How many different machines, and which ones, helped defining past, current, or are going to even define future music styles?

I was thinking about this recently and wondering, on the same way Roland drum machines TR 909 helped defining techno, or Roland TR 808 Elektro, and TB 303 did for acid…

How did Elektron, Yamaha, Kawai, Korg, Jomox, or other companies drum machines help , or are helping, defining other current or past music styles?

Are there still any new styles to be discovered or created based on the sound of current or past drum machines? Which ones would it be? What machines would be using?

I would like to know other people thinking but for example, I’m pretty sure that we are still to be surprised by the Akai Rhythm Wolf.


Kawai r50
Akai Rhythm Wolf
Electribe er1
Arturia Drum Brute
Machinedrum SPS1
Vermona DRM1

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I am not sure anyone knows

Like a console tape and delay did for dub or maybe gated reverb defining a lot of 80s sounds these are techniques and im sure there are many to still be explored. As far as machines, say like samplers for hip hop dnb etc, A lot of these ‘machines’ brought or refined previous technology to the masses ie fairlight cmi was innovative but not many people could afford one, beatles used a ‘sampler’ which played back tape, mellotron, and people had been experimental with splicing and tape manipulation since at least the 50s, it wasn’t until this type of technology was more attainable to the average person that genre defining moments happend, remember the 303 was basically rejected and there wasn’t as much to use back then and gear was expensive. A lot of these genres really came from a more underground scene and of course a lot of new styles unfolded with sounds that were previously unheard but it seems so much less so today, when synthesizers were new they were used in advertising and the public slowly got used to the new sound, today its in the collective unconscious for most people
I think the OT is a pretty amazing package but could you specify a genre it had birthed? Of course I would love to be wrong and music will continue to develop but I haven’t heard much lately that was a true unique leap foreward like the stuff that happend in the second half of the 20th century, if anyone knows any please let me know
Also even if a quite unique genre comes around it might not have the same iconic impact as music distribution and access is so different today, easier to reach people in a way but harder to get them to listen. It may be confined to a very niche area, and in my experience (opinion) ‘popular music’ has steadily gotten worse in general over the years

But what do I know

There are a bunch of videos out there about electronic music in the second half of the 20th century, but it sounds like you are more interested in recent gear.

A big distinction is that the Anglosphere had an outsized impact on global popular music in the second half of the 20th century. But now distribution is much easier, so formerly exotic genres like J-pop, K-pop, Canto-pop, etc. are pretty easy for nearly anyone on the planet to know about. Bollywood competes with and may exceed Hollywood in global audience, and some interesting films are trickling out of the PRC.

In some cases, a combination of limited distribution and high import tariffs mean that the gear in a given country is limited to, say, Korg.

The challenge today is mapping out what roughly eight billion people are doing with music. There are probably more active genres and sub genres right this moment than any of us are aware of in the entire history of music.

Is Arturia big in Tahiti? I definitely heard stuff that sounded like techno or house the last time I visited, but I don’t know if people make local music or rely on imported music. Laptops and pirated software are certainly big around the world.

Cracked FL Studio in a laptop.
Mid-range Japanese arranger keyboard.


The freetek kiddies in my area were all very into the 1st gen Korg Electribes.
It‘s been five or six years since I last saw them though

SP series and lofi


So like, future classics, sort of? (if looking to the future)

Such a hard thing to predict but looking at history it tends to be instruments that at the time they’re released are considered somewhere ranging from boring to bad - not sure of the scholarly reason for this.

Feels a bit unfair to put it in this category, but I agree the Drumbrute and perhaps moreso the Drumbrute Impact are good contendors. Very capable machines with distinct sounds that just don’t tend to excite a lot of people right now - but they have their fans and in 10-20 years time their sounds will likely be less duplicated and sound more fresh or ‘retro’.


EDIT: Also MicroFreak maybe? That seems to be ganing cult status already - but I’m concious that its sounds will either be retro-cool or totally overdone by the time the future comes around.

Anything by Arturia apparently haha


Nintendo has a saying describing their console philosophy that, roughly translated, means “lateral thinking with withered technology” (枯れた技術の水平思考) — that is, taking something old and limited, and doing something so unexpected with it that it feels fresh.

This applies just as well to break-out, genre-defining music hardware. For a sound to define a genre it must be distinct — crucially different in some way from everything that came before. Be it the rigid, electric beats of the 808 or the squelchy, octave-jumping arps of the tb-303, nothing had sounded like them before.

The “lateral thinking” part comes in when one realizes many devices of the time could have sounded like them. It wouldn’t have been a problem to patch something sufficiently 303-like on a minimoog or modular. Why wasn’t Wendy Carlos dropping acid riffs?

Because when a box can do anything, it’s hard to hear what’s new instead of what’s familiar. When faced with 10,000 choices, it’s hard to “think laterally” for every single one of them.

But just look at the front of a 303. You’ve got a step sequencer that you can only program long chains of notes on, the only “plocks” are accent, octave up/down, and slide, and the only knobs are resonance, cutoff, and the env mod thereof. It can’t help but sound like a 303. Using the withered technology of the time, Roland made something lateral enough to be new (whether intentionally or not is a whole other thread).

The same is true of the 101, 808, 909, sp-303/404… I’d probably throw the DX-7 in that boat, too, just to give Roland a break.

So I think that’s something to look for in future genre-defining gear. What’s forcing us to think laterally enough to build new sounds and is withered enough to be obtainable by the masses? The OP-1 is certainly distinct and lateral, but not withered. The Volkas are withered, but not lateral.

Something like the Syntakt, actually, is sort of on the line. Moderately lateral and almost withered. The Micro Freak and 0-Coast are the most promising examples I can think of. Of your list, I think the Rhythm Wolf has the most promise in this respect.


Another aspect of this is price. The 808, for example, was cheaper than the LM1 and got even cheaper on the used market. Lower prices usually reflect “withered technology” and UI, but also:

  1. You have the potential to put more devices in more hands, and something interesting should pop up just by law of averages
  2. The people who can afford the more expensive and powerful stuff tend to have a clear idea of what they want, which means they tend not to push outside of that idea
  3. If you can’t afford much, you have to push your gear as much as you can to get what you want, which leads to discoveries. Richer people have the option to buy their way out of this discovery cycle if they want
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Yes price was definitely a huge factor in electronic dance music in the 80’s - laptops and DAWs were not in use yet, so a visit to the local pawn shop was often how lots of gear became genre defining, cheap to buy.

Most of this music came from blue collar areas, until some middle class journalist “discovered” it :laughing:

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I don’t think there will be a new future classic until something drastically changes. Music for the last twenty years only seem to be looking backwards. Like Mark Fisher said, retro isn’t retro anymore, it used to be a genre but now it’s just what music is these days.