Roger Linn

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Roger Linn
Roger Linn at MusicTech Summit (2010)
Roger Curtis Linn
SpouseIngrid Linn
Engineering career
Electronic engineering
ProjectsLinn Electronics

Roger Curtis Linn is an American designer of electronic musical instruments and equipment.[1] He is the designer of the LM-1, the first drum machine to use samples, and the MPC sampler, which had a major influence on the development of hip hop.[2] Roger Linn is also a member of the Dead Presidents Society, a group of innovators in the field of electronic music.[3]

Linn Electronics[edit]

Lin 9000
LinnDrum Midistudio

In 1979, Roger Linn and Alex Moffett[4] founded Linn Moffett Electronics (soon to be renamed Linn Electronics) to develop Linn's design for a drum machine that uses digital samples. It would be called LM-1 for Linn/Moffett/1. Moffett left the company in 1982. Linn used his new drum machine and performed with Leon Russell on his album Life and Love in 1979.[5][6]


In 1980, Roger Linn released the world's first drum machine to use digital samples, the LM-1 Drum Computer.[7] The LM-1 was the first drum machine to use samples of a real drum kit, which Linn recorded with Los Angeles session drummer Art Wood.[8] Examples of the LM-1 in use can be found on recordings by Prince, Gary Numan, and Michael Jackson.[9]


In 1982 Linn released the LinnDrum as the successor to the LM-1. It improved on the LM-1 in some ways like the addition of crash and ride cymbal samples. One drawback: on the LinnDrum, only the snare, tom, and conga samples can be tuned, whereas the LM-1 allows every sound to be individually tuned. Its high-quality samples, flexibility and affordability made the LinnDrum popular. It sold more units than its predecessor (the LM-1) and its successor (the Linn 9000) combined. The LinnDrum was used on countless recordings throughout the 1980s, including a-Ha's international hit "Take On Me".

Linn 9000[edit]

In 1984 Linn released the Linn 9000 as the successor to the LinnDrum. It was the first integrated digital drum machine and MIDI sequencer. The 9000 had innovative features, like dynamic sensitive rubber pads,[10] and would influence many future drum machine designs.[11] But chronic software bugs[12][13] led to a reputation for unreliability and contributed to the eventual demise of the company.[14][15] The 9000 can be heard on Michael Jackson's 1987 album, Bad, on the cuts such as "Bad" and "Liberian Girl".


In 1985, Linn released the LinnSequencer, a rack mount 32 track hardware MIDI sequencer. It used the same flawed operating system used in the Linn 9000.[16] As a result, the machine earned a reputation for unreliability.[12][13]

LinnDrum Midistudio[edit]

In January 1986, Linn debuted the LinnDrum Midistudio at the NAMM Winter Music & Sound Market as the successor to the Linn 9000. The Midistudio is essentially a rack mount version of the Linn 9000 with some improvements.[17] It used the same flawed operating system used in the Linn 9000.[18] It never went into production because Linn Electronics went out of business the following month.[19]

Similarities between the LinnDrum Midistudio and the Akai MPC series lead some to perceive a family resemblance.[20][21][22] Most notably, the Midistudio has sixteen dynamic sensitive rubber pads in the distinctive, four by four pattern, that would become the hallmark of the MPCs, starting with the MPC60.


Linn Electronics went out of business in February 1986. Forat Electronics purchased their remaining assets,[23] manufactured and sold the Forat F9000 and LinnSequencer until 1994 and provide service, sounds, customization and upgrades for the entire Linn Electronics line.

The LM-1, LinnDrum and Linn 9000 became synonymous with the music of the 1980s. The Linn 9000 and LinnDrum Midistudio pioneered the concept of the Music Production Center or MPC.

Akai MPC[edit]


After Linn Electronics, Linn collaborated with the Japanese company Akai to design the MPC60, an integrated digital sampling drum machine and MIDI sequencer released in 1988.[24] According to Linn, "[The collaboration] was a good fit because Akai needed a creative designer with ideas and I didn't want to do sales, marketing, finance or manufacturing, all of which Akai was very good at."[25] The MPC60 was followed by the MPC60 MkII and the MPC3000.[26]

Linn aimed to design an affordable user-friendly instrument that did not require extensive musical knowledge or studio equipment to use.[24] It had a major influence on the development of hip hop and electronic music.[27][2] The 4x4 grid of pads was adopted by numerous manufacturer and became standard in DJ technology.[27]

