Drummer from Another Mother
The Moog DFAM – AKA Drummer from another Mother – The best analog (non) drum machine you can add to your arsenal
Ahhh, my second analog synth. Bought it brand new as soon as it hit the market. As a former percussionist it had to be mine. I’d stop at nothing simply because it had drummer in the name. What a brilliant name too – The Moog DFAM (Drummer from another Mother). Their marketing people really did an excellent job of naming their whole family based, semi-modular analog synth series which have been released in the last few years.
But good Lord, is this thing from another mother entirely. I’d call it more of a percussion machine, rather than a drum one. This semi modular analog percussion synthesizer requires absolutely no experience in drumming. Lending itself more towards creating a wide-ranging variety of sounds, as opposed to a straightforward drum machine/rhythm means you are only limited by your own imagination once you learn what each knob turn does or parameter change causes.
Again, the patch bay on this one is indispensable. I happen to own a super awesome module (thanks to Abe over at AI Synthesis!) That allows me to run pedals through it. With a little delay patched in correctly it makes the DFAM a whole sonic new beast.The DFAM sync ADV/Clock Input allows for one to sync other machines with the ease of plugging in an eighth inch cord. It’s especially handy for it’s sister piece, the Moog Mother 32 (also, a highly recommended unit if you can swing it). It took me a while of patching around and ultimately combining the two to understand the power of the two together. None of this would be possible if not for the DFAM sync via the ADV/Clock Input, which is a godsend.
Patching ‘Round Continued
The patch bay is also a welcome luxury on the Moog DFAM, I’d say. It’s not necessarily it’s calling card but you can certainly use it to your advantage. That said, let’s get into the heart of this device.
Sporting 16 DFAM knobs, creating beats and melodies on the synth is a breeze. The top row of knobs is your sounding note, the bottom row of sham knobs being the velocity of said note. Turn the pitch knob left, it gets bassier. Turn the DFAM knobs right to increase pitch. Same idea with the velocity; Left is quiet, right is max volume.
Try using the dust cover cards upon first purchase to allow you to really learn the ins and outs. Hell, I still use mine. After you’re comfortable, begin tweaking from these standards and you’ll find you can make Trent Reznor industrial tunes, to bird songs. It’s very versatile.
Never have I had an easier time syncing instruments together than with the DFAM. Thanks to it’s ADV/CLOCK jack, you can sync it via CV rather than MIDI. MIDI sync always f**ks me up for some reason I cannot place my finger on, so having a direct line for sync is icing on this already badass cake.
I don’t have many…
…But one of the larger gripes I have with this machine is it’s analog approach to tempo. It’s damn near impossible to keep a solid line going smoothly and evenly (certainly when chaining to machines which are not Moog brads. Ehem Korg Ehem. Once you get this down, you’ll obviously want to hone in on the exact BPM you’re dealing with. Who wouldn’t? You want your shit, along with this DFAM to sync, right?
A Shitty Workaround for Obtaining Precise BPM on a Moog DFAM
It sucks having to do it this way, but for as long as I’ve owned this drum machine I need to chain together four (yes four different) pieces of gear to even assume I’m on point with my rhythm. Maybe someone out there grappling with this issue, could find it helpful, so I’m happy to post it below. Fair warning, though – I did tell you that it was a pain in the ass….
I’m yet to really test this but here’s how I think I’m pulling it off. Also, your setup will obviously be different from mine so take the next bit with a grain of salt. It starts with a Korg Volca Sample. Even if you turn the volume all the way down, setting your desired BPM on this digital sampler/drum machine is the opening of the proverbial floodgates. I lucked out but only because this happens to be the only strictly digital synth I own, allowing for precision regarding tempo.
Digital Lends Somewhat of a Hand in the Mostly Analog Setup I possess
Okay, cool, we have a Korg Volca turned on, burning batteries, volume turned down serving as somewhat of a metronome. Somewhat wasteful, but I digress. Using the Sync Out via the Volca, I can send that signal into my Korg SQ-1’s IN Sync. This allows this Korg device (and, yes, we’re still yet to have the ability to hear the sounding of a single note) to pickup said tempo being delivered from the sample.
Uhm, okay.. When does something Happen?
From here, we finally get to hear something! How exciting! This is also where approach/available gear make your next move a very subjective one. I typically sync the MIDI Out from the SQ-1, into the MIDI In on the Moog Mother 32. Furthering how this a pain in the ass, there’s all sorts of button combos one has to remember to do before ever even setting a pattern in the step sequencer. We’re taking simple things like setting polyrhythms, establishing your MIDI channel and even just to turn on it’s ability to receive MIDI messages. My gripe lies in remembering to do it off-the-bat because if you wait until after you’ve begun programming it goes whacky on you.
Last One, I Promise
Despite the pain in the ass factor, we’re now finally freaking hearing something, whoo-hoo! We’re finally up to the last step for the easiest way I’ve uncovered to make sure BPM is on point. Thanks to the Mother 32’s marvel of an assignable output, we patch directly into the DFAM’s ADV/Clock Input, and voila – A vague sense of relative tempo has been established. It only took 4 paragraphs to explain it, you know, simplicity and efficiency. At least better than nothing.
More random Moog DFAM Features . .
This thing groooves. It always finds the pocket and stays there, based on how you programmed it. It’s a perfect first synth for those investigating modular synthesis due to it’s overall simplicity. Not to say you can’t get complicated with it, but the patch bay is small and approachable. The adjustment knobs speak for themselves and alter the sounding of notes with ease once you get there.
There’s only so much you can talk about the DFAM. It needs to be touched, finessed. Go to a Guitar Center and try one out. You’ll see what I mean. Despite seeming complex, it truly is rather easy to start with. Once you become more acquainted with the Drummer from Another Mother, you’ll notice all the complexities which confused you at first will be second nature, allowing you to expand on all the sonic dreams you had for it.
Your rhythms will never be the same with this beastly melodic percussion machine. I highly recommend grabbing this Moog synthesizer. And make sure to get it used. It’s not worth the MSRP of $600, but well worth spending $400-500 on.
As other articles have stated, I’m a large advocate for purchasing used gear. This is by no means a machine that does you any favors purchasing it fresh off the factory line. It’s still going to be a DFAM. It will have the same DFAM knobs and functions. Why pay full freight?
Hope this was informative! As always, please feel free to leave your comments below and keep on rockin’!