I got the taste of drum machines back in 1983, I think. We had a gig in a local TV program with a band long time ago, and somehow I got the local Linn distributor to borrow us a Linn Drum machine for the TV session. I picked it up from the company, went straight to the TV recording room, put the machine up, did a loop, and used it live when we played.
Me and a friend had great fun with the Roland TR-808 back in the late eighties, we used to sit on the floor with the TR-808, a Jupiter-6, a mike and a Portastudio and lots of beer, and write 12-16 songs a day.
Going forward in time, a lot of my drum parts were done initially using Reason, it has a nice pattern drum machine, then LinPlug LMIV and the built-in drum kits in Logic such as Ultrabeat and various EXS24 kits. It was matter of punching the midi keyboard and put together kicks, snares, hihats and various combination loops.
Which leads to today. Nowadays, in Ableton Live, I’m just reusing old loops and drum samples I’ve saved from former projects, import them in, and change the loop points around, pitch shift, different volume envelopes, and so on.
For example, for a kick, I just take in a single kick sample, and I could quickly make a four-bar loop out of it by just making one single two-bar version, and drag out the loop. Or change the loop frequency to get a stuttering kick. So it’s like painting with drum sounds. Makes it all very easy and interesting.
I could also layer drum sounds, such as kicks, and with envelopes define which one starts and which one ends. Or quickly make reverse cymbals, or very second clap reverse.
It might be that I’m getting nostalgic next month and will get a used drum machine, who knows. Meanwhile, the paint-drum loops approach works really well, and who would have known long time ago how one could make drum sound today by direct audio snippet manipulations. I have not even explored Specrasonics Stylus RMX, which seems to be very much in use by other producers.
Maybe it would be worth talking about loop uses next.