Video: Funky Vintage - Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer

The Roland TR-808 is probably the most influential, iconic drum machine ever made. We know that’s a big statement, but what other drum machine has had albums named after and entire films dedicated to it? None that we can think of.

Roland TR-808

The TR-808 is a true child of the ‘80s, designed to emulate real drum kits but instead creating something far more unique: distinctive sounds that have become sought after in their own right. While it failed at its initial purpose, the kit sounds in the 808 have become staples in genre after genre, from hip hop to dance to R&B to electronic to pop — they’re even still frequently used today.

Though the TR-808 lost popularity as more realistic drum machines came out, even going so far as to put it out of production in 1984, the lower cost and high availability of the machine brought it back to life. It’s made appearances on The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill, Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” even Kanye West’s aptly named 808s & Heartbreak, to name just a few of the records and songs the TR-808 has appeared on both before and after it stopped being manufactured.

Coming with 16 drum sounds, including claves, distinctive hand claps, booming bass drum, crisp snares, and even a cowbell, all of which can be tweaked and edited using the drum machine’s parameter knobs, the TR-808 has been immortalized by decades of frequent use and by the love of the artists who use it.

Watch the video above to hear an example of a sequence using the Roland TR-808 and then click the banner below to shop for your own.

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