To start, the 32MB sound bank is full of highly versatile, realistic drum sounds, as well as effects to help you tweak them to your liking.
The EQ and compression are very helpful in this regard. More often than not, guitarists in the market for a drum machine are not looking to get into the nitty-gritty of drum synthesis or sample mangling.
While I couldn’t see myself using 24 tracks of drums at once, the ability to do so if you desire is a nice option.
The SR-18 also features a song mode, which is a huge factor for accompanying a guitarist.
A drum machine lacking song mode is not a deal-breaker by any means, but when you can program a whole song with different movements or parts to play without having to change the pattern manually, it’s a game-changer because you can just focus on playing.
Additionally, not all guitarists gel with loops and static patterns, so a feature like this can really move a song along.
Add to this their easy to use bass synth, and you have the makings of a 3-piece band sound very quickly. Whether for inspiration or full-fledged writing, these are two very powerful features.
While its reputation as a complex piece of equipment is warranted, the Octatrack MKII can also serve as a drum machine, effects box, sampler, and looper that can take you places you didn’t think were possible with your guitar.
Not to mention the ability to sample yourself in real-time and immediately play it back pitched up or down, reversed, or pretty much any other way you can think of.
This makes it a very powerful creative tool to take your guitar playing and its sounds into new sonic territories.
Bringing all of this together is the arranger, or Song Mode. Here you can arrange your patterns with repeats, mute groups, and performance scene changes into a full song to play along with and perform.
So while the Octatrack comes at a premium and a bit of a learning curve, it has a lot to offer in terms of performance, songwriting, and sound design for a guitarist looking for a drum machine.
As we mentioned before, the Octatrack is notorious for having a bit of a learning curve. If you’re looking for a straightforward plug-and-play type approach, this may not be the route to go for you.
Some planning and forethought usually has to happen before you can get going with this instrument.
Additionally, there are some limitations, like the aforementioned 8-track limit, and its 80MB of RAM memory per project.
Getting your head around the Elektron way might take some time, or it may not be your cup of tea.
There are other instruments like the 1010music Black Box or Akai MPC Live that are a bit more linear and traditional in their approach but have similar capabilities.
In the playback department, while the Roland TR-6S lacks a song mode, it does feature pattern chaining mode, so you can chain a set of patterns to play in succession (much like a song mode).
Again, this is a great feature for guitarists, as you can move a song along without having to stop and change a pattern. Alternatively, you can use external gear to sequence a song.
The TR-6S is limited to 6 tracks of audio.
While there are plenty of 4-track drum machines out there in good use, 6 tracks can quickly leave you wanting that extra cowbell or tom that you just can’t work in without taking away another important track.
In addition to this, the step sequencer is serviceable at 32 steps, but 64 is fairly standard these days.
If you’re looking to play long samples, the TR-6S is limited to 180 seconds of mono audio and isn’t really suited for this despite its sample playback capabilities.
It sort of makes sense for a drum machine, as you would normally use short one-shot samples for drums, but still a limitation.
The world of drum machines is vast, and with a short list we’ve missed out on many other great choices like the Korg Volca Drum, Novation Circuits, Roland, TR-8S, and many more.
While they are all legitimate contenders, we found these 5 to be the best for guitarists of various levels of skill, sound palettes, and price ranges.
Finding the right one for your needs can be tricky, but with the 5 listed here, you have a great starting point.