The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer

One of the high holidays for electronic musicians everywhere, “808 Day” or August 8th of every year, has become an annual excuse to celebrate one of the greatest inventions in music history, the Roland TR-808 “Rhythm Composer” or drum machine. Where would the world be without the 808 drum machine? Well, we’d probably still be lost in a hopeless vortex of Hair Metal and Disco! As much a staple to Hiphop as the art of sampling, the 808 forever changed the tone and groove of early and current electronically produced music. Today, the 808 is still making music history as an integral element in recent musical movements like Trap and Vaporwave.

Let’s have a look at a few videos to honor 808 Day, and some of the most influential songs ever produced with the drum machine. As far as I am concerned, this material is a baseline history that all producers and electronic musicians should know well, lest we be embarrassed when mingling with other composers.

Above is an hour long BBC Radio 1 documentary about Roland’s 3 biggest products, the TB-303, the TR-909 and the TR-808, of course. A fairly deep examination of these devices, really some great information in there.

This clip from “The Shape of Things That Hum“, a classic British documentary about influential electronic instruments, features some true luminaries of the electronic music production field. Matt Clark of Coldcut, Orbital, Daniel Miller and more all tell their stories of first encountering the 808. The rest of the film is great as well, though modular synths take a background role (it was made in 2001).

Here are some classic and new tracks that feature the 808 drum machine, tracks that you probably know already.

Afrika Bambaataa – Planet Rock

Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing

Beastie Boys – Brass Monkey

UZ – Trap Shit V7

What classics are you listening to for 808 Day? Post them in the comments!!

Some History for 808 Day!

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