Godwin Drummaker 32P
The colourful and well-constructed Drummaker is more than a drum machine, it's a complete accompaniment section with rhythms, arpeggios, chords and bass. Although this specification would tend to bring to mind the home organ market, the unit is by no means limited to such applications and the quality of the sounds is such that many keyboard players and instrumentalists could find it attractive.
The basic unit is a wooden-cheeked box sixteen inches wide and seventeen inches deep, with a sloping front panel and a flat top which would allow stacking of other units. Two sets of footswitches and a volume pedal connect to the back panel, and in addition there's a 20-way connector and a selection of audio outputs. The 20-way connector is used either for a set of foot pedals or for a small free-standing keyboard either of which transpose the bass, chords and arpeggios as desired.
The model we examined was provided with the pedalboard option, and so comprised two fairly hefty packages, the main unit being provided with a folding handle which could be concealed underneath the body of the unit. Audio connection was initially to the General Output jack socket on the back, which gives a combination of all four accompaniment sections. The Volume control is on the right hand side of the upper part of the control panel, and working from right to left is the mixing section for the percussion sounds, the On/Off switches for each of the four sections (each with an LED indicator), the mixer for each of the four sections, and an overall tuning control giving a total range of a semitone.
The mixer sliders aren't arranged in the same order as the control sections on the lower part of the front panel, so these may just as well be looked at from left to right. The first control section is for Tempo, with a black knob and a 21 position rotary scale; Start/Stop, an orange tablet pushbutton with a red LED indicating the downbeat on each bar; and Key, a smaller yellow tablet with a green LED showing it's switched on, which means the unit only operates when a pedal or key is held down. This section is marked Timing.
The next section is marked Rhythms. There are 16 rhythms, each with a small square tablet switch coloured according to style; green for slower dance rhythms such as Waltz and Tango, brown for Latin rhythms such as Samba and Mambo, orange for alternative timings such as 5/4 and 6/8. A twin 7-segment LED display shows which pattern is playing, while a small push switch gives a variant of each pattern. A larger switch gives a fill-in or an alternative intro to each pattern.
The percussion voicings themselves are extremely good. The bass drum is a satisfying thump, the snare adequate although the tuned portion of the sound is a little too high-pitched. The cymbal is excellent, with an initial click, multiple detuned analogue sounds for a metallic effect, and a little white noise. The overall effect is of something like an 18" ride cymbal.
High-hat is shorter and higher pitched but just as good; it shares a mixing control with Maracas, which appears on Mambo and Bossa and consists of a chiff of white noise which isn't very closely imitative. Tom-Tom is a higher pitched version of the Bass Drum, without the sort of skin bend which is now becoming common, and shares a mixing control with Conga, which is a little higher pitched still.
The final pair of sounds are Claves and Cowbell, which are very good with a convincingly wooden feel in the case of the former and a good combination of initial click and metallic effect in the case of the latter. Use of the Variation button tends to bring in increased use of the cymbal, Tom-Tom offbeats and rapid accompaniment by the Conga, Claves or Cowbell as appropriate.
Most of the rhythms are well composed, the variations often being more complex although the basic patterns are by no means sparse. Foxtrot has a Shuffle on the Variation, Disco is simple but powerful with cymbals on the offbeat and High-Hat triplets, and the 6/8 and 5/4 patterns are an unusual and welcome inclusion.
The Intros and Fills are imaginative and varied, but while the rhythms themselves are latched so that they only change over at the end of a bar, this doesn't apply to the Fills and so these have to be activated at exactly the right time. This can be done with a front panel control, or with the footswitch unit containing controls for Stop/Start and Intro/Fill. Intro has to be switched on before Start is pushed, and this again can be done by hand or by footswitch.
The next front panel section is marked Mode. Small green tablet switches with associated green LED's select Memory Bass and Memory Chords, which maintain the selected key although no pedal is held down, and a larger yellow tablet switch marked OFC gives the equivalent of 'Single Fingered Chord', deciding whether the full chord or only the root note needs to be fingered. Musicians with more than two feet will find it's possible to play chords on the pedal-board as well as the keyboard.
To the right of Mode is the Bass Section. A horizontal slider varies the tone of the Bass sound from Contrabass to Bass Guitar, which is slightly sharper. Unfortunately it's not possible to vary the decay length, or indeed to apply a simple on/off organ envelope which would make the unit compete with the Eko or Taurus bass pedals. Apart from the Manual/Pedal mode, the bass sound can be played automatically when the rhythms are running in Walking or Alternating modes, which produce respectively complex patterns of fifths and octaves from the root note together with a general rising/falling pattern, or much simpler alternations of Tonic and Dominant.
The next section, Chords, offers four sound, Brass 1, Brass 2, Piano and Guitar. The former pair are short wah sounds with a relatively high degree of resonance, 2 being slightly brighter. The latter pair have the option of a brief period of Sustain, which is useful in filling out the sound, and changing from one pair to the other gives a different pattern of chords. The sounds are reasonable: Piano is a passable electric piano effect, whereas guitar sounds more like a synthesiser filter closing effect.
Lastly Arpeggio, a very versatile section which weaves intricate patterns around the other accompaniments. Again there are four sounds, Piano (as on the Chord section), Guitar (as on the Chord section), Spinet (a slightly weak but interestingly imitative sound) and Synth, which is a very powerful, phased version of Spinet and typical of the sort of sounds Jean-Michel Jarre uses.
Four different arpeggios are available, with different sets of four assigned to each of the sixteen rhythms. In addition the Arpeggio function has three Notes available, produced by different free-running oscillatory and so building up to give a powerful detuned chord effect; each Note plays a slightly different tune. The arpeggios typically range from simple runsto very complex double speed patterns.
In operation the Drummaker is efficient, colourful (with all those LED's!) and expensive-sounding. Each of the four sections can be taken out of an individual socket for equalisation, and there's a 5 volt positive going trigger to run sequencers or synthesiser arpeggiators. Use of the footswitches to start and stop the rhythms, or to convert the chord and arpeggios to minor or seventh chords, is simple and efficient, and the pedalboard is easy to use. One point is that, because the keyboard runs almost 2 octaves from F to E, the pitches available on the 1 octave C-C pedalboard have had to be rearranged slightly; at A they drop an octave and proceed upwards so that the pitch of the top C is the same as that of the bottom C.
Construction is to very high standards, with 7 easily removable circuit cards internally and a wide use of LSI chips to provide microprocessor control. Perhaps this hasn't been fully exploited, as some form of programming or chaining would have been welcome, but the functions that are included are all useful.
The Drummaker 32P replaces the successful Drummaker 30, having a slightly greater specification particularly in the ability to recognise inverted chords played on the keyboard and assign the correct root note. It's to be incorporated into several of the new generation of Godwin organs such as the SC 85 and 95, but it's worth stressing again that it's not limited to this application. For solo guitarists, keyboard players, synthesists in need of a control unit for a set-up of sequencers or arpeggiators, or many other types of entertainer, the Drummaker may be an ideal accompaniment unit.
The Godwin Drummaker 32P is available from Sisme UK Ltd, (Contact Details), priced at £598.00 including VAT and either pedalboard or keyboard.