- 1. Alesis SR-18
- 2. Singular Sound BeatBuddy Mini 2
- 3. Elektron Analog Rytm MKII Black
- 4. Behringer RD-9 Analog Drum Machine
- 5. Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner Performance Groove Machine
- 6. Korg Volca Beats Analog Drum Machine
- 7. Arturia Drumbrute Impact
- 8. Roland TR-6S
- What Is A Drum Machine?
- Why Guitarists Might Want One
- Achieving Harmonious Symphonies: A Drum Machine Roundup
As a musician, you will be well aware that rhythm is the backbone of every song. Drum Machines allow you to create complex, highly customized rhythm patterns without needing a live drummer. This article will guide you through the best drum machines for guitarists to keep an eye on in 2023.
We’ll explore several top models in detail, discussing their key benefits, pricing, and pros and cons. These machines, packed with powerful features and impressive versatility, are designed to spark your creativity and elevate your audio production. Let’s explore your next rhythm powerhouse!
The Alesis SR-18 is an upgraded version of the popular SR-16 drum machine, boasting a larger sound library and more advanced features.
With its release in 1990, this drum machine has been favored by musicians for its affordability, high-quality sounds, and user-friendly interface.
It is equipped with a tap/tempo button, a row of buttons for instrument selection and play modes, and 12 performance pads that can be used in two different modes. The machine is compact and portable and capable of running on AC power or batteries, which makes it suitable for both studio and live performances.
- High-quality sounds: The SR-18 offers a wide range of sounds, including 71 kick drums, 99 snares, 89 hi-hats, 78 toms, 65 cymbals, and 169 percussion voices. It also includes 50 bass sounds for added versatility.
- Comprehensive interfaces: The back panel includes MIDI-In and MIDI-Out ports, an instrument input, audio outputs, and a headphone jack. These features allow you to easily integrate your beats into a live performance setup or a studio environment.
- User-friendly: It features a comfortable human interface, with a large and bright display that is easy to read. This makes the machine easy to use on stage for you live guitarists out there!
- Functional diversity: The SR-18 allows for recording patterns and songs, with options for real-time programming or step editing. It also has the ability to store 200 different drum sets in memory and comes with 100 factory sets.
The Alesis SR-18 drum machine offers a great price-to-performance ratio. It is known for its affordability and offers excellent value for its price.
The Alesis SR-18 drum machine has been commended for its affordability and high-quality sound, with a broad variety of acoustic drum and percussion sounds. It is also praised for its ease of use with a large and bright display and comprehensive inputs and outputs. Moreover, it is lightweight and portable, making it ideal for travel and portable use.
Despite these strengths, the machine does have some limitations. The effects on the SR-18 are preset, meaning they cannot be customized. This could limit the creative freedom of some musicians. Additionally, the buttons on the machine offer a limited dynamic range with only three different sound variations. The location of the volume control at the back can be inconvenient, and the lack of USB connectivity may be a hindrance for some users. Personally, I haven’t found any of these particular features to be limiting to the usability of the machine.
However, the machine does boast a large internal memory with over 500 drum sounds and 50 bass sounds, making it a versatile tool for music creation.
The Singular Sound BeatBuddy Mini 2 is a compact and portable drum machine pedal that delivers powerful and versatile performance.
It brilliantly amalgamates the functionalities of a drum machine and a stompbox, which enables you to mix and match hundreds of styles, genres, and drum sets at your convenience. This pedal features an on-screen visual metronome, a volume wheel, and an all-purpose foot switch, which makes it easy to customize. It also comes with a built-in beat display screen that exhibits the current drum set, bpm, and time signature.
The pedal also boasts two dynamic function knobs for customizing volume, genre, song, and tempo as per your preference. Automatic light-up cues for tracking transitions and fills are also provided which ensures seamless sync during live performances. With over 200 dynamic styles and genres at your disposal, you can find the perfect match for your music. Given its compact construction, it saves space on pedalboards, making it a convenient addition to any setup.
- Compact and portable design: The BeatBuddy Mini 2 combines drum machine and stompbox functionalities, whilst utilizing space-saving construction. This ensures you will be able to transport it to and from gigs with ease.
- Highly customizable: This drum machine features a volume wheel and an all-purpose foot switch for easy control. It also has customizable volume, genre, song, and tempo settings.
- Easy to use: This machine has an on-screen visual metronome, a built-in beat display screen, and automatic light-up cues for tracking transitions and fills.
- Variety: The BeatBuddy Mini 2 also allows you to enjoy over 200 dynamic styles and genres
The BeatBuddy Mini 2 is considered to be a great product for its price point. It provides good value, especially when compared to its more advanced but pricier counterpart, the BeatBuddy.
