Who would have thought in 1980 that the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer would change drum machines and dance music forever? If you went out dancing this weekend, you probably heard its distinctive sounds. Well, if you’re the sort of person who cracks a smile every time you check the time and it’s 8:08am, you’re probably already doing something to celebrate the eighth of August, “808 day.” So here’s a video for even more. Clarification: The ad copy in this ad’s voiceover? All totally real. This is actually text Roland used to describe their TR-808 in ads from the era – …
Can you whistle? Can you hum? Sing? Dance? Let’s assume for a moment that the problem isn’t your musicality, because you have something to express. The point of technology and music skill is really to express that inner musicality. For a beautiful demonstration of that, watch one guy roam the streets of Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood with one piece of gear – and make an amazing song just from looping.
You know a classic Roland 202, 303, 404, 606, 707, 808, 909, and whatnot can make techno. But in the hands of Andreas Tilliander, these vintage Roland boxes are like classical instrumentation. They can form delicate ambient ensembles, or dark, pounding rhythms. And far from being only a grid to switch on and off, they become improvisational tools that spawn live performances and organic sessions. It’s little wonder that Andreas goes by the moniker TM404 – the Swedish-born producer seems like he might have been raised by a family of Roland boxes rather than humans. So, we took the opportunity …
Soundware is everywhere, from endless catalogs of loops to yet another pack of sampled vintage instruments. But apart from questionable quality as the market grows crowded, the other simple question is, just how should these packs be assembled? SympleSound is what happens when a sound designer decides to treat the sound pack like an instrument unto itself – not just content, but a set of tools.
The mighty NAMM show, a mind-bogglingly crowded gathering of basically anyone with anything to do with the sale of musical instruments, brought with it its usual slew of new music tech. Now, you could wade through all the videos from that show, until your brain is numbed by trying to make out rushed, rehearsed product spiels. And you’ll find that some are … well, less important than others. We’ve instead separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you our favorite videos of our favorite new stuff. Grab the popcorn.
Thanks to the addition of MIDI to a new generation of browsers, a browser tab could as easily be an interface to a synth – not just a place for social media distractions of pictures of synths with cats. Now, we’ve got an (unsolicited) Web editor for our own MeeBlip synth, joining editors for Roland Boutique and Yamaha Reface instruments.
The phrase “music technology” may not naturally go with hand percussion or “plywood” for you. But there are plenty of people wanting to jam and play on the streets. So, what’s the big news for them? I think it’s this, frankly. It’s the Roland EC-10 EL Cajon. It weighs just 6 kilograms (under 9 lb). It runs on just six AA batteries. And it could sell you on hand percussion – or be the one hand percussion box you covet this year.
Jamming: the idea is to make music by connecting directly to gestures so you make something spontaneous. And if music technology is jam session friendly, this finally means you can do it together – not just alone.
Roland’s “Boutique” Synths are now here officially, after most of the details of these mini synths leaked out in advance of their launch. And we get a real look at this line of inexpensive, mini synths – three models, with an optional keyboard dock.
We broke the news (okay, uh, I changed the contrast values on the video) of a new line of budget Roland synths last week. Details continue to leak out about those products, and though no one has heard anything yet, the public reaction has been really positive. Now we know more: portable with battery power, optional keyboard, and lots of built-in features.