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Anne Beetem Acker

[Doctor Rhythm]

Electronic percussion instrument released in 1980 and manufactured by the BOSS division of Roland. Very popular, small, inexpensive and easy to use, the Dr Rhythm model DR-55 was one of the first drum machines to use ‘step-write’ programming, where in ‘write’ mode the user can select a sound and use buttons to move incrementally (‘step’) through each beat of the beat pattern and select a choice of sounds. It can store up to six 16-step drum patterns and two 12-step patterns, the latter for triple-metre rhythms. Its four (analogue) voice-circuit sounds are snare, kick drum, rim-shot, and hi-hat. The pattern can be switched during playing, and volume, tempo (45 to 300 beats per minute), tone, and accent can be globally adjusted. The DR-110 Graphic (1983) adds a graphic display showing a step-programming grid for the drum voices, and includes 16 preset patterns plus 16 memory locations for user-programmed 12- or 16-step patterns, plus two ‘song’ memories for up to 128 bars of patterns. Its drum sounds can be programmed or played in from drum pads....


Laurence Libin

Digital electronic percussion device. Multi-pads normally incorporate four to 16 velocity- and force- sensitive pads that are struck with conventional drum sticks, and two pedals that operate hi-hat cymbal and bass drum effects. The pads may simulate the response of real drum heads. Components of some models can be arrayed like a conventional drum set’s. Usually, manual controls allow selection among a variety of sampled drum, other percussion, and special effect sounds, as well as preset rhythm patterns, metronome speeds, reverberation levels, MIDI interfaces, and other capabilities. Recording and electronic-music studios often employ multi-pads and similar digital percussion controllers because of their portability, versatility, and relatively low cost, but their technique lacks the visual impact and athleticism of performance on a real drum set. However, multi-pads do allow for some performance techniques that are impossible on a conventional drum set....


Hugh Davies

revised by Andrei Smirnov


Electronic percussion instrument constructed for the composer Henry Cowell by Lev Termen (Leon Theremin) in 1931; two examples were built. It was the earliest electronic rhythm machine. A series of rotating wheels interrupted beams of light to produce very complex rhythms with precision. The polyphonic keyboard had 17 keys, each of which, except the 17th, produced a single note repeated in a periodic rhythm for as long as it was held down; the 17th key inserted an extra beat in the middle of each bar. Each of the 16 rhythms could be produced individually or in combination, requiring 455 days, 2 hours, and 30 minutes to play all possible combinations, assuming a duration of 10 seconds for each.

Successive keys did not produce a chromatic scale but notes in the overtone series of the lowest note; similarly the periodic rhythm of each note was a successively higher multiple of that produced by the lowest. For example, two keys at the bottom of the keyboard which on a normal keyboard would sound an interval of a major 6th, on the Rhythmicon sounded an interval of three octaves and a whole tone, and the upper note repeated nine times faster than the lower; if the configuration were moved up a ‘semitone’ the interval was two octaves and a major 6th and the upper note repeated five times faster than the lower. The basic pitch and tempo could be adjusted by means of levers. Cowell composed two works in ...