Speaking from the standpoint of its pros, the BeatBuddy Mini 2 offers a robust performance wrapped in a compact package. Its ability to blend the features of a drum machine and stompbox allows for a wide range of styles and genres, which can be a boon for musicians looking for diverse sound effects.
The pedal’s controls are easy to operate, and the visual cues make it easier to stay in sync during performances.
However, the BeatBuddy Mini 2 is not without its cons. While many appreciate its compact size, some might find the need to bend down and adjust the patterns manually a bit inconvenient. To make it smoother for on-stage performances, it could benefit from the addition of features like a 9V battery option and Bluetooth connectivity for easier control and flexibility. Despite these minor gripes, the BeatBuddy Mini 2 is generally well-received for its functionality and value.
The Elektron Analog Rytm MKII Black is an 8-voice analog drum machine with 12 tracks and an FX track that combines analog drum synthesis with sample playback.
This machine is designed sleekly with a grey aluminum case and a white-on-black OLED screen. It has been improved with larger, softer pads for an enhanced finger drumming experience and improved encoders and buttons. It also includes a 13-track sequencer for precise control over patterns and sounds.
- Great sound-shaping capabilities: thanks to a variety of machines for creating drum sounds like kicks, snares, claps, toms, hats, cymbals, and cowbells.
- Sleek hardware: The new light grey aluminum case, white-on-black OLED screen, and improved encoders and buttons make it very user-friendly
- Easy to make it your own: Each drum voice allows you to combine the analog tone generator with a digital sample, which makes it flexible for routing and recording your music. It also allows you to record and manipulate your own samples directly on the drum machine thanks to Digitakt-style sampling.
- Large memory: 1GB of onboard storage for your own sample library, with additional space for patterns, kits, and drum sounds
- Extra features: Overbridge VST/AU plug-in provides control and audio input for your DAW
The Elektron Analog Rytm MKII Black offers excellent value for its price, given its wide range of capabilities and features.
One of the prominent advantages of the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII Black is its unique blend of digital and analog sound generation. The integration with Overbridge technology ensures seamless computer integration. The Mark 2 model also introduces an improved path, buttons, screen, and encoders, as well as an angled case which enhances user experience.
Additionally, the machine offers a performance knob for performance macros control directly from the interface. The electron sequence allows for automation of each step, micro timing, and retrigs, offering a whole new level of versatility to the user. The unit also includes individual outputs for all tracks, as well as CV and expression pedal inputs.
A significant improvement in the MKII version is the sampling functionality that allows users to easily trim, save, and assign recorded samples to any of the analog tracks.
Plus, the addition of the Dual VCO analog synth engine provides even more versatility for creating percussive and bass sounds.
However, it’s worth noting that the 12 rubber pads on the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII are less expressive and sensitive compared to other drum machines. Also, while the 122×32 pixel display is adequate, it isn’t considered luxurious. To list these drawbacks, I’m really clutching at straws, as the machine is pretty flawless. The overall capabilities and features of the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII Black make it an excellent tool for electronic music production and it has received countless 5-star reviews.
The Behringer RD-9 is a classic analog/digital drum machine that takes inspiration from the legendary TR-909 drum machine. It is a faithful recreation of its legendary predecessor, providing a modern take on the classic drum machine with several enhancements.
The RD-9 is designed to capture the original essence of a TR-909 while offering modern features that make it more versatile. It features a 64-step sequencer, dual-mode filter, 10 drum voices, and more. Its interface is designed for live performances, making it ideal for both studio work and live gigs.
- Record sounds individually: The Behringer RD-9 has 10 distinct drum voices, including bass drum, snare, toms, rim shot, hi-hats, crash, ride, and 10 individual outputs so you can record and process sounds individually
- Modern upgrades of the iconic Roland TR-909: It features a USB MIDI capability and an effects section with a wave designer and analog filter.
- Flexible sound shaping: The Behringer RD-9 highlights a flexible 64-step sequencer for pattern programming and two modes for sound shaping: authentic mode and enhanced mode.
- Solid build quality: The metal bottom base and plastic sides make it robust and sturdy.
The Behringer RD-9 is competitively priced, offering real analog circuitry at an accessible price point. It offers great value, given its comprehensive feature set and high-quality sound.
The Behringer RD-9 is a well-constructed drum machine that offers a classic sound. The sound quality and build have been commended, highlighting its durability and robustness. The individual outputs make it easy to integrate with external effects gear, adding to its versatility. It offers an authentic TR-909 experience without the high price tag, making it a fantastic option for those on a budget.
