Celebrating the Roland TR-808: #808DAY


Let's celebrate Roland's #808DAY which takes place this Saturday, 8th August.

808 day

Here's a look at what made the original TR-808 so special, a guide to Top 8 Best Songs which used this iconic drum-machine, and Top 8 ways you can also get those classic drum-sounds, today!


8th August is the perfect day (8/08!) to celebrate the world's best-loved and iconic drum-machine. But what's so special about this instrument, a "mere" drum-machine, which was a commercial flop when first released, back in 1980?

Well, as sometimes happens with ground-breaking musical instruments, it was indeed not a commercial success, but, like few musical instruments before or since, it helped to change music forever and define an era, thanks to artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and Egyptian Lover (pictured) who felt inspired by the TR808 new sounds.


The Roland TR-808 is as important in the history of popular music as the Gibson Les Paul or the Fender Stratocaster. It helped to shape the sound of Eighties music, from hip-hop to electro and even rock'n'roll. Unlike most pieces of electronic gear, the TR-808 could sound dirty and nasty, giving it a more "organic" quality that actually added an edge to the music, unlike what some would expect from a drum-machine.

It is regarded as a legendary instrument because it really heralded a new era in music - its very sound was an inspiration that led to the creation of so many songs that still sound fresh today!

This drum-machine is considered so important that even film about the TR-808 will be released soon, which's been gathering rave reviews:

With the new Roland AIRA TR-8 bringing back its vintage sounds, it seems the TR-808 is more popular than ever!

And musicians today still feel inspired by it, such as Arthur Baker and John Robie, shown in this short documentary 'Looking For The Perfect Beat':


Check out some of the songs that used this iconic drum-machine!

1. Afrika Bambaataa, Planet Rock (1982)


2. Marvin Gaye, Sexual Healing (1982)


3. Cybotron, Clear (1983)


4. New Order, Confusion Beats (1983)


5. Egyptian Lover, Egypt, Egypt (1984)


6. Talking Heads, Psycho Killer (Live) (1984)


7. Adonis, No Way Back (1986)


8. A Guy Called Gerald, Voodoo Ray (1988)

Feeling inspired? Well, then the final part of this blog is just what you need...


1. Buy an original Roland TR-808... if you can!


tr808 copy

Sounds like a great idea, right? If you want the real deal, get the real deal! However... today, this iconic drum-machine is a prized vintage item, and getting one on Ebay will cost you more than £2,000!

2. Get an App!


You can find some pretty good apps on Apple App store. A cheap and convenient way to get some 808 beats on the go!

3. Arturia Sparkle



The Arturia SparkLE is a modern take on the drum-machine concept, which you use as a MIDI controller for its software. It has some great emulations of vintage drum-machines, including the TR-808.

4. Audio Animals 'Sounds of the TR-808'



Just in time for #808day, Audio Animals presents ‘Sounds Of The TR-808', a collection of drum hits and loops made using the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines. It's a FREE download, too! View here

5. HipHopMakers FREE 808 Sample



Here's another website also providing a free sample pack full of TR-808 sounds! Worth checking out. View here


6. Play the 808 Online!

The HTML5drummachine website is great fun! And a great way to spend time making 808 beats in the office, when you were supposed to be working... dangerous!


7. Get a giant TR-808... with real drums!



Well, this giant, robotic version of the TR-808 looks pretty impressive, we give you that. But... it won't really fit most recording studios, will it?


8. Get a Roland AIRA TR-8!


And the winner is... well, of course, the Roland AIRA TR8! It is the one and only true heir to the TR-808 throne! This futuristic take on the TR-808 brings back those classic sounds, but is loaded with features for the modern musician and producer. It is by far the best way to get the 808 sounds, plus much more. Proof that Roland can, still, innovate when it comes to electronic beats! View more

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