A while back (umm, last year?) old pal Kirby gave me an Adafruit NeoTrellis M4 with Enclosure and Buttons Kit Pack which I believe he got in an Adabox. At the time I was like, “Hey, this is neat!” and put it aside because I was busy with work. Well, I finally found it when I was cleaning the office and decided to dig a little deeper and discovered the demo code it shipped with was already running a minimal drum machine! They had some samples loaded up and it was a super-basic tracker. Fun!
The provided samples were not that great so I grabbed a kick, tom, snare, and hi-hat from the classic Roland TR-808 which, well, you probably know. As for the Adafruit NeoTrellis, it’s is a fun little drum machine! A bit challenging, and definitely minimal, but worth spending some time with. The audio is running out of the NeoTrellis and through a Bastl Dude and filmed/recorded to an iPhone.
Note: I found this guide to Trellis M4 Beat Sequencers which should prove extremely useful! It’s way more capable than I imagined, which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s from Adafruit.
While I’ve been doing this DAWless thing and avoiding using computers for music making I haven’t completely moved away from what might be called “computer music”. I was exploring iOS music applications and found the EGDR606 Drum Machine which was $3.99 USD.
It’s a recreation of the Roland TR-606 which means it’s similar to the Behringer RD-6 Analog Drum Machine I use. For that reason I gave it a try. While I would rather use the RD-6 every time, while on the move the EGDR606 can be a fun little thing to play with. Occasionally I’ll make some drum pattern than I can then try out on my RD-6, which is nice.
I did find the application a little rough as far as saving out patterns, but it it can export WAV files and you can grab them to move elsewhere. Honestly that’s probably due in part to the clunkiness of the iOS file system, so it’s not a huge deal. It could just be a bit cleaner.
(If you’re more of an 808 fan you can check out the EGDR808 from Elliot Garage instead.)
Here’s a fun sonic experiment. The RD-6 has outputs for each sound (well, some are shared) so I ran a splitter from the bass drum output and the clean signal goes to one input on the Dude Mixer and the other goes to the Monotron Delay and then out from there into the Dude Mixer. The third input into the Dude is the standard output from the RD-6 which is all the rest of the drums. (Minus the bass drum because when you output a specific sound it subtracts it from the main output.)
So that’s one channel for plain bass drum, one channel for bass drum through the delay (and the Monotron itself) and one channel for all the other drums/sounds.
Then it’s just a matter of twisting those knobs and coming up with crazy sounds! And that we did… at least we think so. Check it out!
In case you didn’t know this, I’m a huge fan of The Beastie Boys and while listening to the song Triple Trouble from their album To the 5 Boroughs I heard this line:
I got kicks on the one, seven and eleven, snares on the five and thirteen
So I programmed it into the Behringer RD-6 Analog Drum Machine and… it sounded pretty good! Of course the RD-6 is based on the Roland TR-606 which isn’t quite the machine that the Roland TR-808 was. I mean, the 808 is famous for many reasons. (By the way, the “TR” stands for “Transistor Rhythm”.)
Hey, I’ve been in bands and heard a lot of music, and yeah, it’s pretty recognizable rhythm. After I posted the video a friend of mine said “Now do it on the Pocket Operator” so I did that, but I incorporated three Pocket Operators, which seemed appropriate. Here it is.
I’ve got a Behringer RD-6 Analog Drum Machine and it’s battery powered! I’ve seen a number of video reviews of this machine and the reviewer always seems to say “It’s not battery powered, so you can’t easily take it with you…” But I’m here to tell you that you can take it with you (just like Steve Albini did with his Roland TR-606) and below I’ll show you how.
A battery pack that will hold 6 AA batteries. Each battery is 1.5 volts, so 6 of them is 9 volts. (And no, a standard 9 volt battery won’t work due to the low amperage it can put out.) I had some lying around that were like this but some have connectors on them like these. As long as they have bare wires at the end, you’re good. If they do have a connector on the end you may need to chop it off. (More on that later.)
You’ll need a 2.1mm Barrel Power Jack. I usually buy a pack of them. You only need one, so find one, or buy one, or buy a bunch and have spares. (You won’t need the matching receptacle plugs. At least not for this project.)
Important! All of the barrel jacks I’ve purchased have positive in the center and negative on the outside of the barrel/sleeve. In the world of musical things (well, guitar pedals at least) negative is on the center/tip, and positive is on the outside of the barrel/sleeve.
Here’s the back of the RD-6. You can see the symbol showing negative in the center/tip. Note that it also shows 300 milliamps. A 9 volt battery is 500 milliamps, so it will work for a while, but not long. The power supply Behringer gives you is 670 milliamps, but it’s not a battery, it plugs into a wall socket.
Right so we need to… reverse the polarity! Luckily it’s as simple as switching the wires around. Normally red is positive and black is negative, but we’re switching those. Make red negative and black positive.
Here’s mine. Now, it’s worth noting that I checked all of this with a multimeter. I’d advise you to do the same. Double check your work. If you don’t know what you’re doing, ask someone for help. This probably voids your warranty, and I cannot be held responsible for what you do. On with the show!
Oh, you’ll also need batteries! Any AA batteries will do, but rechargeable are preferred, at least by me. I’m a fan of the Eneloop rechargeable batteries. I’ve got some I bought ten years ago that still work. Grab a charger and 4 batteries and, um… 4 more because you need a total of 6 batteries.
Okay, stick it all together and you get a battery powered drum machine. Boom. Tsk. Boom. Tsk. I haven’t testing how long a set of batteries will last, but I’ll add that to the list of things to do.
Now, it’s not as nice as internal batteries that are built into the case, and if I actually use this on a regular basis I might think about adding in some hook & loop to attach the battery pack to the side. It might be better to use two 3 AA battery packs wires together, since those would have a flat back that could be attached to the RD-6.