Today, March 3, marks the iconic day of the Roland TB-303 synthesizer. The sound that gave birth to a movement.
The Roland TB-303 is a machine like no other. With an unmistakable sonic signature brimming with warmth, energy, and character. The Roland TB-303 Bass Line defined the acid house movement of the late 1980s.
Widely misunderstood when launched in 1981, the true revolution began several years later when electronic music producers rediscovered the quirky box, unleashing the hypnotic, liquid sound that captivated a generation.
The Roland TB-303 was the result. A mono phonic synthesizer, this means that it can only make one sound at a time (compared to a piano that can play several notes if you press several notes at the same time).
The TB-303 used analog components to produce the sound – the TB still in place for the Transistor Bass – and the digital revolution was still a few years away.
The 303 included a one octave mini ‘piano’ keyboard. In fact a series of switches/buttons that could be on or off. Each key completed with a small red light. But since those buttons were arranged like a piano keyboard (seven white keys and five black keys) you could enter a single musical note and the note would sound.
In the same way that a drum machine plays patterns of different sounds, the 303 needed to do the same, but with bass lines. This was called a step sequencer and these individual short patterns could then be linked together to make a whole song.
Lacking many bass types, Roland provided a variety of handy controls to help the user shape the tone. This decision led to the inclusion of classic cutoff and resonance knobs in the middle of the six rotary knobs mounted on the top of the 303.
Although the chaos of the late 80s is a distant memory. The music and the machine that inspired it are very much alive and kicking.
The TB-303 sound still has the power to demolish a dance floor like nothing else, and if you’re at a club or party, you’ll never be far from that weird, liquid noise.
If you want the classic sound of the Roland TB-303, you have several options. The first one being the original TB-303 from the 80’s and that there are only 10,000 units made, increasing its value and difficulty of availability.
But there are also three other current options that are more affordable and exceed the capabilities of the original. Check out these products that push the boundaries of the 303.
The AIRA TB-3 re-imagined what a 303 would sound like if it were developed today. Of course, there’s the classic 303 sound, but it’s also loaded with other sounds, from bass sounds to synth sounds … all controllable via the touch-sensitive keyboard that lights up. The TB-3 is part of Roland’s AIRA range of production and performance gear.
The limited edition TB-03 is the best way to recreate the authentic TB-303 experience. It has the same user interface (although it is now easier to program and build patterns). It also has built-in effects such as distortion and delays, as well as a four-digit LED display for ease of use.
The TB-303 is the latest version in Roland Cloud’s on-demand instrument suite, implemented directly in your DAW (digital audio workstation). With a variety of enhancements and the ability to run multiple instruments simultaneously. The cloud-based 303 is a powerful addition to the ever-growing Roland Cloud platform.
Finally, at Valetronic, we suggest you to visit Roland’s social networks. As a bonus we recommend you to watch this video of the master Joris Voorn. Where he builds a track in live jam mode using the “Roland TB-303” as the main element.
Photo and text credits: Roandglobal