The LinnDrum is probably the most famous drum machine you’ve never heard of.
Despite its use in so many classic pop, hip hop and indie rock tracks—you just don’t hear rappers and producers going on about the LinnDrum like they do about the 808.
But the drum machine is definitely a huge part of so many iconic tracks from Prince’s “1999” to Thunder Cat’s “Inferno”.
The funky sounding became commercially available in the 1980s and was originally designed by Roger Linn to authentically re-create the sound of an acoustic drum kit.
That’s why producers like Prince we’re drawn to their chunky, uncanny drum sound early on.
Today, of course, you don’t need a LinnDrum to make an authentic drum sound.
Instead, the LinnDrum is well-loved for its take on electronic 80s funk and rock drums and its unique sound that’s fairly different from somewhat overused 808 and 909 sounds.
Why use LinnDrum Samples?
You definitely don’t need to buy a LinnDrum. They’re out of production and very pricey on vintage gear websites.
Rather than shelling out ten thousand dollars on a vintage LinnDrum, you’re way better off just downloading a sample pack of professionally recorded LinnDrum samples.
It’s a great way to spice up your tracks if you’re tired of using the same 808 and 909 sounds.
If you’re looking for a LinnDrum to sample try out LinnDrum Synthwave, it comes with 68 one-shots and 32 loops to get you started with your LinnDrum journey.
Still not sure whether the LinnDrum is cool enough for your tracks? Here’s how seven modern producers use the drum machine.
1. John Legend – “You and I (Nobody in the World)
Stripped down and simple, Legend uses a very basic ballad style tom pattern, taking advantage of the LinnDrum’s raw but authentic drum sound.
2. Haim – “Falling”
In “Falling” goes for a retro style, applying plenty of interesting delay and processing on the LinnDrum’s punchy tom sound.
The groove then drops into a classic 80s funk groove to give the song some extra motion—a textbook use for the drum machine.
3. Gang Starr – “Mass Appeal”
Gang Starr might have used the LinnDrum sound without even knowing it—they sampled EPMD’s “You’re a Customer” which used the drum machine.
Still, it clearly fits well within the rap canon given its crunchy, dry sound that always grooves.
4. Kanye West – “Hey Mama”
We all know how much Kanye loves his 808s. But for his track “Hey Mama”, producer Andrew Dawson used a LinnDrum to double the kick and create a pitched bassline.
In many ways, the production technique was an early version of the pitched trap 808s you hear in most of today’s mainstream trap music.
So, if you’re bored of using trap 808s, maybe try a LinnDrum kick or tom to get a different pitched 808 sound.
5. Thunder Cat – “Inferno”
Here’s a very on-the-nose use of the LinnDrum, listening to it you can instantly tell that Thunder Cat is using the iconic drum machine.
What makes this part interesting is more how its played.
The rhythm is very off-kilter, it almost feels like a human is playing the drums to do away with the rigid rhythms the original drum machine is known for.
6. Daft Punk – “One More Time”
Here’s a great example of the LinnDrum’s disco and dance music applications.
“One More Time” from Daft Punk makes use of the LinnDrum’s more authentic and crunchy-sounding hi-hat while leaning on the TR-909 for the kick sound.
7. Prince – “I Would Die 4 U”
Yes—Prince is not a modern producer. But if Kanye is synonymous with the 808 then Prince is probably the artist who’s most associated with the LinnDrum, so of course, he’s on this list.
The drumbeat in the iconic song “I Would Die 4 U” is very much front and center and makes for maybe the best showcase of what the LinnDrum is capable of.
Do you like the LinnDrum yet?
Once you know its special and unique sound you’ll recognize it when you hear it.
It’s a drum machine that made a lot of changes to pop music while staying in the background.
But it’s time for the LinnDrum to get a renaissance—more producers should try using it.
So next time you make a track try out some LinnDrum samples to see how it adds new energy to your sound.
Alex Lavoie works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and moonlights as a drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters.
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