By Andrea Caccese
According to Urban Dictionary, The Roland 808 is “how an 80's garage band could get away with not having a good drummer.”
What is it and how did it get so big?
If you have been listening to electronic music or rap released within the past 20 years – and we bet you probably have, since you are reading this – chances are that you are familiar with the sound of the legendary TR-808, even if you might not know what it is. This unit, invented by digital music innovator Roland, is actually a drum synthesizer, a so-called “drum machine”, which aims to recreate common drum sounds (kick, snare, cymbals) using processed sound waves.
The TR-808 was first released in the early 80s, and it was actually never meant to be used as a “proper” instrument: the unit’s producer thought that people wouldn’t feel like they could use the obviously artificial sound of the unit for actual recordings, but that it would be useful for practical demo versions during the song-writing process. As it turned out, they were wrong because artists in all genres started to love the flexibility and unique sound of the TR-808: from Michael Jackson, to James Blake or Kanye West, everyone and their mom seem to be absolutely in love with the sound of this old school drum unit: the latter even dedicated the name of one of his most successful albums to the instruments (“808s and heartbreak”).
Don’t have a drummer? Make your own beats in one of our electronic music production classes.
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