Yes, the tools are better and shinier – but there is a method to what musicians are doing with them.

Maschine 1.8 arrives today, a bit early, a free update. I looked at this release when we went hands-on with the updated software and new color hardware. Whether or not you get the new controller, it features a new transient follower and tube and tape saturation effects, improvements to pitch and time shift, and better file handling. You also get a free serial for NI’s Massive synth.

This is a good thing. But let’s back up and talk about what these tools are really for.

Looking for something to add to the news today, I realized I missed a popular video by NI with none other than Frente Cumbiero. Ostensibly, it’s a video about Maschine, and shot by the software developer, but it could really be a video about sampling.

Colombia is the beating heart of Cumbia, but that warm-blooded music now pumps through the rest of the planet’s dancefloors. Seeing Frente Cumbiero (aka Mario Galeano) digging through stacks of records, the man takes on dual roles as musicologist and composer. When he talks about sampling, he talks about sharpening his musicianship and understanding the music compositionally. It’s a historical recomposition, simultaneously analysis and reintegration into something new. And, significantly, he can do this with his fingers.

It’s relevant, then, that he works end-to-end in Maschine, not so much because it’s a compliment to the tool’s engineers, but because it means that he makes each rhythmic move something that happens beneath his fingers, improvisationally. It acts out on that grid the activity composers have exercised since, well, the dawn of music. He absorbs and then reconstructs musical ideas, like a bard retelling a story. And this integrated process of study and analysis – not just random sampling for convenience – is something you could easily apply to other drum machines, other workflows.

So, while you’re updating Maschine – or looking at your favorite drum machine hardware or software – you might consider how you can truly improvise and free up musical ideas.

And, for that matter, while things are installing and whatnot, here’s some great reading on Mario Galeano:
Frente Cumbiero and the Renaissance of Colombian Cumbia [iCrates]

  • Chris Hahn

    if we could only DOWNLOAD the update. :-)

    • Peter Kirn

      Yeah, seems their bandwidth is a bit hosed. We need legal torrents. 😉

  • abluesky

    how is this a video about massive?

    • Peter Kirn

      Uh, yes, that was one too many times switching between “Maschine” and “Massive” and I Messedup.

  • Brian stevens

    Anyway, i like the cumbia groove this guy is into, and it’s a great lesson in composing and playing almost jazz-like with nothing but your samples and your imagination… and Maschine.

  • perpetual3

    I Love this man’s music and his approach. There is some real authenticity here some real depth to the music that he creates.

  • Brian stevens

    Time to listen to Cumbia & Jazz Fusion by Charlie Mingus, a fabulous workout.

  • KarlPopper

    Just got the Update. Lots of cool things like the new fx and Massive, but its the little things that matter most to me. Like the shift+select+pad ‘easy erase’. Cant have too many way to erase your data. Enjoy guys.

  • Øivind Idsø

    Out of curiosity, is anyone out there using Maschine for experimental/avantgarde music, as in “don’t have any beats”?

    • Ryan Kropuenske

      I do. A kind of jazz fusion mixed with room tone. Maschine does this well.

  • Kevin Reynolds

    Well put Peter!


    Nicely done video. The Cumbia scene is vibrant here in LA. We also have an excellent live music non-electronica based indie scene that isn’t pop focused. I actually have access to a lounge/bar to do an electro cumbia night in LA if anyone is interested in Djing/Performing. There’s a screen as well to project visuals for the create digital motion heads.

  • Alessandro Automageddon

    I’ve been thinking for a long time of trying to make a new song only sampling my favourite hardcore/punk songs, I tried a couple of times and failed miserably, my chopping techniques need some more work…
    What this guy’s doing is admirable from that point of view.

  • Greg

    I went to Colombia this year to finally meat my in laws and I loved it to bits. Colombians are on of the happiest people on Earth. It was shocking how much people love their own music. In Europe when we say ‘folk music’ we mostly mean rock bands with a violinist or a hairy dude with a guitar. For them folk music is and has always been part of their life. BTW, did anyone realise how little exposure music from outside US/Europe get in the media? Just ranting… want to see and know more about Latin American, Asian and African artists and their interpretation of electronic music!!!