Linn left Akai after the company went out of business and its assets were purchased by Numark. According to Linn, the new organization was led by "a very unscrupulous fellow ... he immediately stopped my royalty payments, refused to take my calls and had his lawyer send me threatening letters. I checked around and learned that he has a reputation of being a real bastard, so given that challenging him would have been long and expensive, I let it go."[28] Akai has continued to produce MPC models without Linn, such as the MPC2000;[25] Linn was critical, saying: "Akai seems to be making slight changes to my old 1986 designs for the original MPC, basically rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."[28]

Roger Linn Design[edit]

In 2001 Roger Linn founded a new company, Roger Linn Design. The company's first product offering was the AdrenaLinn, with the LinnStrument music performance controller added later.


AdrenaLinn II (front)

The AdrenaLinn is a digital multi-effects unit with a drum machine and amp modeler all in one, designed by Roger Linn with some help from Dave Smith (credited with helping to conceive MIDI) and Tom Oberheim (designer of early analog synthesizers). Most notably, unlike other guitar pedals, the AdrenaLinn specializes in beat-synced effects, including modulation and delay but also a sequencer that provides looped patterns of filtered tones, all moving in sync to its internal drum machine or to midi. The drum section can also be affected by the filter section, allowing dance-style beats. Other unusual aspects of this pedal include note-triggered filter effects such as auto-wah, simulated talk box and guitar synthesizer sounds. The AdrenaLinn technology was also the basis of Roger Linn's partnership with M-Audio to create the Black Box guitar multi-effect and recording unit.[1]

The AdrenaLinn can be heard on the following records (among many others):

The AdrenaLinn was followed-up with the AdrenaLinn II and AdrenaLinn III.

Tempest (2011)

LinnDrum II[edit]

Roger Linn and Dave Smith announced co-development of a drum machine product, originally to be called BoomChik, but changed to LinnDrum II in December 2007, a reference to one of Linn's early popular drum machines: the LinnDrum. The LinnDrum II was renamed the Tempest, and co-released by Roger Linn Designs and Dave Smith Instruments in 2011.

LinnStrument booth at Winter NAMM 2015


In late 2014, after several years of development, Linn released the LinnStrument, a music performance controller with 3D note expression. The grid based MIDI controller, playable with one or two hands, is velocity sensitive, but also senses three dimensions per finger, polyphonically. It can employ MPE, thereby using a full MIDI channel per note. Two versions are available, the larger original LinnStrument as well as the smaller LinnStrument 128.[30]

Almost the entire surface of the controller is covered by its 8 by 25 (or 8 by 16 in the case of the LinnStrument 128) grid. The fingertip-sized fields are each able to measure and transmit velocity, aftertouch, x-position relative to the entire row (or any subset thereof), y-position within a field, as well as release velocity.[31] It is highly adaptable and can also function in more traditional MIDI configurations, accommodating sound generators that don't yet support MPE and allowing them to be played more expressively.

The LinnStrument has several additional features, such as an arpeggiator, a velocity-sensitive step sequencer as well as freely assignable virtual MIDI faders. It is USB-powered and can communicate via USB or 5-pin MIDI.

Music career[edit]

Roger Linn has had a level of songwriting success, penning hits ("Promises", Eric Clapton 1979; "Quittin' Time", Lou Ann Barton 1986, Mary Chapin Carpenter 1991, Amy Bishop 2009), and having toured as a guitarist with the pianist/songwriter Leon Russell in the 1970s at age 21.[1]

In 2011 Roger was awarded a Grammy Award for Lifetime Technical Achievement, recognizing his many contributions to the music recording industry.[32][33]


