You've heard it 1000 Times: The Roland TB-303
POSTED ON 8/25/2005 | PERMALINK |0 Comments | BOOKMARK
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.)
It is by mistake that the 303 is still used today. It is an accident that it is one of the most popular and recognizable sounds in modern music. This little box was designed to emulate a real bass player. But it failed to do so.

Unlike other influential analog synths, this device was not released with creative sound design in mind. It was merely an accompanyment tool. But any good hacker knows that the intended use of such a device is just the beginning of the story.

Early 303 users were among the first to truly worship the glitch. It is the side-effects, not the intended use, that make it a classic. Sure, the Moog makes all sorts of strange noises, but that was its purpose. The 303 we hear on so many electronic and hip-hop tracks is a beautiful accident.


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