There aren’t many analogue Yamaha drum machines around. We’ve looked around and it appears that they only released one commercially (the MR-10 from 1982). We heard about the drum machine that was built into Stevie Wonder’s space ship but that would be a bit out of our league.
Looking back, there wasn’t anything about the design of the MR-10 that was going to set the world alight, (even for 1982) but as you’re about to discover, this uninspiring plastic box did have a few tricks hidden under that grey plastic case…
The VHS tape sized MR-10 offered a global tuning* control for the voices, separate level controls for the kick and the hi-hat, (handy) an automatic fill-in per rhythm which could be set to go off every 4 or 8 bars, (or not at all) and five little drum pads which had no use whatsoever but were fun for about five minutes when you first started tapping on them. The rhythms came in two banks of six but you could combine every single rhythm within that bank if you wished, (how did six rhythms at once sound?). What was really cool is that where you had different time signatures clashing, (like 3/4 waltz, 4/4 swing and 4/4 rock) the thing would go berserk and starts creating crazy patterns which were still musically correct (just mad). This combination effect also worked on the fills too.
What we love about this little one-off from Yamaha, is that it has a completely original sound. The snare drum is the first thing that grabs you. It sounds a little like an ’80s Simmons kit. Everything about each sound is different to what everyone else was doing at the time. In some ways it sounds quite cheap and toy-like but when you dig out real toys like the Mattel Synsonics kits, you suddenly realise that the sound is far better!
This is exactly the sort of thing to be looking out for if you want to wander away from the pack and try out something a little more adventurous in your music. As it is, or re-programmed into your own beats, there won’t be a lot of “drum machine spotters” out there that will be able to twig this one.
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