Roger Linn’s Shuffle

Marco Raaphorst
Oct 11, 2015 · 2 min read

A year ago I made the documentary Oostende Healing about Marvin Gaye’s Midnight Love album which he recorded in Belgium (close to where I live, the Netherlands). What makes the album so special is that he used a Roland TR-808 throughout the whole album for the first time. The Roland TR-808 is now considered a classic but at the time Roland promoted it as a cool device for making demos.

One of the things the TR-808 didn’t have: shuffle mode. Roger Linn invented this Groove Parameter For Drummachines and added it to his first legendary sample based invention: the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer. The same shuffle modes can be found on the Akai MPC samplers (which were also designed by Roger Linn).

J Dilla wouldn’t have sounded the same without this superb invention of Roger Linn. It’s the foundation of a lot of modern music even ‘till this day and not only for hiphop.

Roger explains how shuffle mode works:

My implementation of swing has always been very simple: I merely delay the second 16th note within each 8th note. In other words, I delay all the even-numbered 16th notes within the beat (2, 4, 6, 8, etc.) In my products I describe the swing amount in terms of the ratio of time duration between the first and second 16th notes within each 8th note. For example, 50% is no swing, meaning that both 16th notes within each 8th note are given equal timing. And 66% means perfect triplet swing, meaning that the first 16th note of each pair gets 2/3 of the time, and the second 16th note gets 1/3, so the second 16th note falls on a perfect 8th note triplet. The fun comes in the in-between settings. For example, a 90 BPM swing groove will feel looser at 62% than at a perfect swing setting of 66%. And for straight 16th-note beats (no swing), a swing setting of 54% will loosen up the feel without it sounding like swing. Between 50% and around 70% are lots of wonderful little settings that, for a particular beat and tempo, can change a rigid beat into something that makes people move.

Both Propellerhead Reason and Ableton Live include a groove module with a bunch of shuffle presets which were taken from the famous LM-1/MPC series. In Live you can apply groove to any clip that is warped/time-streched (even when using the Complex Pro mode). In Reason this is limited to only instrument-clips/tracks. You can not apply groove to audio tracks. You can add a groove to a DrOctoRex device but that takes a lot of steps compared to Live.

Roger, out.

Originally published at Melodiefabriek.

Marco Raaphorst

Written by

Fool on the hill blowing his guitar —

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade