Rob Ricketts TR-808 Programming Posters

Roland TR-808 drum chart for Afrika Bambaataa Planet Rock

Image authorized by: Rob Ricketts

Graphic Designer Rob Ricketts has created a series of posters which teach you how to program a TR-808 drum groove for a well known song. Rob describes the posters like this, “A series of informative posters detailing how some of the most notable drum sequences were programmed using the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine. Each sequence has been analyzed and represented as to allow users to re-program each sequence, key for key.”Just on their own the posters make great works of art. Click here to learn more about Bob Ricketts. Click here to purchase Bob’s TR-808 Programming Posters.

Roland’s now vintage TR-808 debuted in 1980. The classic song “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa hit the air waves in 1982. Here is a clip we found on YouTube of the original music video posted by PlanetRockVideo


Published by: Mario Girotti

Who knew that the TR-808 would become a staple of popular music. Artistxite may of put it best in their article, “Instruments That Changed The Game: The Roland TR-808“:

The TR-808 became one of the standard instruments in the burgeoning dance music underground – be it electro, Miami bass, hip hop, house or techno, slowly but surely giving it the iconic status it has today. Juan Atkins, the godfather of techno, once said that his “whole career was built on the 808” And not just his. The distinct sounds of the TR-808 are still omnipresent in today’s pop and dance music. Hail to the beat.

From Roland’s User’s Group – Winter 2000

The early ’80s also witnessed some of the biggest “accidents” in musical instrument history, the first being the TR-808 Rhythm Composer. Created in 1980, the colorful TR-808 was a programmabel drum machine that featured accents, individual volume controls for its instruments (including the “Snappy” control for the snare drum) and was distinguished as the world’s first drum machine with nonvolatile memory (your patterns weren’t lost when you turned the machine off). However, the TR-808 employed analog oscillators for its sounds — giving them a distinct, synthetic tone — that were soon overshadowed by the Linn Drum’s real drum samples. Because of this, the TR-808 had a relatively short production run and was soon discontinued — but that was by no means the end of the road for this colorful little box.

Around this same time period, rap/Hip-Hop, techno and house music pioneers were scouring pawn shops looking for inexpensive used gear. The TR-808 fit the bill, and these early architects of groove music used it extensively. Its characteristic bass drum, cutting analog hi-hat and snare in many ways defined the genre. Actually, the bass drum of an 808 is nothing more than a very low frequency sine wave, and because of this the 808 can take credit for more blown woofers than any instrument on the planet. Ironically, the one-time unpopular TR-808 eventually became the most recorded drum machine in history, elevating it to “legendary” status.

As we were browsing the web for more TR-808 history we came across some cool videos and posts. We found a plethora on “MatrixSynth: Everything Synth” this site is a good resource for vintage gear and anything to do with synthesizers.

Do you have a favorite tune featuring a TR-808? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

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