Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

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wtcmusician
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Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by wtcmusician » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:40 am

I have a good enough understanding of the way MIDI and sequencers work nowadays but I have always wondered how it was done in the 80's. I hear these tracks that obviously have a sequenced drum beat and tight arpeggiated synths and wonder how it was all put together without the benefit of powerful DAWS like we have now, and before (as far as I know) the MIDI standard was perfected to the point it was in the 90's and widely adopted. I know this may be a very dumb question but I've not been able to find a solid answer on this anywhere so far. I want to get a better idea of what was entailed in the process of making these tracks.

Thanks!

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by megamanx » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:50 am

My guess would that they were using sequencers and arpegiators, along with multi-tracking. Also don't rule out that people used computers in the 80's and that many people still play their instruments by hand.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:55 am

The midi standard wasn't perfected in the 90s, it's still at v1.0 and was fully functionally in the 80s.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by wtcmusician » Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:05 am

I think what I meant to say was that there wasn't such thing as General MIDI. I was under the impression that prior to that MIDI might have seemed like an ambiguous tool that there wasn't a clear purpose for.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by CS_TBL » Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:07 am

I have a cartridge from 1983 I think, could've been 1984 or 1985, for my old 8-bit home computer.. it was essentially a consumer product. It has MIDI i-o-t, and I can perfectly use it to control synths. The only lacking bit at that time was that the firmware was kinda stupid, and it wasn't until the early 90's until some geek made a tracker for its internal FM chip, a later version would support the MIDI bits. I'm sure the hi-tec music industry of those days has had instruments with similar capacities.
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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by Paraphonique » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:10 am

People would first record a sync track with the intended tempo on their multitrack/portastudio. They would then sync sequencers/drum-machines/arpeggiators using that same track.

-P

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:22 am

wtcmusician wrote:I think what I meant to say was that there wasn't such thing as General MIDI. I was under the impression that prior to that MIDI might have seemed like an ambiguous tool that there wasn't a clear purpose for.
Luckily the people making music in the 80s knew more about midi in the 80s than you do. ;)

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by Blue Monster 65 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:17 am

This:
Paraphonique wrote:People would first record a sync track with the intended tempo on their multitrack/portastudio. They would then sync sequencers/drum-machines/arpeggiators using that same track.
And we also used various "other" sequencers (among them, a Roland CSQ-600, later replaced by an MSQ-700). When MIDI hit, we used that - it was pretty much the same as today, save for digital recording and editing on computers (we used tape and razor blades for that).
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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by tekkentool » Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:16 am

Oh dude if you were wondering how the sequenced with MIDI in the 80s this will blow your mind.



Midi wouldn't be invented for another 7 years ;)

now how did they do that
Last edited by tekkentool on Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by nathanscribe » Thu Mar 22, 2012 10:38 am

I Feel Love was done with Moog stuff, with the triggering done from tape. I forget the details, but it's explained in this article. (although the modular in the photo is a Roland System 700, not a Moog).

Also, when MIDI appeared, it didn't take long for Yamaha to bring out both the DX7 and QX1. The QX1 is a tank of a sequencer, uses 5.25" floppies, has 8 MIDI outputs and sync to tape via FSK. That was 1983 or '84. Before that, manufacturers had their own standards - Roland used DCB which appeared on the Jupiter-8 and Juno-60, and on sequencers like the JSQ and OP-8 CV-to-DCB interface. SCI and Oberheim had their own pre-MIDI sequencers. An Oberheim system was used to provide the soundtrack to the TV series Starfleet:



Prior to the (pre-MIDI) digital systems, analogue sequencers were locked to tape by first recording a clock signal on one track of the tape and using it to drive other devices.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by tekkentool » Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:52 am

nathanscribe wrote:I Feel Love was done with Moog stuff, with the triggering done from tape.
I knew somebody would take that as not being sarcasm, even with my winky face.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by Blue Monster 65 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:16 pm

I can remember reading about various systems and virtually drooling over the possibilities. And, while I couldn't stand the DX7, the QX1 seemed like space command! When Roland introduced the MC-500, I rushed out and bought one of those ASAP, after having suffered for a couple of months with a Korg SQ-1.

Now if only I had used what I had at the time to its fullest capabilities! :lol:
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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by nathanscribe » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:20 pm

tekkentool wrote:I knew somebody would take that as not being sarcasm, even with my winky face.
Nothing to do with sarcasm, just posting useful info in case anybody was interested.

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by nathanscribe » Thu Mar 22, 2012 1:25 pm

Blue Monster 65 wrote:I can remember reading about various systems and virtually drooling over the possibilities. And, while I couldn't stand the DX7, the QX1 seemed like space command! When Roland introduced the MC-500, I rushed out and bought one of those ASAP, after having suffered for a couple of months with a Korg SQ-1.
I always fancied an MC-8, or an MC-4. Can't justify it, but it would still be nice... The original for the MC-8 was a prototype by Ralph Dyck, and Roland adapted it for multi-channel use. Dyck's version was mono, synced via FSK and had
no CPU behind it - only off-the-shelf logic ICs.

http://rolandmc8.wordpress.com/
Now if only I had used what I had at the time to its fullest capabilities! :lol:
Still talking about sequencers? ;)

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Re: Drum Machines and Synths in 80's music production

Post by Blue Monster 65 » Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:51 pm

I hate you, Nate!

Yes, the MC-4 (and 8) were flagship systems, but even as a Roland fan in those days they just seemed far away and distant. Of course, I learned to sequence on a Korg SQ-10 and then a Roland MC-202, so those were kind of different systems from either of the later systems I used, but still fairly similar. It was always a learning curve, but it was just so nice to be able to "play" things one couldn't!
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