My Issue With Drum Machines

Written by
“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing…” (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil is now here and leading up to it, I received a ton of music of new bands and collections of contemporary Brazilian music. The problem is that many of these bands use drum programming and samples rather than real drummers and percussionists. Brazilian music has some of the greatest drummers in the world. The heartbeat of Brazilian music is samba, and samba is driven by polyrhythms. Batucada drumming, a rhythm orgy of pandeiros, zabumbas, tumbaos, and surdos are the biggest wall of sound in the world.

Fine to use programming and samples in 80s music when the technology was coming about. But please, don’t use it on Brazilian music! It’s too exquisite an art to be artificially flavored. Don’t we prefer the artisinal, not the manufactured?

The Dutch textile workers threw their wooden sabot shoes into the mills in the 19th century, hence the word “sabotage”. I wish we could somehow do the same, but with producers who think they can superimpose synthetic rhythms onto very organic music.

Drum programming will never equal what good drummers do. Drummers never move like metronomes or machines. Like the human heart, the rhythms speed up, slow down, speed up again, always changing. Plus the sound of drum patches just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe others don’t notice or care–people are more used to hearing sampling today–and even though it’s probably cheaper to just use machines, it’s a turn off for me.

We look for organic when we buy food, but when it comes to drumming, programming is synthetic and unnatural. With that I rest my case.

Listen to the drum machines in this FIFA 2014 theme song. The synthesized beat could hardly make one feel “victorious”.

You can compare it to some amazing street batucada drumming.