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Drum-machine song construction tips?


I've been using drum machines for years, and for the
last 12 or so I've synced audio loopers (Lexicon
JamMan and Electrix Repeater) to them. It's always
worked great (and still does) but I think I use my
drum machines in a somewhat non traditional way.  I
use either a Korg Electribe ESX-1 or E-MU XL-7 to put
together dense loops and then kind of randomly
mute/unmute tracks while in song mode.  The lack of
traditional song structure is great for the way I like
to improvise.

Well, this weekend I decided to put together something
with a more "pop" structure and I found the song modes
on both the above drum machines to be SO awkward
compared to a DAW like Digital Performer or Logic, I
ended up with nothing.

So, am I just spoiled by modern computer sequencing...
or am I approaching the drum machine song construction
in the wrong way?  My idea is to avoid having to bring
a laptop to gigs, but if it's going to be so much
easier I'll do it.  I can get around pretty quickly in
Digital Performer 4... then I started to think "well
if I'm bringing a laptop for sequencing, why not use
it as a sound source as well?"  The ESX-1 is a sampler
and the XL-7 is a ROMpler so it's not like I'd have
issues with a laptop not being able to have fast
enough processors.

So, if there's a song construction tip that you can
think of, I'd love to hear it.  If you've found a
better tool that lets one work more intuitively, (the
Electribe has a way better interface than the E-MU
IMO) I'd like to hear that as well.  If song
construction in modern drum-machines is just a big
pain compared to software, than I guess I'll abandon
my little cute boxes for my current project.