The Ongoing History of New Music, episode 993: The history of the drum machine.

One of the most important parts of music is beat and rhythm. Without beats, without rhythm, there’s no groove. Without a groove, there’s no movement or dancing or physically getting into the music. Beats and grooves are essential building blocks for so much of modern music.

In some songs, the beat is subtle but there…you feel it without someone having to keep it for you. But in others, you need a timekeeper, someone to emphasize and augment and the beats and the rhythms.

For centuries, that job has fallen to drummers and percussionists. But what if a drummer or percussionist isn’t available? Or if you want to try something rhythmic but with different sounds, sounds that a drummer can’t make? Then you might find yourself reaching for a drum machine…

Since their introduction in the very early 1980s, drum machines have become an essential part of modern compositions and productions. In fact, it’s impossible to imagine the music we have today without such electronic devices.

Oh, we still have human drummers—we always will—but drum machines have taken us places that human timekeepers never could. Ad i’m speaking as someone who plays drums myself.

But how did this all come about? Let’s investigate. This is the history of machines that keep time for our music.

Songs heard on this show:

  • Billy Idol, Eyes Without a Face
  • Ultravox, Vienna
  • Tears for Fears, Mad World
  • Human League, Don’t You Want Me
  • A Guy Called Gerald, Voodoo Ray
  • Beastie Boys, Brass Monkey
  • New Order, Blue Monday.

Here’s a playlist from Eric Wilhite.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38319 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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