It’s the TR-808 drum machine’s 40th anniversary this year, and Roland is marking 808 Day (8/08, of course) with a flood of goodies to celebrate the legendary instrument. To begin with, there’s a mini documentary (with a convenient 8:08 running time) detailing the device’s use in songs over the decades, right down to the programming sequences. It starts out early with classics like Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” and extends to artists and producers as far-ranging as Carl Craig and Jermaine Dupri. It’s worth watching if you want to know just how these stars used the TR-808 to craft their influential beats.
You can also read an interview with TR-808 creator Tadao Kikumoto on his brainchild, and listen to a Spotify playlist with some of the best-known tunes involving the device. Roland’s Articles platform is looking at additional famous tracks such as Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” and Daft Punk’s “Doin’ it Right.”
If you’re a budding musician, though, you may be most interested in the digital instruments. You can “test drive” the TR-808 virtual instrument for free through Roland Cloud now through August 31st if you have an account. Roland’s Zenbeats is also adding two 808-themed audio loop packs, one of which (Mixtape Vol. 4 “808”) is free. You can try the app for free as well.
This is clearly Roland’s big opportunity to plug its current wares and its role in music history. At the same time, there’s little doubt that the TR-808 had a major impact on the industry. Its distinctive drum and cymbal sounds have defined genres like rap, hip-hop and techno, and are still used to this day. It was important enough that groups like 808 State even based their names and sounds around it. While this certainly isn’t the only electronic instrument to have reshaped music in its image, it may be the one you’re most likely to recognize.