One Man Shows You How to Play Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” with Just One Synthesizer

Clau­dio aka Doc­tor Mix runs a YouTube chan­nel where he uploads tuto­ri­als on mix­ing and pro­duc­ing music, reviews of audio gear and instru­ments, and hawks his online mix­ing and mas­ter­ing ser­vice. But the above video caught our atten­tion. Using just one syn­the­siz­er, the brand new *ana­log* Arturia MatrixBrute (what a name!), Doc­tor Mix recre­ates the Kraftwerk hit “The Robots.” (Which, if you are a long­time read­er of this site, you know we love.)

Doc­tor Mix builds up the song piece by piece, and while the orig­i­nal band used sev­er­al dif­fer­ent synths to cre­ate the track, the MatrixBrute is able to han­dle every­thing, as it has a sequencer/drum pads built in, and pro­gram­ma­ble sounds that in this sup­ple­men­tal video, Doc­tor Mix will sell to you. (He even is able to use a vocoder with the machine to into­nate its Russ­ian lyrics: “Ja tvoi slu­ga / Ja tvoi rabot­nik”)

It all looks so easy, doesn’t it?

When Kraftwerk record­ed Man Machine, the 1978 land­mark album that leads off with “The Robots,” they had accu­mu­lat­ed years’ worth of synths and oth­er equip­ment, along with synths that had been cus­tom-built for the band, like the “Syn­thanor­ma Sequen­z­er” made by stu­dio Mat­ten & Wiech­ers to han­dle the repet­i­tive loops they start­ed using on their pre­vi­ous album Trans Europe Express.

Along with that and elec­tron­ic-drum pads (first seen on TV in 1975), the band also used the Moog Mini-Moog, the ARP Odyssey, and a Roland Space-Echo, which pro­vid­ed the vocoder sounds.

At the time, band mem­ber Ralf Hüt­ter said of the mak­ing of the album: “We are play­ing the machines, the machines play us, it is real­ly the exchange and the friend­ship we have with the musi­cal machines which make us build a new music.”

But we’ll hand it to Doc­tor Mix: the Arturia MatrixBrute is a good ol’ fash­ioned ana­log machine, and a lot of the new gear reviewed on his site shows that the warm tones of ana­log equip­ment is hav­ing a renais­sance. Warm up those vac­cu­um tubes, kids, the oth­er sound of the ‘70s is back!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kraftwerk’s First Con­cert: The Begin­ning of the End­less­ly Influ­en­tial Band (1970)

The Case for Why Kraftwerk May Be the Most Influ­en­tial Band Since the Bea­t­les

Pio­neer­ing Elec­tron­ic Com­pos­er Karl­heinz Stock­hausen Presents “Four Cri­te­ria of Elec­tron­ic Music” & Oth­er Lec­tures in Eng­lish (1972)

Kraftwerk Plays a Live 40-Minute Ver­sion of their Sig­na­ture Song “Auto­bahn:” A Sound­track for a Long Road Trip (1974)

The Psy­che­del­ic Ani­mat­ed Video for Kraftwerk’s “Auto­bahn” from 1979

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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