When it comes to gadgets and gizmos it’s no secret that many kids take to them like ducks to water and soon run rings around us older folk! That said I have used certain criteria when compiling this list of the best drum machines for kids and ease of use is one of them. I am guessing that what you parents actually want is an easy to use and affordable drum machine that your children can enjoy without too much supervision.
My top 3 choices for three affordable drum machines for kids 2021 are:
Playtime Engineering Blipblox – best drum machine for kids aged 3+
Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-12 Rhythm – best drum machine for kids aged 9+
Roland TR-6S Rhythm Performer Drum Machine – best ‘serious’ drum machine for kids aged 10+ (and teenagers).
Well it wasn’t easy whittling it down to just 3 so let me give an overview of what each device has to offer and why your kids will love it. (If you have teenage children and you are looking to buy them a ‘serious’ drum machine then you might also be interested in my guide to 5 drum machines that cost less than $250).
1. Playtime Engineering Blipblox
9 Reasons why I recommend the Blipblox for Children:
Blipblox is a fully featured synthesizer in a robust, user friendly form.
Blipblox represents good value for money (despite the ‘premium’ price tag).
Blipblox is very easy to use and inspires exploration.
Reviews on consumer websites tend to be highly positive
A built-in speaker and battery power means the Blipblox is completely portable.
The Blipblox is one of the only synthesizers fully certified to international toy safety standards for ages 3 and up.
The Blipblox has more advanced features for older children including MIDI input, 1/4″ Audio Output jack and modulation matrix
Standalone – no phone, computer or additional software/apps required.
The Blipblox After Dark edition introduces even more features for older children.
Overview of The Blipblox:
When it comes to capable music making machines for the very young there is currently one clear winner on the market and that is the Blipblox from Playtime Engineering. Looking like a cross between a rather funky Fischer-Price toy and a video game console controller, the Blipblox has been designed from the ground up to get kids exploring sounds and music.
The Blipblox is not so much a drum machine as a complete synthesiser packaged up in a bright and friendly way, with basic drum beat making features.
The Blipblox is a fantastic way to introduce your youngest children into the joys of making music by bashing buttons. Playtime Engineneering recommend the Blip Box for children as young as 3 years and in theory there is no upper age limit to who can get enjoyment from the Blip Box although I suspect children in their early teens might find the BlipBox design very uncool indeedl!
Despite its toy like looks, The Blipblox is a very capable gadget (which is somewhat reflected in the price). This is not a cheap toy capable of only a few cheap tricks that will bore children – and their parents – within hours of unboxing.
This is a real musical instrument designed from the ground up to appeal to children and a machine that can be learnt in just in a couple of minutes play.
Push the buttons and the Blipblox will play one of the more than 300 built-in melodies. Children can twist and turn the controls to create their own music. The Tempo lever on the left of the machine determines how fast or slow the melodies play.
In the center of the Blipblox is a button to choose a synthesiser mode. On the right of the Blipblox is a filter lever to change the tone of the music. A green knob at top left makes all the notes of the melodies shorter or longer. A red randomizer button creates a whole new set of fresh sounds and control singnal dials allow for easy sound morphing.
Basic ‘beats’ can be created by pressing the Kick and Snare buttons. (As detailed further below the After Dark Blipblox version features more control over the drum sounds.)
As the music plays, various LED lights dance in beat with the music. The video below gives a quick overview of the Blipblox’s features:
Blipbox vs Blipblox After Dark edition – which one is best for my child?
Older children (aged 9+) will probably get more from the ‘After Dark Blipblox’ edition more. The Blipblox After Dark edition boasts a design scheme geared more towards older children and teenagers and has a few more advanced features including a Drum Edit Mode with the option to choose one of the 100 different drum samples, the ability to adjust the sample’s pitch and also the ability to upload new drum sample packs into the Blipblox via MIDI SYSEX. The After Dark edition also features more sythesizer modes including wavetable synthesis, Low-Pass filter, High-Pass filter and Band-Pass filter as well as a Multi-tap delay.Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-12 Rhythm
5 reasons I recommend the Pocket Operator PO-12 Rhythm:
The Pocket Operators look intriguing and invites play and experimentation.
The Pocket Operators are cheap but capable.
Pocket Operators are easy to learn (may require adult supervision at first).
Pocket Operators are a fun introduction to beat making, step sequencing and synthesis.
Pocket Operators are highly portable, standalone devices.
Much more of a dedicated drum machine than the Blipblox, the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator PO-12 Rhythm is a capable, pocket sized drum synth that makes a fantastic wallet-friendly gift for any young musician or budding beat maker.
All of the Pocket Rockets have a unique look – a cross between calculators and retro hand held electronic games – that is certain to intrigue children of all ages.
