Roland’s vintage TR-808 drum machine or TB-303 bass synthesizers helped define electronica in the ‘80s, but nowadays they’re nearly impossible to find. Luckily, you can create beats with both instruments for free online, thanks to a new site called 808303.studio created by Roland, musician Yuri Suzuki and the London Design Museum.
Each instrument has an old-school sequencer that lets you create your own rhythms or generate them at random. The TB-303 give you control over filter cutoff, resonance, envelope modulation, decay and accent, and you can change the oscillator to a saw or square wave. Meanwhile, the 808 has all the drum sounds you need along with a simple sequencer, while letting you set the master tempo and add shuffles or fills. Best of all, both instruments stay in sync as you plot out your jams. Roland has even emulated the sounds of the buttons to really give you those vintage feels.
Once ready, you can record your creation, though there’s no way to save intermediate steps. It also lacks control over individual sounds and you can’t tune the drums — but none of that should detract from all the potential fun. If you’re as confused as me about how to use them, acid innovator “A Guy Called Gerald” has a tutorial (above) on how to create some beats.
Both instruments will be on display for real at the London Design Museum as part of the Electronic: From Kraftwerk to the Chemical Brothers exhibition. That sounds like a must-see event for electronica fans, though attendance is of course limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.