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In the two years before the release of the seminal New Order single, 'Blue Monday', I read many articles on the subject of drum programming, each by some self-declared expert writing in the kind of language designed to convince you that their's was the only effective method of producing a worthwhile drum track. In each example, a transcription of the drum track from 'Blue Monday' might well have been included as the perfect illustration of how not to do it.

Perhaps even more disturbing was the fact that two years after the release of the single (and many others like it) I still seemed to be reading venerable tracts on the subject claiming that 'machine gun' bass drum programming (for example) was the cardinal sin and to be avoided at all costs. Thankfully, none of this had any effect on the sales of 'Blue Monday' which, I believe, still holds the title of best-selling twelve inch of all time.

The problem is that of received knowledge. To those brought up listening to conventional drummers playing conventional drums, programming a rhythm track in this way seemed wrong. And if someone was prepared to listen when they pointed out how wrong it was, so much the better. But of course, this wasn't a conventional drum track - neither was it intended to be - and for the four members of New Order doodling on their MXR machine, such received knowledge had no relevance. Hence their release of an extremely successful record with an instantly recognisable drum track.

It may seem somewhat self-defeating for the Editor of a magazine in the business of disseminating information to be advising people to be on their guard against received knowledge, but it's not something I am at all uncomfortable with. The onus, I believe, rests with the reader: take what is written in the magazine as a starting point for your own creativity and you won't go far wrong. Treat what we or any other magazine says as immutable law and you won't come up with a genuinely creative idea no matter how long you try.

Obviously, here, I'm referring to matters of technique and approach rather than plain facts. If we claim that a certain piece of equipment has problems transmitting MIDI SysEx data to a certain other piece of equipment, you can rest assured that this is indeed the case. But where we seek to offer advice on the best way to use any of this equipment, treat it as what it is - advice: the starting point for your own investigations.

If you do find us becoming overly prescriptive, please don't hesitate to let us know. We're in the business of firing imaginations not formulating dogma - that's what we elect politicians for.



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Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Music Technology - Nov 1992

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Editorial by Nigel Lord

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