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Roland TB-303

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Roland TB-303
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Roland TB-303

The TB-303 was a synthesizer/sequencer produced by the Roland corporation in 1982 and 1983 that had a crucial role in the development of contemporary electronic music. The TB-303 (named for "Transistor Bass") was originally sold to guitarists for bass accompaniment when practising alone, a role in which it failed miserably. Production lasted approximately 18 months, resulting in 20,000 units (which is why it's considered a vintage item nowadays, often valued to amounts of 800 to 1000 USD). It wasn't until the mid- to late-1980s that DJs and musicians in Chicago found a use for the machine in the context of the newly developing house music. Phuture's "Acid Trax" is widely acknowledged to have been the first track to incorporate the sounds that have come to define the sound the TB-303 is known for today. The well-known "acid" sound can be produced with a TB-303 by playing a melody while changing the cutoff frequency, resonance, envelope modulation, and accent controls. (The accent control modified the note volume, resonance, and envelope modulation.)

The synth had a single oscillator (set to either sawtooth wave or square wave by a switch), a simple envelope generator (with decay control only), and a lowpass filter with -18 dB per octave rolloff (with controls for cutoff frequency, resonance, and envelope amount).

It also featured a 'simple' step-time method for entering note data into the 16-step programmable sequencer. This was notoriously difficult to use, and would often result in entering a different sequence than the one that had been intended - some users also take advantage of the quirky fact that when the batteries are removed for a certain period, patterns that are programmed in memory begin to vary in random ways - one of the factors that helped to create the randomish acid sound.

Roland's designer of the TB-303, Tadao Kikumoto, was also responsible for the well-known TR-909 ("Transistor Rhythm").

In 1998, Propellerhead Software programmed a software emulator package called Rebirth. The software became very popular, as it provided a cheap and easy way for musicians to reproduce the classic 303, as well as 808 (and later 909) sounds. Although it is still in popular use to this day (this may come partly from its flexibility to be 'modded' by users to produce different sounds), its usage has often been frowned upon by more traditionalist music producers, who claim that the software reproduction is an inferior copy of the genuine sound. This may be true to an extent, however, most of the program's supporters are willing to acknowledge this and still argue that the software is a means to an end that would be otherwise unachievable, due to the rarity of the instrument, as well as the high price of units that still remain.

List of musicians who use the TB-303

External links

nl:Roland TB-303 pt:Roland TB-303 fi:Roland TB-303 sv:Roland TB-303

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