All of us have heard of synthesizers. However, when most people think about them, they imagine an electronic keyboard that imitates the sounds of a piano. However, these machines could be used in many different ways. And many professional musicians use synthesizers for imitating sounds of drums and other percussion instruments. If this is the case a synthesizer is usually called a drum machine.
Drum machines could be very useful and convenient in many situations. Sometimes during recording sessions a live drummer is unavailable and a drum machine could perfectly substitute him. Many drum machines today are programmed to be able to create and to manage computer generated music. These machines are able to reproduce sounds of various percussion instruments. They could be programmed with the desired drum beats and then simply turned on when needed.
First drum machines appeared in the 1930s. They were called rhythm machines and were somewhat different from the ones that are available today. The first rhythm machine was called the Rhythmicon. This device could produce sixteen different beats. These beats could be played on their own or in various combinations with each other. The Rhytmicon was very popular after its invention, but it did not become popular among musicians and was forgotten rather soon. The following drum machines were inflexible and could produce preprogrammed rhythms only. They were mostly used for playing tango and mambo as well as some other types of Latin music.
Drum machines were not popular until the 1950s. This is when the Sideman was introduced. This drum machine was the first one to be produced commercially. This drum machine was developed and sold by the company that produced organs and jukeboxes as well. Initially, the Sideman was designed to serve as an accompaniment for the organs. And during the long ten years drum machines were produced to fulfill this function only.
But in the beginning of the 1970s drum a wider group of people got interested in the drum machines. In the 1970 the first pop song was released where a drum machine was used. And since then drum machines have been gaining their popularity. They are widely used in music industry today.
The first drum machines used analog sound synthesis. Unlike them the modern versions of drum machines use digital synthesis. That is why the result sound of old and modern drum machines differs a lot. These differences make some musicians use earlier drum machines in their music to get unusual sound.
With the beginning of the 21st century drum machines’ popularity has been decreasing. Other types of modern software are now available for musicians and this leaves drum machines behind.
It should also be noticed that not all musicians approve the use of drum machines. And many professionals still prefer acoustic drums.