Celebrate the 808
Today is August 8th, and it's time to celebrate the legendary Roland TR-808, better known as the "808." It's one of the first programmable drum machines created between 1980 and 1983.
Like many great things, it took a while to catch on. The 808 became known for its deep bass kick and artificial percussion. First it kicked in with hip-hop, before becoming an integral part of late 80s dance music. After that, the rest is history. 808's laid the foundation for much of the music we love today.
808's Accidental Success
The 808 had an enormous effect on dance music. It allowed for the ability to program separate rhythm and drums. Roland at first aimed to replicate real drum sounds. They failed miserably. Little did they know their undoing would be their success.
The synthetic sounds became the groundwork for numerous electronic dance music that is still being experimented with today. When the 808 first burst onto the scene, musicians lauded it for sounding futuristic; a bridge for the computer age of music.
Endless Artist Attribution
The lists of hits created off this simple drum machine could fill a book. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" led the way in the 80s, only to resurface with Kygo's remix. Kanye West named a whole album after it: 808s and Heartbreaks.
You can count names like Bassnectar, Disclosure, Diplo... the list goes on and on. There has never been a piece of equipment more important than the 808. They even made a movie about it.
Present & Future Music
New producers find themselves using one variation or the other from this legendary sound machine. Layering the 808 hits and crashes over a beat just give it that feel. A soundscape of ambiance and depth is added to create music that is full.
Two years back, Roland released a new iteration of their famed 808, the TR-8 Rhythm performer. It's new and sleek, while being a perfect successor to its famed progenitor.
There's no escaping the allure it holds over music. Modern music, and still relatively new emerging genres rely heavily on the 808. There's no telling what new hit genre will utilize the 808 in ways unknown.
Happy 808 day, a retro hero to the history of sound.