Is there a piece of equipment out there that’s had as much of an impact on modern music as Roland’s classic TR-808 drum machine? Or do you think other Roland units like the 303 or the 909 deserve the top spot? Whatever you think, spend a couple of hours listening to the latest hip-hop from the states or club sounds anywhere in Europe and you can’t miss the 808’s signature boom.
The original module ceased production in 1983 and will set you back upwards of £3,000 on eBay or similar, although digitised samples have been available for decades. It wasn’t until 2014 that Roland released the TR-8, an updated piece of hardware that threw in painstakingly accurate samples of the 808 and 909 for good measure. Now four years on, an upgrade has arrived in the form of the TR-8S, adding the ability to load your own samples and many more features besides. Point Blank managed to get their hands on the unit for this first look video with live performer and Point Blank expert instructor Saytek, who teaches Electronic Music Performance as part of their BA (Hons) Degree programme.
Though it’s now synonymous with huge bottom-ended kicks and trap music, the Roland TR-808 was everywhere long before Kanye’s masterful eulogy in 2008. Pretty much since it was released, it’s been ever-present in music across the board. It’s on Soft Cell’s ‘Non Stop Erotic Cabaret‘, it’s on Afrika Bambaataa’s ‘Planet Rock‘ – it’s even on ‘Sexual Healing‘ by Marvin Gaye.
Saytek’s demo starts off by showing some of the effects and live performance elements using a pattern he put together during his brief testing time with the unit. We learn that each sound now has its own fader now which opens up some exciting new performance possibilities, and you can drop effects at a local and global level. The SD card slot also means that importing sounds and samples are now a possibility for the first time, whilst extra outputs mean you can send different channels to different third-party units such as the SH-01 Boutique. Saytek is all about the live performance, so it’s no surprise that he’s really into these new features – but the unit has also sacrificed none of its suitability for studio work, which is perhaps the biggest draw of all.
You can learn all about live performance on Point Blank’s degree programmes, as well several other music production courses. They also offer production tuition online, though live performance is less of a focus for logistical reasons. Check out courses in DJ, radio and songwriting too if any of those take your fancy, and you can contact a course advisor on +44 20 7729 4884 if you have any questions.