Marking 40 years of the 808

Thursday, 27 August 2020 10:10 am

Roland used “808 Day” (August 8th) to mark the 40th anniversary of its iconic TR-808 drum machine.

The Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer was one of the first affordable and widely available programmable drum machines to hit the market.

Though only in production for approximately three years, its signature kick and snare — along with many other unique sounds — became tonal anchors for the hip hop and techno movements from the mid-’80s onward. Commonly just called “the 808”, the instrument has been embraced by artists and producers of many genres. Its sound is heard on thousands of dance tracks and hit records, and it has been directly referenced in the lyrics of numerous songs over the last few decades.

Roland 808 samples are included in the sound banks of most Roland drum modules and also found among the kits of rival drum brains.

While COVID-19 may have ruled out any public celebrations of the anniversary, Roland used its media resources to honour its signature instrument. It published some rare insights into the drum machine’s development from lead TR-808 engineer Tadao Kikumoto (pictured above) and interviews with legendary producers who helped make the 808 so influential.

In previous years, Roland used 808 Day to launch new products, but given the challenges being faced globally at this time, it is no surprise that product debuts were not held this year.

Find out more at Roland’s TR-808 story page.