A drum machine, also referred to as a drum pad, is an electronic musical instrument designed to imitate the sound of drums or other percussion instruments. They are used in a variety of musical genres, not just purely electronic music. They are also a common necessity when session drummers are not available or desired.
Most modern drum machines are sequencers with a sample playback (rompler) or synthesizer component that specializes in the reproduction of drum timbres as well as the sound of other traditional percussion instruments. Though features vary from model to model, many modern drum machines can also produce unique sounds (though usually percussive in nature), and allow the user to compose unique drum beats.
Early drum machines
Early drum machines were often referred to as "rhythm machines." In 1930–32, the spectacularly innovative and complex Rhythmicon was realized by Léon Theremin on the commission of composer-theorist Henry Cowell, who wanted an instrument with which to play compositions whose multiple rhythmic patterns, based on the overtone series, were far too difficult to perform on existing keyboard instruments. The invention could produce sixteen different rhythms, each associated with a particular pitch, either individually or in any combination, including en masse, if desired. Received with considerable interest when it was publicly introduced in 1932, the Rhythmicon was soon set aside by Cowell and was virtually forgotten for decades. The next generation of rhythm machines played only preprogrammed rhythms such as mambo, tango, or the like.
In 1947 Californian Harry Chamberlin constructed a tape loop based drum machine called the Chamberlin Rhythmate. It had 14 tape loops with a sliding head that allowed playback of different tracks on each piece of tape, or a blending between them. It contained a volume and a pitch/speed control and also had a separate amplifier with bass, treble, and volume controls, and an input jack for a guitar, microphone or other instrument. The tape loops were of real acoustic jazz drum kits playing different style beats, with some additions to tracks such as bongos, clave, castanets, etc.
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