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A Buyer’s Guide to Vintage Drum Machines

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I love drum machines. In fact, when I was a teenager, I got my start learning about drum beats and rhythms while spending hours sprawled on my bed programming a Roland TR-606. A few years later I was interning at a small recording studio and working with the venerable Linn Drum II and Oberheim DMX drum machines. Looking back now, those machines taught me so much about composition and song structure, foundational skills that I didn’t even realize I was learning while I was having fun programming beats.

What’s particularly impressive about these ’80s drum machines is that many of them are 30+ years old and they still sound and work great. Indeed, when they’re well taken care of they can be just as valuable a production tool as the day they were manufactured. Can you say the same thing about that software program you bought ten years ago that’s now obsolete, thanks to the relentless march of never ending software upgrades? Maybe don’t answer that, because honestly, I hate thinking about all the money I’ve spent on software over the years that I’m no longer using.

Luckily, I’ve been able to assemble a modest drum machine collection that I’d like to share with you in this video, and discuss what I think are some of the best ’80s drum machines for the price. Missing from my collection are the most popular models that due to demand have become outrageously expensive—Roland’s TR-808 and TR-909, the DMX, and Linn Drum II—but I suggest alternatives to these models that sell for a fraction of the price. I also give you several very important tips on what to look for when buying a vintage drum machine so that you can make an informed purchase. If you’re thinking about picking up a vintage drum machine, I hope you’ll find this information useful and that it helps you to find your dream drum machine.

About
Erik “Hawk” Hawkins is an EDM artist, producer, composer, remixer, label owner, and author. His music has been used by major television networks and film studios, including ABC, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, and New Line Cinema. His writing has appeared in top industry publications, including Electronic Musician, Mix, Remix, and Keyboard. He has authored several books, including tje Complete Guide to Remixing and Producing Drum Beats. His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won an UPCEA Award in 2012. He also manages his own busy YouTube channels and has collected way too many vintage synths.
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