However, the sequencer, while robust, can be a bit challenging to switch patterns while playing, which may require some getting used to. The step keys operate more like membrane keys and might feel a bit stiff to some people. We may be getting finicky but some may miss the clicky-clack sound from the step buttons.
There have been some discussions about the Hi-Hat in Authentic Mode, questioning its precision. A desire for stereo output and internal panning on the RD-9 has also been raised.
Despite these, the RD-9 remains a worthy investment for any music enthusiast looking for a quality drum machine. It offers a classic old-school sound with modern refinements and various connectivity options. The enhancements it delivers, such as the Wave Designer, step-repeat, note-repeat, high and low-pass filter, and probability options, all contribute to making it a versatile and effective tool for music production.
The Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner is a top-notch percussion machine, specially tailored for acoustic musicians. Loaded with a plethora of organic percussion sounds and versatile grooves, this tool embellishes the unplugged music experience.
Its compatibility extends to several acoustic instruments – from guitar to violin, from piano to ukulele and vocals. The compact and portable design of the DR-01S coupled with battery-powered operation makes it an ideal assistant for musicians on the move.
- Flexible user-friendly interface: The DR-01S features handy I/O that lets you connect your media player or send audio to a PA, and you can plug in pedals for impromptu control. You can sub instruments in and out for customized beats and variations. It also has optional footswitches for hands-free control.
- Specialized for acoustic musicians: The rhythm partner includes acoustic-specific sounds such as the shaker, maracas, conga, and cajon, in addition to acoustic drums. The DR-01S also features a line-out connection for an acoustic guitar amp or larger sound system.
- High-quality integrated sound system: With sounds that come directly from BOSS and Roland’s top-shelf products, there is no question mark around the sound quality.
- Compact and portable design: for easy mobility, battery-powered operation for usage anywhere
- Inbuilt aux input for use as a speaker for other audio players
The Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner is priced at roughly $245 USD, offering a great option for budget-conscious musicians.
From a personal standpoint, the Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner is a remarkable drum machine designed for acoustic musicians. It’s housed in an appealing casing with an inbuilt speaker, offering an array of organic percussion sounds and versatile grooves and beats. This makes it perfect for sparking creativity and providing inspiration for songwriting; it can also substitute for a live drummer for acoustic performers.
The Rhythm Partner features seven instrument categories that include shaker, tambourine, wood blocks, hand clap, bongo, conga, full drum kits, and a simple metronome. Each category provides an extensive variety of rhythm patterns, enabling musicians to create hundreds of rhythm combinations.
The machine also offers 50 memory slots to save favorite combinations, a feature that is often appreciated.
The DR-01S is easy to use, which allows musicians to focus more on their creativity. It comes with a large start-stop button that’s easy to tap between strums, a countdown feature that gives a metronome count before starting the drum pattern, and volume controls that can be adjusted for each instrument category. Additionally, the reverb level and fade-out length can be manipulated to suit your needs.
With its compact and attractive design, the DR-01S is perfectly portable and suitable for home use. It features a line output for connection to an external amplifier and an auxiliary input to play music from a phone, tablet, or MP3 player through the built-in speaker. Powering the unit is flexible; it can either be powered by a DC power supply or six AA batteries, making it convenient for on-the-go use.
However, it’s worth noting that some musicians might find the DR-01S a tad sophisticated, particularly when it comes to layering patterns from different categories in real time. However, if you have used a drum machine many times before like myself, the results can be truly rewarding. All in all, the Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner is a versatile and user-friendly drum machine for acoustic musicians, offering a wide range of percussion sounds and rhythm patterns for endless creativity. Its compact design and portability make it a fantastic companion for acoustic performances.
The Korg Volca Beats is a micro analog rhythm machine that’s perfect for producers seeking quality analog drums without the high cost.
It offers an analog sound engine with digital control, enabling tweaks and note information to be recorded into the sequencer or accessed over MIDI. The sequencer is limited to 16 steps, but it can be used as a sound module for longer sequences from a digital audio workstation (DAW). The Volca Beats is powered by either batteries or a wall-wart, with a compact and robust build, making it ideal for mobility.
- Hybrid design: The Volca Beats showcases Korg’s commitment to new analog technology with a hybrid design that includes an analog sound engine and digital control.
- Connectivity: It offers various connectivity options, including a shared stereo mini-jack for headphones/main out, a din MIDI input for triggering from an external MIDI device, and sync in/out for syncing multiple Volcas.
- Memory: The Volca Beats allows you to save up to 8 patterns for later recall.
