korg's DoncaMatic (great name, eh?) was one of the first commercial models. Up until 1979 they were all pre-programmed, but Roland ushered in the modern era with the user-programmable CR-78, and followed it up soon after with the legendary TR808. Go here for a fairly comprehensive overview of vintage drum machines (organized alphabetically, with photos and descriptions/background info). And here you can interact with a wide assortment of virtual [Flash] rhythm boxes of the 70's and 80's. (Knee-jerk Flash haters, go ahead and hate it, but this is one of the best uses of Flash I can imagine.)
posted by flapjax at midnite (26 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Lovely.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 9:19 AM on December 27, 2006


Good memories. Once while playing with a Roland machine I had some sort of transcendent rhythmic experience where the rhythm was liberated from my bones and into the space between my figertips and the little drumpad buttons on the Roland. For a fleeting moment I could see the source of rhythm and its relation to time. Fun stuff, and only possible because my body wasn't wholly engaged in the means of production of the rhythm as it would be if it were sitting at an actual instrument that required more force. Ahem..anyways.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:24 AM on December 27, 2006


Cool post :)... Your last link (to the interactive rhythm boxes) also features a virtual version of Mattel's BeeGee's Rhythm Machine, which is cheese-tastically fun!
posted by amyms at 9:27 AM on December 27, 2006


Raise your hand if "Me and My Rhythm Box" began playing in your head. "It is ... preprogrammed ... so what? SO WHAT?"
posted by adipocere at 9:30 AM on December 27, 2006


[raises hand]
posted by al_fresco at 9:51 AM on December 27, 2006


{Raises Hand}, and hangs head in shame for knowing the reference.
posted by Elim at 10:07 AM on December 27, 2006


The 808 kickdrum makes the girlies get dumb.
posted by NationalKato at 10:11 AM on December 27, 2006


Along the same lines, the Baseline Baseline video at Nate Harrison's site is an extremely fascinating view on the TB-303.

Between mefi and youtube (yes, youtube), i have come to rekindle my love for music and make it all the stronger.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:15 AM on December 27, 2006


There went my afternoon. I had a friend who drove me crazy with his Dr. Rhythm, and we actually used a Roland TR-505 in a band for a while, in about '83, I think. I've still got home demos featuring both, though they're cringe-worthy. I thought I'd hit the big time when I bought me a Yamaha RX 15, but I ended up hating that thing within about 6 weeks, after it began to appear in every jingle recorded for the next 2 years.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:17 AM on December 27, 2006


unf unf unf chk
unf unf unf unf
unf unf unf chk
unf unf unf unf

unf unf unf chk
unf unf unf oom
unf unf unf chk
unf unf unf oom

unf unf unf chk
unf unf tak oom
unf unf chk chk
unf unf tak oom
posted by loquacious at 10:17 AM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh, and how about that Casio Demo Song? that was a catchy little ditty.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:19 AM on December 27, 2006


If you want to play with a software 808 and 909, here's a link to the now-freeware Rebirth.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:07 PM on December 27, 2006


Oh to own/get to play with a real TR-909, if only for a little while.....sweet, sweet rhythm composer. Gotta love that bass kick!
posted by rhythim at 1:15 PM on December 27, 2006


Hey Hey! My old band played with that there uhmmm..
Bee Gee's rhythm box...and it rocked...it rocked Dude.
Just like that uhmmmm...Casio hand-held thingamabob.
Oh man..those were the days.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:57 PM on December 27, 2006


I'd guess that mechanical carousel music-machines predate the Rhythmicon and could play a number of tunes (so might have been programmable, possibly with music-box-style wheels). Did they predate player pianos?

Interesting question. It'd be great to hear about a book that covers the history of mechanically-produced music and rhythms. No doubt they go way back, possibly thousands of years ... wouldn't be surprised if the ancient Greeks did that.
posted by Twang at 4:45 PM on December 27, 2006


"unf unf unf chk
unf unf unf unf"

That's what she said.
posted by Twang at 4:46 PM on December 27, 2006


I thought the 808 was a smashing success from its birth -- interesting to hear they fell way out of style before they became popular again.
posted by bardic at 5:12 PM on December 27, 2006


No mention of the classic TB-303 in the FPP?! The essential Roland box that had multiple genres named after it? (acid house, acid techno, acid trance, etc) For shame!

The 303 was produced by Roland as a studio replacement for a bass guitar. Its sound is nowhere near a real bass guitar, but the synth was discovered to have an insane "liquid" sound perfect for electronic music. It inspired endless forms of techno, house, and trance, not to mention the careers of folks like Josh Wink, Hardfloor, and Chris Liberator.

The 303 is still an essential piece in many electronic musicians. and it continues to fetch $800- $1500 for used units on the market. (it retailed for ~$200 when it came out)

Hearing some classic acid house at a club still makes me grin and dance like a crazy fool. Good times.
posted by rsanheim at 5:18 PM on December 27, 2006


Um. The 303 is not a drum machine.
posted by geekhorde at 5:28 PM on December 27, 2006


No mention of the classic TB-303 in the FPP?! For shame!

Well, it was a fairly long FPP already, and the 303 doesn't exactly fall into the "rhythm box/drum machine" category. Perhaps another FPP on sequencers is in order. But thanks for the 303 link. It was an important (and certainly lovable) little machine.

Side note as relates to the 303: I did some gigs (as drummer) for a Japanese group called Buffalo Daughter, and one of the tunes used a 303 for the bassline. It sounded great, but the tempo was wobbly as hell: drifted like crazy, and was really hard to play to.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:51 PM on December 27, 2006


808 State are fucking great!
posted by Artw at 6:50 PM on December 27, 2006


Best drum machine ever
posted by dydecker at 8:09 PM on December 27, 2006


The Mattel Synsonics drum gets nothing but greif from "real" musicians, but it's capable of some great things in the right hands. A percussionist I jam with squeezed some Industrial beats out of that goofy little toy drum that would make Ogre or Al Jourgensen grin. We fed the signal through a professional bass amp (the Synsonics has stereo out), it was great! I'm planning on getting my own now.
posted by lekvar at 9:02 PM on December 27, 2006


Synsonics link from the Keyboard Museum link, above
posted by lekvar at 9:03 PM on December 27, 2006


The 303 definitely fell into a the "rhythm box" category. It might not have been created as such, but the way it ended up being used certainly put it in that category.

Even if its not strictly in the same category as the 808/909, they are just like milk and cookies. Sure, you can have them separately, but its just not the same.
posted by rsanheim at 7:35 AM on December 28, 2006


Okay, okay, rsanheim, we bow to you superior knowledge! The 303 was a rhythm box! It was also a breath freshener, a bottle opener, and could double as a helicopter engine carburetor, in a pinch. Are you happy now?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:00 PM on December 28, 2006


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