If you’ve never seen how much work goes into professionally recording drums it might be easy to underestimate how time consuming it is. Setting up the drum set and microphones alone can take up to an hour or more, then dialing in the proper gain staging and settings for each microphone can be even more time consuming. It’s not uncommon for the first two hours of a studio session to be spent just on set up! Not to mention a drum set needs a certain amount of space to be played comfortably.
Now picture the opposite, with a drum machine any producer can get professional sounding drum sounds with a machine roughly the size of a computer keyboard. No microphones are required, and it only takes one or two cables to plug into a mixer. Obviously there are downsides in the loss of subtlety of a human performance, but for many styles of music it makes more sense to have electronic drums.
The history of drum machines is wide and diverse, ranging as far back as the 1930’s, but one of the most important commercially released drum machines was the Roland TR-808. Initially, it was met with negative reviews because the sounds were all electronically generated and lacked the realism of “real” drums, but the fact that it was relatively cheap and programmable earned it a cult following in the years after its release.
These machines have been out of production for many years, however there’s a great online emulator that gives you the chance to create with a similar interface.