Today I was going through some used music gear at a nearby second hand shop in downtown Nagano-city, Japan. On a shelf I discovered three Yamaha RY-20 drum machines. One was for $150 and the other two were $10 each and labeled as broken. I took the two that were broken and tested them at the shop and sure enough they operated just fine with one exception. When you pressed play on either one, the patterns would not play. I scratched my head a bit and was wondering why both machines had the same problem….strange! I figured I would gamble a bit and decided to buy both Yamaha RY-20 drum machines mainly because they sounded AWESOME!! I mean, the RY-20 is loud and many of the patterns swing really nice, ala New Jack Swing! I couldn’t stop playing with the drum pads which really felt great and the sensitivity was just excellent. If they indeed were broken I could at least use them for sound modules.
So, I bought both drum machines and they even came with the adapters. When I got home I decided the first thing to try was a “factory reset”. I looked for a PDF manual online and found the reset procedure. You have to press both the -1 and +1 keys at the same time while powering on the unit. Unbelievable! Both Yamaha RY-20 Drum Machines kicked into high gear and started to work beautifully. I later found out that both machines were in MIDI sync mode and wouldn’t play because they were expecting an external midi command. The guy who sold them to the used music store probably left them in MIDI Sync mode. The sales clerk thought they were broken and dropped the price to $10 each. Amazing!!
This evening I spent an hour playing the Korg Poly-61 along with one of the Yamaha RY-20 drum machines and it was a lot of fun. The drum sounds are really nice and you definitely can get that 80’s or 90’s vibe with it. I believe the Yamaha RY-20 was released in 1994 which was a year after I originally moved to Japan. It was quite extraordinary to find the RY-20 drum machines. I can’t believe how great they sound and if I new they were this fun to work with I likely would have bought one earlier. The Yamaha RY-20 drum machines sound much different than the Rolands. I like how loud the RY-20 is and for Synthpop or that New Jack Swing sound it’s just fantastic. There is a special sensitivity or live feel to the drums that sounds much different than most other digital drum machines I’ve heard. I may be stretching it a bit, but sometimes I actually feel like the drums are alive. I’ll have to read more about it, but the Yamaha RY-20 really has a wonderful sound. Stay tuned for future updates as I dive into the machine more.