The Roland TR808 Drum Machine

Jan 16, 2024 | Drum Machines, EDM Production, Roland, Studio Gear

Roland TR808 Rhythm Composer


The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, also known as the 808, revolutionized the music industry during its production from 1980 to 1983. This drum machine allowed users to program rhythms, distinguishing itself from preset pattern counterparts. Despite being a commercial failure initially, the 808 gained a cult following for its affordability, ease of use, and distinctive sounds, eventually becoming a cornerstone in electronic, dance, and hip hop genres.

Innovative Programming

Utilizing a step sequencer, the 808 enables users to program their own rhythms by toggling steps on a grid. This step sequencer was revolutionary at its time, allowing for customization instead of relying on preset patterns. The inclusion of a “fill” function added a layer of variation to the patterns, further contributing to the machine’s versatility.

Engineering Marvel

The TR-808 stands as a piece of engineering art, renowned in the music industry for its meticulous craftsmanship. Boasting 12 voices, each with dedicated controls for volume, tuning, and decay, the 808’s analog synthesis creates sounds by manipulating electrical signals. Its idiosyncratic sounds, particularly the iconic deep bass drum, make it a legendary instrument in the music world.

Enduring Influence Across Genres

The TR-808 has left an indelible mark on various music genres, including hip hop, electronic, and pop. Notable tracks like “Planet Rock” and “Sexual Healing” showcase its unique sounds, and its influence extends to modern EDM, where it remains a staple for producers in genres like trap, hip hop, and techno.

House Music and the 808

In the context of House music’s emergence in the early 1980s in Chicago, the 808 played a pivotal role. Influenced by disco, funk, and soul, House music found a perfect match in the 808’s ability to produce deep, booming bass sounds. The machine’s step sequencer empowered House producers to craft their own rhythms, contributing significantly to the genre’s evolution.

Enduring Legacy

In conclusion, the Roland TR-808’s enduring legacy is evident in its impact on the music industry. Its unique sound and character have made it a favorite among musicians and producers across genres. As a defining instrument in the growth and development of dance music, particularly in House, the 808’s influence continues to resonate in countless songs, ensuring its place in music history.


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– [2] The Roland Effect: 8 Songs That Use the Legendary TR-808.
– [3] The TR-808 Drum Machine Changed the Sound of Pop Music Forever.
– [4] Hands On: Roland TR808 Drum Machine – mu:zines.
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