9:30 Coffee Break: The Roland TR-808 Drum Machine

Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer
Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer (Jochen Wolters - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Saturday, Aug. 8, was the informal celebration known as 808 day: That is, a day to recognize the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer, known simply as the "808."

The 808 was one of the first programmable drum machines. Introduced in the early 1980s, the Roland Corporation originally manufactured the 808 for use as a tool for studio musicians to create demos. Like earlier Roland drum machines, it does not sound very much like a real drum kit.

Drum machines in general became an integral part of hip hop and other genres of pop music as a cheap and simple way of producing a drum sound. The Roland TR-808 held specific appeal because of the ability of its bass drum sound to produce extremely low-frequency sounds.

This video features famous beats performed on the Roland 808:

So many popular tracks use the 808 or the 808 sound. So even though it's a couple days late, let's celebrate 808. For today's Coffee Break, what songs do you want to hear that use the 808 sound to lay down the beat? Send us your requests.

(To create some of your own 808 sounds, try this 808 emulator.)

Songs Played


Marvin Gaye "Sexual Healing"
Afrika Bambaataa "Planet Rock"
Kanye West "Love Lockdown"
Rick James "Cold Blooded"
Outkast "The Way You Move (Club Mix)"

Do you deserve a Coffee Break? We at The Current's Morning Show think you do, and we want to bring treats from Morningstar Coffee and Café Latté to your workplace. Let us know why you'd like a Coffee Break.


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