I first heard Acid House at club Mars in the late 80s. I believe the first Acid record I bought was from Fast Eddie called Acid Thunder. I bought my first Roland TB-303 from Rogue Music in New York City for $300. I later bought another one and used them live. They eventually were stolen and since then I used various soft versions such as the Audiorealism ABL.
“If you’re interested in the early history of ROLAND, the Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments and the TB-303 Bassline, you’ll enjoy this 20-minute video. The TB-303 and its design are described in depth, and many examples of popular music made with the machine are presented. Director: Nate Harrison” – Jack Time
Here’s a quick beginner tip that may save you from loosing a sound. If your using hardware and you want to remember what patch you are using label your Ableton clip with the same patch number! Some hardware will respond to a MIDI Program change. In Ableton double click a MIDI clip to enter Clip View and in the Notes section you will see Bank, Sub-Bank and Program. That’s where you can pick and save the corresponding hardware’s patch number.
When I used DR. T’s KCS and a Roland Juno-106 I would create a sound then slightly change it, save it over 16 patch locations and then have DR. T’s cycle through each patch using Program Change messages. With different filter settings saved in each Patch the Juno sounded like a more expensive synth. Imagine old school Depeche Mode arpeggio patterns with filters opening and closing. It was a pain to set up but worth it in the end.
This morning I had to scan about one hundred energy audit survey sheets collected from our salespersons. Even though I have a nifty (fast!) ScanSnap S1500M I still have only a few minutes for Wire to the Ear before it’s off to the races. I have nothing important musically related in my head so I revert to one of the best things in the world: an analog drum machine. The good old TR-606 is a metal looking and tight sounding box that unbelievable can still be found on eBay for a reasonable price. YouTube and cheap video camera compression works well on the 606′s sound. Someone please tell my wife to throw one of these under my tree this year.
A cool little box! So primitive and cute! The 606 was the percussion side-kick to the TB-303. It even looks like the 303. It stores up to 32 patterns and 8 songs. The 606 allows switching between Pattern Play and Write mode while running – making the 606 the only drumcomputer in the X0X series that can be edited while performing and switching patterns. It is also possible to link up to 4 consecutive patterns in Pattern Play mode. There is only a mono audio output, however there are mods from Kenton Electronics and Analog Solutions that will add individual outputs for each drum tone. The 606 has seven analog drum sounds which are simple, yet great! Kick, Snare, 2 toms, open hat, closed hat, cymbal, accent. The hi-hats are a very tinny electronic sound…” – vintagesynth.com
I’ve said many times the Roland TR-808 is the king of all drum machines. It has the sharpest deepest kick with the most attack, snares and hats that sound like lighting and a sequencer that makes any beat sound incredible. I love this machine so much I think I subconsciously liked songs because they had an 808 on them (all before I even knew what a Roland TR-808 was!). I love this video above where a bunch of classics with 808 drums were recreated on an Korg Electribe SX. I own everyone one of these songs on 12″.
“Recreations, again by ear, of some classic early 80s beats that were originally made on a Roland TR-808 drummachine. This became the signature sound for freestyle music and later for house. Mantronix – 808 Beats, Shannon – Let the Music Play, Freeez – IOU, Man Parrish – Hip Hop Bebop, GLOBE & Whiz Kid -. Play that Beat Mr. DJ, Nineteen – Paul Hardcastle (iTunes link), C.O.D. – In the Bottle, Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing” – Harlem Nights Music
My studio in the early 90s was full of hardware mixers and long patch cable strung all over the place. Before computers with fast CPUs the way to get an original sound was simply plugging hardware boxes into each other. Electrocomp-101 synthesizer into a Boss Pedal into a Korg Digital Delay and so forth. I always felt like a pioneer pushing the equipment to unintended limits.
My favorite trick that I never actually heard anyone else do was something I called the “Wicked 106″. I created 16 slightly different patches on a Roland Juno-106. Next, I would create a 16th note pattern in Dr. Ts KCS. Here’s the trick: I would then put a different Program Change (number) on each of the steps. You never heard a Juno-106 sound so interesting. It really made the 106 sound like a modular going through a step sequencer.
“What most don’t know about the original TR-808, aside from it’s original voices (sounds) there is a “pulse” sound that you can hear when plugging a cable from the ACcent trigger out, it generates a metallic “zap” sound very similar to a Hi Q (sound from the Roland R-8) This sound was used in “Egypt Egypt” and “Funkbox” from Masterdon. THIS IS HOW THE SOUND IS DONE!!!!” – intromix
Do you remember an old hardware trick you used to do?
I don’t know how to pronounce D16′s new synth Shioitor. However, I clearly know how to say Roland SH-101 (Wikipedia link) and that’s the target of the Polish crew this time. I used to own a red Roland SH-101 with a handle and it was always the first thing anyone made a comment about when they entered my studio. A few months ago D16 asked me to make some presets for Shioitor so I’ve heard this synth in action. If you liked the original you won’t be disappointed.
“D16 spent many hours analysing analogue synthesisers and creating DSP code to replicate the hardware in software. As a result, Shioitor has a very true sounding analogue filter with constant Q and a very warm character. Resonance is constant across the whole frequency domain which makes the filter sound totally authentic – especially when controlled using envelopes or an LFO. Turning resonance to maximum and turning off all oscillator volumes will produce a pure analogue sine wave as the filter self-resonates. Innovative oscillator algorithms developed by D16 make Shioitor sound like the hardware synth which inspired it. There is no aliasing in the oscillators – even at 22kHz from the note’s base frequency. The level of aliasing around the highest produced frequency is about -70dB.” – d16.pl
Besides presets you get a few niceties the original didn’t have including arpeggiator shuffle, polyphony and key zones. You also can choose your favorite color!
James Gramling is the technician behind the name Diabolical Devices who circuit bends drum machines and other noise making boxes. I’ve always loved the Roland TR-707. It’s the super tight kick in so many late 80s EBM and New Beat records. The Roland 727 is the 707′s latin cousin and her sounds are all over mountains of Freestyle tunes that still grace NYC radio. I think it’s really interesting that Big City Music, a traditional music retailer is selling James’s bent machines.
Diabolical’s custom modified TR-707/727 drum machines are capable of producing a whole range of new sounds. We add a bending patch-bay and hard-wired toggle switches which activate different ring modulated, filtered, distorted, and delay/doubling type effects. What “makes” these machines is the added multi-stage pitch oscillators…” – circuit-bent.com
If you don’t want to burn yourself silly with solder check out these drum machines at Big City Music: click here
There’s no drum machine like the Roland TR-808. It has kick that goes from a sharp click to boom and snares and hats that sound like chrome lightning. Since Roland never released the 808 and used prices are up and up it’s no wonder clones are arriving. We already have the Miami from Acidlab and as you can see above the MB808 from intellijel could be coming our way. I say yay.
D16 have released their Roland TR-606 clone called Nithonat. I love all the D16 drum machines because they sound fairly close to the original hardware they emulate and also have terrific internal sequencers. My favorite feature is the random function. It is well worth reading the manual if you try/buy any of the D16 drum machines so you get the most out of them. Here is a set of samples I created from the new box: