Thursday, November 20, 2008

.42 Yamaha RX11 Digital Rhythm Programmer

About eighteen months ago, I decided that as happy as I was using Reason and Logic to make music, what I really needed was hardware. It's a phase a lot of us go through, I think, where we end up getting stuck for some reason and a new piece of gear or untested software seems like the easy solution for getting out of whatever rut we find ourselves in.

A couple of unsuccessful eBay bids later, I eventually picked up three Yamaha drum machines, the RX15, its big brother the RX11, and the more latin focused RX17. Of course, the first thing I did with the new drum machines was sample their sounds and drop those samples into Reason... which kind of defeated the entire purpose of getting them, but let's be honest, logic doesn't have much sway when you're stuck in this senseless gear lust.

What do I think of the samples? Well, if you take a second to download the samples, you'll hear that they have a lo-fi quality that only seems to get better when you throw additional distortion on top of them. I think they're especially suited for trip-hop, a genre I love to experiment with, but have never actually finished a song in, because of that lo-fi quality. With a little care and processing, you should be able to find a home for them in just about any genre.

Having said all of that, I think their greatest quality is that they aren't a Roland TR-909 or TR-808. Don't get me wrong, there's a reason those machines are considered classics, but if you're looking for something fresh (or maybe a little stale, depending on your perspective) then these cheap Yamaha machines are a great substitute.

An 8-bit drum machine from the early 80s, the following kit was sampled from serial number 19374.

Its built-in 29 drum hits could be triggered using its 16 pads and routed through 12 individual audio outputs 12 audio outputs (either via its 10 mono instrument outs, left and right mono line outs that also double as mono instrument outs, or headphones). The trigger pads are not velocity sensitive, but each drum hit can be tweaked with individual settings for accent level, volume, and panning, to give the hits a little emphasis when needed.

The RX11 could not trigger the Rimshot and Snare Drum samples on the same beat, so for a faithful recreation you should avoid using them together. The same limitation was present on Tom3 and Tom4 pads, the Bass Drum pads (meaning none of the Bass Drum hits could be played simultaneously), and the HH pads. Despite this limitation, any and all of the sounds could be used in the same song.

Additional sounds can be added to the machine via a RAM memory cartridge, but I haven't had much luck finding any of them. If I do manage to track one down, expect to find those samples here.


B said...

Hey there

I have a Yamaha RX11 Digital Rhythm Programmer that I purchased a few years ago in the aim to sample, but never got around to it.
I have now moved OS and want to get rid of it.
Are you able to tell me what it could be worth?

Patch-A-Day Robbneu said...

Hey, B, thanks for dropping by the blog. Honestly, I don't think you're likely to get much for your RX11. I think I paid $40 to $50 for mine on eBay and while you might get a bit more for it, especially if it's in good working condition, I can't imagine you'll get much more than $60 to $80.

It's an awesome machine, though. It might be worth keeping around, especially if you're looking for a slightly different vibe than the typical percussion samples that get used in music production.

Good luck!