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date: 03 July 2020

Electronic percussion [electronic drum, drum machine, rhythm machine]locked

  • Thomas Brett


[electronic drum, drum machine, rhythm machine]

An electronic percussion instrument whose sound is synthesized or that stores and reproduces the sounds of sampled percussion instruments. It may be played on non-acoustic controllers that resemble conventional percussion instruments and are equipped with a touch-sensitive trigger that detects and converts mechanical energy into electrical signals. Alternatively, it may be controlled by an electronic rhythm machine, or played through virtual drum machine software. The earliest electronic percussion instrument was the Rhythmicon (1931) made by Russian inventor Leon Theremin on a commission by American composer Henry Cowell. The Rhythmicon allowed multiple rhythmic patterns to be played simultaneously by pressing keys on a conventional keyboard. The Rhythmate, invented by Harry Chamberlin (1949), used tape loops of acoustic drumming playing various rhythm patterns. This machine was a forerunner of the sample-based units that would later appear in the early 1980s.

Electronic percussion was developed significantly beginning in the late 1950s and 60s in the form of the stand-alone “rhythm box” or as an addition to some models of home electronic organs. These units generated rhythms electronically and their sounds were not very realistic. The earliest commercial electronic drum machine was the Sideman (...

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