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Drum machines are great tools to have with you in the writing process. If you have no drummers to play with you, you can use a drum machine to play beats while you work on songs.
A lot of people think they only work well for hip-hop and electronic styles, but you can even make use of them when playing metal music.
Here are a few of the best drum machines for metal musicians.
Korg Drumlogue Hybrid Drum Machine – Best Overall
It has 16 pads to play around with, giving you plenty of room to create intricate metal drum patterns. It also has 10-voice polyphony, meaning you can play that many drums and cymbals together without having any clashing issues.
The best thing about this machine is that it has an open-source design, meaning that you can add as many sounds as you want to for as long as you have it.
It also has a 64-step sequencer that will allow you to program a full Dream Theater tune onto it if you put the time in. It’s the perfect sequencer for complex metal drum parts in lengthy tunes.
The downside is that the editing tools are a bit tiresome. They take a while to allow you to do what you want, and it can become frustrating when you’re trying to do things quickly.
Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer – Premium Option
The Roland TD-8S Rhythm Performer (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is mostly used as an electronic drum creating tool. However, I’ve listed it here due to the possibility of adding your own acoustic drum sounds. You can get them for free from a few sources.
The strength of this drum machine is the editing tools that it comes with. It also works as its own audio interface, allowing you to record your patterns straight into a DAW. That can be incredibly useful when creating demos.
The drawback is that this drum machine is a lot pricier than the other ones I’ve suggested, but it’s well worth it for people who want something that works for metal as well as everything else.
It’s one of the most loved drum machines on the market, so it’s an ideal choice for anyone wanting a reliable product. It also has incredible resale value compared to the rest of the options here.
Alesis SR-16 – Best Budget Option
The Alesis SR-16 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is surprisingly one of the most popular drum machines for metal musicians. In the metal scene, this is the drum machine that musicians talk about the most, and there have been a few bands that have tracked albums with it.
The reason for it being so surprising is that this is the most affordable option here. It’s also very small and lightweight, so you wouldn’t think that it’s as powerful as it is.
It has 233 drum sounds, with many of them being authentic acoustic drum sounds that you can use to create metal drum grooves and fills.
Just note that the sound quality of these sounds isn’t as sharp or refined as what you get with the higher-priced interfaces. However, that isn’t something that will affect you too much if you just want something to practice with.
Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner Performance Groove Machine
The Boss DR-01S Rhythm Partner Performance Groove Machine (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a highly unique drum machine. It looks completely different from all the other options, but it’s also a lot simpler to use.
The interface of this machine is designed to make it only take you seconds to get a few beats going, and that’s perfect for musicians who don’t want to sit and fiddle with various buttons and sliders. It also has a line out input, so you can connect it to an amp to make it much louder.
Most of the drum and percussion sounds it has onboard are organic, so you can create a range of metal grooves.
A lot of musicians use this machine for live performances. You could possibly get away with it in a live metal set, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s more of a practice option for those times when your drummer is busy or if you’re writing songs.
Singular Sound BeatBuddy Drum Machine Pedal
The Singular Sound BeatBuddy Drum Machine Pedal (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is the simplest drum machine on this list. It’s designed like a guitar pedal, and it only has a few switches and knobs to use.
You need to use it in conjunction with the software it comes with to create beats, and then you can shift through those beats using the pedal.
I love this machine purely due to how good the acoustic drum sounds are. You can even find drums on it that are intended to sound like metal drums.
The drawback is that you don’t have a lot of control when you’re not using the software. That can become very frustrating for a lot of people. So, you’ll either love or hate this thing. Personally, I love it, and I think it’s one of the best options out there.
It’s particularly good for guitarists who are already comfortable with working pedals like this.
What To Look For In a Drum Machine
Every drum machine has a varied number of sounds to offer. If you want one for metal, it’s more than likely that you’ll be looking for genuine acoustic drum sounds instead of electronic sounds.
So, make sure that the drum machine that has plenty of those. Some of them only offer electronic sounds, as they’re designed to be used for electronic music.
You should also assess the quality of the sounds. You first need to accept that the sound quality will never be as good as authentic drums or sounds coming from a VST, but you can definitely find drum machines with much better sound quality than others.
All the machines I’ve mentioned above sound decent, though.
Features are important to look at if you don’t just want a machine that plays steady beats. Drum machines can be very powerful, and some of them offer you a surprising amount of control over how the beats sound.
For example, some drum machines let you pick and choose when drum fills and heavier beats come in. Having those possibilities adds to your overall playing experience, and those drum fills are especially important for metal music.
Ideally, you want to get a drum machine with an in-depth sequencer. That will give you plenty of control over what you can do with it.
All the machines I mentioned above have slightly different designs. Discovering what design you like will go a long way in picking the best option.
If you’re someone that wants something quick and easy to use, one of the smaller and less detailed drum machines would be a much better option.
The drum machines with busier designs often offer you a lot more in terms of features and customization. However, these also come with higher price tags in most cases.
The BeatBuddy is the only machine I mentioned that has a significantly varied design, though. That one operates more like a guitar pedal than anything else.
The area where you’ll find the most customization in every drum machine is sound. Many of them will have dozens of knobs and sliders to adjust frequencies and pitches. Those machines will offer far more in terms of personalizing what you hear.
However, not everyone is looking to sit and spend hours with a drum machine to find the perfect sounds. Some of us just want to turn it on and hear a few beats to play along with. If that sounds like you, you should go for one of the machines that don’t have a hectic interface.
Drum machines range from $100 to $2000, but most of the popular ones fall somewhere between $150 and $800. If you have the money for it, a $1500 machine will perform brilliantly, but it’s not something that I’d recommend to most people.
You can get plenty of use out of an affordable drum machine, and you’ll find that’s all you need if you’re not someone looking to do any intricate sound creation.
All the drum machines I’ve suggested have very attainable price tags, but the higher-priced ones will have noticeably better sound and build quality.
Best Drum Machine Brands
There are dozens of incredible drum machine brands, and many of them have been in the game for decades. To narrow your choices down a bit, here are three highly reliable ones to look into.
Alesis is often referred to as the “budget” brand. That statement is true, as most of their products are far more affordable than the competition. However, the brand is also loved by metal musicians that need drum machines, with the SR-16 being one of the most popular picks.
The people at Korg have been making drum machines for decades. There are several good options to choose from, and all of them offer something unique. You can’t go wrong with a Korg drum machine, which is why I see this as one of the best brands.
While Roland drum machines are more known for their electronic drum sounds than anything else, they still work very well for metal musicians.
They tend to have some of the best build and design quality out there, so a Roland drum machine will always be a great choice.
Top Drum Machines for Metal, Final Thoughts
Remember that a drum machine will never sound as good as a real drummer or even the sounds that you’ll get from a VST on a DAW. However, they’re far more convenient to use, not having to go through the hassle of working with a computer while you’re playing.
Check all the options I listed, decide which one you like the most, and then get it to help you with providing beats.