I’ve been watching eBay for years, looking for a Gibson Maestro MRK-2 drum machine that’s in good shape and is affordable. I totally got to digging it while listening to Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station. In some of their recordings you can hear the MRK-2 cranking through an amp somewhere in the room, and I’m guessing they just played along and kept tempo with it.
I got a set of sampled patterns from the Maestro, and I used them on a couple tunes (like “U Got 2 Funk It” below). I was able to customize the beats a little bit by slicing and dicing them, which was an arduous process, so for the most part I was in a position that I’d be in if I had the actual drum machine: using the stock loops.
Even though I’ve developed this desire to get analog gear, I’m still trying to find other cool instruments and ways of working. I was browsing the Apple App Store for music apps and came across one called Funkbox. It sells for $3.99, which is less than the cost of one crunchy beer. For that investment you get a nice variety of sampled sounds from nine analog drum machines. The sampled gear includes the TR-808, TR-909, TR-606, Linn, and CR-78 among others.
One of the others is the MRK-2. When I discovered that Synthetic Bits (the company behind the Funkbox app) had included the MRK-2 sounds, and that I could program whatever patterns I wanted, I immediately ponied up for the app. I am not disappointed.
I’ve taken to using an 1/8″ adapter and an instrument cable to run the output of Funkbox from my iPad phone jack into an amplifier. I’ve actually used the app through the Marshall’s high-gain input to get a live (and loud) amped sound. It’s adding some really cool funky textures to some of the songs for the upcoming project, and I’ve also employed this app on some tunes for an upcoming Foonspeeders project. In a case like this, it has to be one of the best values in gear that I’ve found. I’m definitely getting my four-dollar’s-worth and more.
Thank you Synthetic Bits for saving me a whole bunch of money while giving me a tool that is so flexible.