  1. ^ a b c "Roger Linn Design: About Roger Linn".
  2. ^ a b "Hip-hop's most influential sampler gets a 2017 reboot". Engadget. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  3. ^ "Dead Presidents Society".
  4. ^ Moffett, Alex. "Alex Moffett - LinkedIn". Archived from the original on April 7, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
  5. ^ "Life and Love - Leon Russell | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic" – via
  6. ^ Life And Love
  7. ^ Hey, what's that sound: Linn LM-1 Drum Computer and the Oberheim DMX by David McNamee The Guardian
  8. ^ "Interview: Roger Linn, von der LinnDrum bis zur MPC60". October 3, 2020.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "...the Linn 9000 remains one of the true innovative designs of its decade". Total Trash. The Linn 9000 Home Page.
  11. ^ "Brothers, Sisters, and Cousins: Similar Drum Machines". Total Trash. The Linn 9000 Home Page.
  12. ^ a b "...but bugged by many OS troubles and technical issues". Polynominal.
  13. ^ a b " was plagued with operating system bugs..." Total Trash. The Linn 9000 Home Page.
  14. ^ Linn, Roger. "What happened? We simply ran out of money and were unable to get more. Why? There were a number of reasons. The 9000 had technical problems early on and was expensive to re-engineer, manufacturer and service; we had strong competition; we had no investment financing; and we were experiencing all the classic "growing pains" of a new business". Bobby Nathan's Keyboard Magazine "In The Studio" Article #17 "What Happened to The Linn 9000". Archived from the original on January 8, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  15. ^ "one the most unreliable and buggy machine ever made, in fact this ground-breaking and expensive project bankrupted the Linn company". Polynominal.
  16. ^ Linn, Roger. "...we sent out one copy of the new version 5.17 software ROMs for the 9000 and LinnSequencer..." Bobby Nathan's Keyboard Magazine "In The Studio" Article #17 "What Happened to The Linn 9000". Archived from the original on January 8, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  17. ^ "MidiStudio - Synthony Music's Synth & Midi Museum". Archived from the original on April 20, 1999.
  18. ^ Linn, Roger. "[Q] What will happen to the new product, the LinnDrum Midistudio? [A] No Midistudios were ever shipped. If I cannot re-start Linn, there is a good chance that some other company will purchase the designs to both the Midistudio and the LinnSequencer and then manufacture and distribute them. In that event, there is also a chance that the company might make further software updates for the 9000 available since the software for all three products is nearly the same". Bobby Nathan's Keyboard Magazine "In The Studio" Article #17 "What Happened to The Linn 9000". Archived from the original on January 8, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  19. ^ "Roger Linn Design - Past Products Museum".
  20. ^ "So, was the Midistudio the direct descendent to the MPC range, that then continued on to evolve into my broken down MPC2000xl and beyond? I'm gonna say yes, even if it never made it into production. The 4x4 pads, the beige colouring, and the few references I've found online is good enough evidence to me". Linn Electronics Inc. LinnDrum Midistudio "Put a complete studio in your lap." ad, Keyboard 1986 - Retro Synth Ads - Atom. May 19, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  21. ^ "Blogged: '86 LinnDrum Midistudio - father to @Akai_Pro 's MPC? 4x4 pads and color!". RetroSynthAds. May 19, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  22. ^ "The LinnDrum Midistudio looks like the true predecessor to the MPC, they moved from the 6x3 pad layout of the Linn 9000 to the familiar 4x4 pad layout with the LinnDrum Midistudio prototype, and the remote pad surface seems to have the Akai cream colour, along with the MPC style layout of pads/transport/controls/etc., just before Linn went broke... The Linn 9000, Linn Sequencer, LinnDrum Midistudio, and Akai ADR15 would represent the refinement of Linn's previous ideas/products into the MPC design, possibly with the sampled drum idea coming from the replaceable ROM sound chips in the LinnDrum". Akai MPC Forums - Researching a book on the MPC60 - Thoughts? : MPC3000, MPC60. October 24, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  23. ^ "Then in 1986 Forat Electronics Corporation was born after purchasing Linn's remaining assets..." Forat Electronics - History.
  24. ^ a b "The 10 most important hardware samplers in history". MusicRadar. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  25. ^ a b "Feature: Industry Interview -Roger Linn @". Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  26. ^ "The Return Of Roger Linn |". Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  27. ^ a b "Meet the unassuming drum machine that changed music forever". Vox. Retrieved May 11, 2018.
  28. ^ a b "INTERVIEW with Roger Linn". BBOY TECH REPORT. November 2, 2012. Retrieved May 13, 2018.
  29. ^ Roger Linn Design: AdrenaLinn or AdrenaLinn II[dead link]
  30. ^ "Linnstrument".
  31. ^ "LinnStrument's smart MIDI".
  32. ^ Rundgren, Todd (February 1, 2011). "Technical GRAMMY Award: Roger Linn". Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  33. ^ "Roger Linn at Special Merit Awards Ceremony & Nominees Reception". February 13, 2011. Archived from the original on August 15, 2022. Retrieved June 17, 2011.

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