- Versatility: The Volca Beats features six analog and four PCM sounds, each with adjustable parameters, making it highly versatile for different sound production.
- Compact and Portable: The Volca Beats is compact, approximately the size of a VHS cassette, and operatable by 6xAA batteries, making it perfect for on-the-go production.
The Korg Volca Beats is an affordable solution for producers who want quality analog drums at a fair price.
From what I gather, the Korg Volca Beats is a mini analog drum machine that has caught the attention of many music enthusiasts. Its layout and style mimic that of the Korg Monotron, complete with knobs and lights.
The machine is well-equipped, offering six analog drum sounds and four PCM voices, including kick, snare, low tom, high tom, and hi-hats. It also allows for various adjustments like pitch, decay, snap, and grain, further enhancing the versatility of sound production.
The Volca Beats offers a range of connections, including MIDI in, sync in, sync out, and audio output. It’s powerable by six AA batteries or a 9V power supply, making it highly portable. It also features tempo control, memory for saving patterns, step mode for sequencing, a touchpad for triggering, and a function button for accessing additional features.
While it lacks velocity sensitivity or accents, volume adjustments of individual voices are possible. The built-in speakers and the option to connect to external speakers or mixers are also handy features.
Despite its impressive sound possibilities, the Volca Beats has limitations. The number of parameters that can be recorded into the sequence is restricted. Moreover, the output level is low, meaning it requires higher gain settings on mixers.
Overall, the Korg Volca Beats offers a balanced mix of functionality, ease of use, and playability at an arguably affordable price.
The Arturia DrumBrute Impact is a compact drum machine presenting an affordable alternative to its predecessor, the DrumBrute.
Featuring 10 analog drum voices and a BeatStep-style performance sequencer in a portable design, the DrumBrute Impact provides a variety of sounds and sequencing capabilities.
Although it has fewer voices and outputs compared to the original DrumBrute, the Impact version introduces a new Color mode, which lets users change the tonality of each sound to give more variety to their patterns.
- Various drum sounds: The Arturia Drumbrute Impact has ten analog drum voices for rich, punchy sounds including: kick, two snares, high tom/low tom, cymbal/cowbell, closed hi-hat, open hi-hat, and FM percussion.
- Modify sound tonality: It features a new color mode to variate sound tonality and a master distortion effect for adding saturation and compression-like effects.
- Create complex polyrhythms: Each track can be a different length which allows you to make polyrhythms. It also features a song mode for creating pattern chains and a step repeat for creating looping longer structures.
The Arturia Drumbrute Impact is generally recognized for its affordability, especially considering its range of features and capabilities.
On the positive side, the Arturia DrumBrute Impact is a powerful analog drum machine offering a broad spectrum of features. It’s particularly known for its unique and authentic analog sound, resulting from its physical circuitry. With ten different instruments, adjustable parameters, and a color function, the product provides a distinct character to each sound.
The built-in sequencer allows up to 64 steps at a time, with swing and randomness controls, which enhances its flexibility. The drum machine showcases other dynamic features such as velocity-sensitive pads, looper, and roller functions for creating fills and effects, and track muting or soloing for more dynamic performances.
The drum machine is limited to its built-in sounds and does not allow for loading custom samples. This limitation might restrict the creative options for some users. The other disappointment is that the knobs on the drum machine cannot be motion sequenced, meaning that any changes to the sound must be made manually. However, I can’t say that I have found this too be too troubling.
In conclusion, despite some drawbacks, the Arturia DrumBrute Impact stands out as a reliable and affordable analog drum machine with a wide range of sounds and features, suitable for both studio and live performances.
The Roland TR-6S, a compact drum machine, hails from Roland’s Boutique range. It’s a modern spin on the classic X0X drum workflow, inspired by the historic TR-606.
This diminutive machine is a much more portable and affordable version of its larger counterpart, the TR-8S. The TR-6S also has the benefit of being small and lightweight, with six channels.
The machine incorporates the ACB (analog circuit behavior) engine from Roland for synth modeling of classic X0X sounds, while also offering the potential to use custom samples and FM drum synth. The TR-6S layout resembles a mixer with each drum sound hosted on its own channel and fader. The machine has dedicated knobs for controlling reverb, delay, and master effects, and three knobs for tweaking pitch, decay, and one assignable parameter.
- Compact and portable design: Operateable by power over USB or via 4xAAA batteries for on-the-go music production
- User-friendly interface: The TR-6S is fitted with dedicated controls for each track and parameter. It is functional as an audio and MIDI USB
- Great features: It has 6 channels for advanced drum sequencing. It incorporates Roland’s ACB engine for synth modeling of classic X0X sounds. It also offers a range of performance features like sub-steps, flam, step loop, and motion recording.
