Was talking to a friend today about his upcoming purchase of Maschine. He’s had a bit of a fiddle in his local music store and watched the Jeremy Ellis videos on youtube. I was telling him about a couple of drum machines I have and their “jamability”. I have an MC-303, a MC-202 Dr. Groove and a Korg Electribe Er-1 (Mk 1). Now these machines are all getting long in the tooth to be sure, and they don’t get used much as I use ableton live for beat creation stuff these days. However out of these three the Korg Er-1 is the hands down winner in terms of beat creation because every function is done in real time. It has the classic 808/909 step sequence programming interface which gives you the ability to jam. There are plenty of knobs to twiddle and it is an excellent tool for sculpting sound as well as programming beats. If I was going to a old school techno jam (no ableton) that would be my first choice.
It is totally crazy to think that there have been a heap of beat creation tools made that require you to hit the stop button. On many of them programming a beat goes something like this. Hit record once, choose the length of bars needed, choose your tempo, choose your drum kit/sample sounds. Maybe choose your record mode (step vs real time) Hit play, when you have finished hit stop. Then play the beat in non record mode so you are not doing any recording while tweaking the knobs etc. How totally unmusical is this? who designed these machines? My vote is that computer programmers designed the user interface based on their requirements. I program computers for a living and have seen first hand how the programmer often does serious damage to the user experience because implementing the really cool features can take a lot more effort.
If you have to hit stop, you can’t jam. If you can’t jam you can’t be totally spontaneous. If you can’t be spontaneous, you miss out on a whole lot of good ideas that flow from the music being created.
These days I’m looking covetously at the Tempest by Dave Smith and Roger Linn, it looks hot as and sounds dreamy and fat. But what I really want to know is, do you have to hit stop? Because if you have to hit stop, it’s just a machine, not a musical instrument.