We remember getting our first MPC drum machine back around 2005 (it was an MPC 1000 which we later had to sell in college for rent money) and it absolutely blew our minds. Although around that time digital audio workstations were becoming more reliable and well-developed, there was something about having an actual standalone music making machine at our fingertips that has stuck with us ever since. If you’re just starting out and don’t want a super expensive drum machine yet, we found some great budget-friendly and easy-to-use models here below to help your search.
Our Drum Machines for Beginners Picks
- Arturia DrumBrute
- Behringer Rhythm Designer RD-8
- Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer
- 1010music Blackbox Studio
- Korg Volca Beats
- Elektron Digitakt
Finding the Right Starter Drum Machine
- Price is of course going to determine the exact path that many of you are going to learn towards. Considering some advanced drum machines can get into the thousand-dollar range at times, we wanted to find a balance of quality yet affordability here below.
- What functions are important to you? All drum machines have something called a step sequencer built-in to them (otherwise you really wouldn’t be able to call it a drum machine), which allow you to create rhythms and patterns that loop. Additional standouts are going to try to sell you on what they can bring, and even though you’re just starting out, try to envision what you may find yourself using the most or what may fit the type of music you have in your head that you’d like to put down. Here are some popular features we’ve seen out there in the drum machine world:
- Providing original sounds
- Allowing you to create your own sounds or import them
- Various effects such as filters or low and high pass
- Extra outputs for flexibility
- Pattern, chain and effect saving for sequences
- Portability? Essentially all drum machines are typically travel-friendly, some more than others. If you absolutely need to travel with yours or envision being on the road, this factor may steer you towards a few models.
- Live or studio use? Both? A few of these can pertain more towards performances, others studios, but at the end of the day we’ll be honest — most are OK to use for both. Most beginners in our experience have a home studio they’d like to add their drum machine in, but keep this is in mind perhaps for the future as well.
The Best Beginners Drum Machines
First up, the DrumBrute has an amazing reputation among the gear world when it comes to not only drum machines for beginners but merely in general. We have 17 drum sounds, a 64-step sequencer inside, some nice effects (such as their Steiner-Parker output filter), twelve audio outputs for some flexibility in connectivity and more.
They also have a feature called ‘Song Mode’ built-in that we really like, that essentially gives us performance effects like their ‘Pattern Looper’ (repeats your beats), ‘Step Repeat’ (loops glitch effects), as well as chain different patterns together to make your compositions more complex.
We’ve seen this drum machine used in a wide spectrum of genres and really wouldn’t limit to anything specific, from hip hop all the way to EDM. It’s also great for both studio and live performance use. We love the Arturia DrumBrute to enter our guide as the best beginners drum machine not only because of it’s raving reviews but numerous functions that can be great for starters looking to jump in but also have a learning curve for the future, too.
Up next we have another brilliant analog drum machine for beginners, with this model holding 16 sounds (but with MIDI as well as you’re not just limited), wave designer and analog filter effects, eleven outputs, USB, sync I/O and three trigger outs. When we think of the RD-8, we simply are reminded of the word ‘classic’. It’s a retro-inspired creation of a drum machine but we’re really happy with Behringer not limiting us when it comes to technology — including MIDI, USB and options with outputs gives you best of both worlds here.
Like our previous pick, this too has a nice sequencer built-in (64 steps), and you can create full songs with their different modes. These work similarly to the DrumBrute when it comes to chaining and arranging patterns together. You also get some great filters (high pass and low) for resonance and cutoff controls.
Just a lot to offer here and it was tough comparing both this with our first pick as the best starter drum machine. They’re both pretty similar in price, with this RD-8 coming in a little more expensive but you get more steps in the sequencer among a few other added benefits. Look into the Behringer RD-8 for a classic beginner drum machine.
We’re going to jump in price here but if you’re still reading you may be looking for a different spin to the best drum machine for beginners. Roland is one of the OG’s of not only musical instruments and gear but drum machines in particular. We remember using our dad’s little Roland when we were 6 years old. The TR-8S here today is a valid pick if you can afford it.
It will be hard to sum up just everything about this but here are some standouts to help you out — create custom kits and patterns with either their sounds or your own (important them with an SD card), parameter locking for individual steps, fill creation and variation, and various live performance functions. These include little nifty things such as playing one pattern while you program a different one at the same time (this will take guts to do on stage but try ti out!), settings storage for each pattern (knob positions, effects, tempo, etc.), and more.
This thing just has a lot of power honestly, and the fact that it gives us some vintage Roland drum sounds alongside being able to add your own gives us so much flexibility. We’re personally into chopping up drum breaks and creating our own kits, but even if you don’t do that now it gives us room to work with in the future. Look at the Roland TR-8S if you want to go bigger with your beginners drum machine.
This isn’t necessarily a classic brand but we had seen this around the net getting some buzz we wanted to see for ourselves what it brought the starter drum machine table. We’re still in the higher price-point for beginners but if you can afford this little machine it packs quite the powerful punch.
It’s a standalone sampler/sequencer that also allows you to record using your external gear, such as synthesizers. So this is a big recommendation for instrument players if you wanted to incorporate your other gear. You can also edit samples inside of the drum machine itself and sequence them all from there. Yes, we do have MIDI as well as USB connectivity here, so we have a hybrid fix at our fingertips.
What’s big here is the intuitive touch screen and the ability to record, edit and sequence all in the little box you have in front of you. There’s a piano roll editor, virtual keyboard and many others that really make this thing stand out. Check out the 1010music Blackbox Studio if you need something unique, yet up with the times that keeps technology up to par in their drum machine for beginners.
Let’s get into a super affordable beginners drum machine, shall we? This is a great option for those needing something more simple and effective without much bells and whistles. It gives us a solid 16-step sequencer, MIDI in, and 10 drum parts. Great for hip-hop and electronic producers.
There are 6 analog parts and 4 PCM that can be fully edited. You can also store numerous patterns for later recall. The step sequencer is just classic here — you can store up to 8 of the 16 step patterns inside, as well as use something they called the ‘Stutter Function’ that allows you to make repeated triggers.
All in all the Korg Volca Beats is a great affordable drum machine for beginners that isn’t going to be heavy on your wallet, while at the same time giving us the essential step-sequencer we all need paired up with a few other nice features for an all-around nice package.
Last but not least, we’ll end this guide of the best starter drum machines with a beast. The Digitakt is the most expensive of the bunch here, but if you’re all the down this far at our 6th pick you perhaps may be looking for something different. We have 1GB+ of storage onboard, 64MB sample memory, eight MIDI tracks, an 8-voice drum machine all paired up with a groove sequencer and sampler.
Each of the eight audio tracks has it’s own filter and assignable LFO. You can use send effects such as reverb and delay, use the MIDI tracks to sequence outside keyboards, synth modules or really any type of gear you have and more.
We could type an entire article on this drum machine if we needed to. We’re only scratching the surface here with our little summary but if you find this catches your eye, give it a chance — it will definitely take a little learning if you’re beginning but if you have the time and patience, you’ll be happy with the end result. The Elektron Digitakt is a beast.