All of the Pocket Operators (there are currently 10 to choose from) focus on a different type of sound palette but the PO-12 Rhythm is a great choice when you want a gadget that focuses on drum sounds and making beats.
The PO-12 rhythm is a 16 part drum machine with a 16 step sequencer. It features genuine synthesised drum sounds, ‘parameter locks’, 16 step sequencer and 16 ‘punch-in’ effects.
I can also recommend the PO-20 Arcade for your consideration. It offers 16 different video game type synth sounds plus a 16 part mini-drum machine (although the drum machine features are less powerful than the PO-12 Rhythm).
Are Pocket Operators safe for kids?
Because of the small size of the Pocket Operators, and the rather delicate build, parents should be sure their children are old enough to use Pocket Operators responsibly. Very young children will probably delight in smashing a Pocket Operator to bits within minutes of getting one!
If your children are mature enough to handle mobile phones, watches and other small electronic devices and toys sensibly then they can probably handle a Pocket Operator.
Is the PO-12 Rhythm battery operated?
The PO-12 Rhythm Pocket Operator runs on 2x AAA batteries.
3. Roland TR-6S Rhythm Performer Drum Machine:
7 reasons why I recommend the Roland TR-6S Rhythm Performer:
Superb emulations of Roland’s classic drum machine sounds.
The Roland TR-6S looks pretty cool and is fun to use.
The TR-6S is a great choice for tech-savvy older children taking their first steps in music making.
The TR-6S is small, light and portable (headphones required when not connected to speakers)
The TR-6S has plenty to offer and can keep your children happy for years until they are ready to move onto more powerful gear.
The TR-6S is a great introduction to the world of drum machines, sound design and music production.
The TR-6S is no cheap toy – adults can play with the TR-6S when the kids are in bed!
The third choice in my list by far the most sophisticated of my picks. The Roland TR-6S is best suited for older children and teenagers with some experience of using gadgets such as keyboard synthesizers, computers, mobile phones and tablets.
Overview of the Roland TR-6S Rhythm Performer Drum Machine:
The TR-6S is a more compact and portable version of its bigger TR-8S brother. This is – as you would expect from Roland – a ‘serious’ drum machine that has plenty to offer musicians of all ages.
The TR-6S offers six tracks with which to create beats and comes preloaded with excellent emulations of Roland’s iconic drum machine sounds including the TR-909 and TR-808. This is a great way to introduce your kids to the famous Roland sounds!
As well as authentic Roland drum sounds, theTR-6S ofFers a full suite of effects including delay, reverb, overdrive and filters, a step sequencer, FM synthesis and more.
The TR-6S is a pretty cool looking drum machine with plenty of LED lighting effects – this little box of tricks is guaranteed to appeal to the design concious teenager in your life. It is a fun and inspiring device and it is fairly easy to pick up the basics and start laying down beats.
Dedicated faders and knobs and 16 step buttons encourage hands-on play and it is easy to get started building beats within seconds of turning the TR-6S on but both children and adults will need to read the manual at some point if they wish to make the most of the more advanced features – this is by far the most complex and ‘deep’ gadget on my list.
The TR-6S is actually a great choice for parents to explore, learn and play with alongside their children (and play with when the children are in bed!)
The TR-6S is a light (plastic), portable, battery powered standalone drum machine so it can easily be carried around and played anywhere (when using heaphones).
As well as the built in Roland sounds, tech-savvy kids can easily import new samples via SD card. If your kids are not yet that tech-savvy then moving samples from a computer to an SD card and into the TR-6S is a great little ‘newbie’ challenge for children to carry out. Depending on your child’s age and tech experience they may require adult help with such tasks. The TR-6S also acts as a high-quality USB audio and MIDI interface for when you wish to use it with a computer.
The Roland TR-6S is the most expensive drum machine on my list but if you are looking for a fantastic sounding drum machine that older children and teenagers can cut their teeth on and enjoy for many years then this is one of the best options – it would make a fantastic Christmas or birthday present.
Does the TR-6S have a built in speaker? The TR-6S does not have a built in speaker so kids wil need to use the headphone connector (3.5 mm stereo jack) or the TR-6S can be hooked up to speakers.
A little word of warning about headphones: Speaking from experience I know that I have tripped over and become entangled by headphone cables many, many times over the years. While lost in the moment making beats and noises it is very easy to forget you are wearing headphones and they are also vunerable to sitting on, treading on, dropping and snapping so if headphones are connected to the TR-6S do be aware that they can be a potential hazard.
Headphones with shorter cables are best for your childen when combined with something like the TR-6S which they are likely to pick up and carry around without much thought and you should avoid giving children any kind of expensive “professional” studio headphones to play with.