With the recent announcement about the new Roland AIRA TR-8 drum machine about to come out, (which is an updated version of the TR-808 and TR-909 versions), it got me thinking about a few things, such as using old gear.
Some music producers tend to accumulate old equipment and maybe even run old versions of certain software on their computers, but what about actually using that old stuff to make better beats?
That Old Sound
In the mid-1990’s, I was looking around for some equipment to get started with in making beats. I knew that a lot of producers at the time were using gear like the Akai S950 and of course the SP1200, MPC 60, and MPC 2000, but I didn’t have nearly enough money to buy any of those, so I had to venture off into entry-level land in pursuit of something very, very cheap. Hey, making beats can become expensive!
My first thought was to buy a drum machine because I had experience with the Alesis SR-16, so why not get something similar? I noticed that Roland had a one called the “R-70”. Since it was Roland, and since Roland made really good products like the TR-808, I snatched it up immediately. I then followed that up with the Akai S20 (a poor man’s MPC 2000), and I was all set.
When I was starting to make my first few beats, I was actually coming out with some really good stuff even though my equipment was pretty minimal. Today though, we have an entire universe full of hardware and software to choose from, so it can be really hard to find something that fits within your budget, and does the job well at the same time.
Making It New
Recently, I’ve been looking around for that Akai S20 and seeing if anyone is selling it. It wasn’t a great machine, but there was something about it that I just liked. Even though it had pads on it to trigger sounds, they were solid plastic that were terrible for making beats, but it was still a good machine for what it did.
I normally just make all my beats on Maschine, but I started to wonder if I could also integrate the S20, or maybe even the Roland R-70 into my setup and make something new with that. Can it be done? I say yes.
Keeping It Fresh
I’m a big believer in changing things up. Even though I’m the first person to tell you not to change things if you don’t need to, (like that saying “don’t fix what ain’t broke”), it’s still good to make changes just for the sake of keeping yourself on your beat-making toes.
I used to have a long process when I would make a beat, and it got tired real fast:
Find drum samples in Audition
Load, layer, and create drum loop in Reason
Export loop from Reason
Import loop into Sonar
Build song in Sonar
Wouldn’t you be tired of that after a while? So now with Maschine I keep it all in one place, but I figured if I can add a little something extra to my setup then my beats will get a new found flavor added to them.
Let’s say I manage to find an old S20 and R70 and I add them to my studio. I could create my drum loop on the R70, or just sample the drum sounds from it into the S20. From there, I can chop them even further, truncate them, then dump them into Maschine. From there, the sky’s the limit.
What You Should Do
I’m not a fan of having clutter, but if you’ve been looking for ways to change up your beat making process, and to give your beats a bit of a spin, you should look into finding old equipment to use.
The Roland Juno 60 is a seriously sweet keyboard. I never had the chance to actually use it, but I’ve seen it and heard it being used by many musicians and it’s just so nice. Take a listen:
It was released in 1982, and to this day it still sounds amazing. Adding this piece of gear to your studio will definitely give your beats a boost and give you tons of new ideas.
It’s tough with samplers though because with most of them, you had to store your samples onto floppy disks, which is a pain to do. If you don’t mind having to buy floppies and use them with their limited capacity, then by all means go for it. The Akai S950, E-MU ESI-32, and many other samplers will not only make sampling more challenging, it will be fun too. Let’s face it – it’s too easy to chop, flip, and morph a sample on a computer, so with a dedicated hardware device, it will force you to sample a certain way, which will most likely make your beats sound completely different.