- Flexible usability: The TR-6S features a step loop mode and fill trigger for pattern variation. It offers a wide range of sound design options and hybrid drum kits, and the ability to use emulated sounds, samples, or FM synth tones.
The Roland TR-6S is generally considered a budget-friendly choice for its extensive features and capabilities.
The TR-6S is a potent tool that shines with versatility and offers a lot of creative possibilities. The unit has six tracks for different sounds, including drums, samples, and even chords, supporting a wide range of sound design options. You can load up presets or import your own samples via an SD card. Its sequence, while step-based, offers shuffle and subdivision options, adding an extra layer of groove to your beats.
The TR-6S also boasts various effects that can be applied to individual tracks or the overall output. What’s more, it can be powered by USB or batteries, making it suitable for both studio and on-the-go use.
One of the most significant advantages of the TR-6S is its user-friendly interface. Despite being compact, it comes with dedicated controls for each track and parameter.
On the flip side, the controls are small and may take some time to get used to, especially for those with larger hands. Some may also find the interface a bit confusing with a lot of menu diving required to access certain features. The sequence does not allow for unquantized recording which one might consider a drawback.
However, I certainly wouldn’t say that this takes away from the overall power and versatility of this compact drum machine.
A drum machine, at its simplest, is a device that creates electronic drum sounds and rhythms. It’s mainly used in music production or live performances, and it’s especially popular with guitarists. You might find it handy because it lets you add drum accompaniment to your playing without needing a live drummer.
Drum machines really provide a wide variety of drum sounds and patterns, giving you the freedom to experiment with different styles and genres. This flexibility means you can use drum machines in a variety of musical genres, from rock and pop to electronic and hip-hop. They’re useful in both studio recordings and live performances, ensuring a consistent and reliable drum sound.
When it comes to functionality, you can program drum machines to play specific patterns or beats, giving you total control over the rhythm and timing of your music. They can also sync with other instruments and recording devices, making it easier to create cohesive and professional-sounding tracks.
Modern models have evolved over time and now include features like built-in effects, sampling capabilities, and MIDI connectivity. So, if you’re a guitarist, a drum machine can really enhance your music with professional drum sounds and rhythms.
Drum machines offer you, as a guitarist, numerous benefits, giving you a unique edge in your music production and performance. These devices are often used by musicians like you because they provide a rhythmic backing that can add to your music. They’re versatile tools that you can use for practicing scales, learning new songs, or creating original music.
The best drum machines for guitarists, which come as both standalone hardware devices and software programs, enable you to practice along with a rhythm section, even when you don’t have a live drummer around. This versatility also comes in handy during live performances, where they can provide a consistent and reliable rhythm. So, they’re a powerful ally for your stage performances and home practices.
These devices come in various types, with most having 16 steps that you can use to create different time signatures and measures. This feature lets you tailor your rhythm patterns, enhancing your creativity and music diversity. With a drum machine, you can focus on working on your rhythm and sense of time. So, if you’re a guitarist aiming to improve your musical performance and a mind full of creativity, a drum machine is a tool that will allow you to unlock your full potential.
When you’re in the market for a drum machine, you’ve got to think about the instrument’s sound quality, user interface, and its potential to spark your creativity. As you’ve seen in our roundup, each drum machine has its own unique strengths and possibilities. Maybe you’re drawn to the affordability and quality sounds of the Alesis SR-18, or perhaps the compact and dynamic performance of the Singular Sound BeatBuddy Mini 2 is more your speed. You might be intrigued by the unique blend of digital and analog sound production of the Elektron Analog Rytm MKII Black, or the classic vibes and modern refinements of the Behringer RD-9.
If you’re an acoustic sound lover, the Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner could be a great fit for you, while the Korg Volca Beats offers an affordable solution for quality analog drums. Looking for something compact and versatile? The Roland TR-6S and Arturia Drumbrute Impact each offer a unique blend of features in a portable design.
Your choice in finding the best drum machine for guitarists will revolve around your budget, musical goals, and preferences. I hope this roundup has shed some light on the possibilities and potential of each drum machine, as well as the potential drawbacks, so you can make the best choice for you.
Remember, while technical specifications and features are important, the most crucial factor is how the drum machine fits your personal style and enhances your music-making experience. So, listen to demos, try them out if you can, and choose the one that resonates most with your creative intuition. Let your drum machine be the rhythm keeper of your music, so you can explore your melodies further.