Roland TR-909
TR-909 Front Panel
Manufacturer Roland
Dates 1983-1985
Price US$1,195
Technical specifications
Polyphony 12 voices
Timbrality none
Synthesis type Analog Subtractive and
Digital Sample-based Subtractive
Aftertouch expression No
Velocity expression Yes
Storage memory 96 Patterns, 8 Songs
Effects Individual level, tuning, attack,
decay, and tone controls for some
Keyboard 16 Pattern Keys
External control MIDI In/Out & DIN Sync In

The Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer is a drum machine introduced by the Roland Corporation in 1983.[1] It was the first Roland drum machine to use samples (for its cymbal and hi-hat sounds) alongside analog sounds.[2] Designed by Tadao Kikumoto, who also designed the Roland TB-303 synthesizer,[3] the 909 features a 16-step step sequencer and drum sounds that aimed for realism and cost-effectiveness. It is fully programmable, and like its predecessor, the TR-808, it can store entire songs with multiple sections, as opposed to simply storing patterns. It was the first MIDI-equipped drum machine. Around 10,000 units were produced.[4]


Roland launched the 909 in 1983, three years after the launch of its predecessor, the TR-808.[5] Whereas the 808 uses completely analog sounds, the 909 drum machine also uses samples (for its cymbal and hi-hat sounds).[2]

As with the 808, the 909 did not sound as realistic as the Linn and Oberheim that dominated the upper end of the drum machine market. As with the TB-303, the realism of the TR-909 was limited by technical constraints, and this showed when the machines were released at relatively low prices before its rise in popularity, coinciding with the beginnings of techno and acid house. More expensive, sample-based drum computers were better at faithfully reproducing real drum sounds, while the TR-909 sounded synthetic.[6]

The 909 was one of the first Roland instruments to be equipped with MIDI connectivity, which enables computerized instruments to communicate with each other. It features a music sequencer with which users can chain 96 patterns into songs of up to 896 measures. It also had numerous controls, such as "shuffle" and "flam". It sounds more realistic than its predecessors, and was moderately successful; however, the advent of purely sample-based drum modules would soon cause its demise.

Like the 808 before it, the 909 was widely used by music producers, hip hop artists, and techno and other electronic dance music artists. While the 808 was important in the development of hip-hop, the TR-909 influenced dance music, such as techno and house music.[7][8]

The TR909 soundset is part of Roland's AIRA TR-8 drum machine. On September 9, 2016, more than 30 years after the TR909 was introduced, Roland declared the day "909 Day." The event is being celebrated by the unveiling of over 30 new instruments, one of which was an updated version of the TR909 called the TR-09. Unlike its purely analog ancestor, the TR-09 is powered by the same analog modeling technology that powers the AIRA TR-8. The TR-09 is part of Roland's Boutique product line.


Roland TR-909 rear view


The drum kit contains the following sounds:

All drums except for the hi-hats and cymbals are synthetically generated; there is an oscillator circuit with a dedicated filter and envelope curve. The hi-hats and cymbals are 6-bit samples, compressed and combined with a volume envelope curve (and tuning) to allow slight modification. Thanks to the analog circuitry, various aspects of the drum sound can be modified (pitch, attack, decay).

There is also a feature called "accent"--a primitive means of humanizing the drumbeat. In a simplified model of a drummer and a kit, the loudness of the sound created would basically depend on the velocity at which the drummer hits a given part of the kit. A human drummer can emphasize certain notes by playing them louder, and the accent parameter provides a means to boost a particular step.

The TR-909 also features a sequencer -- the 16 buttons along the bottom of the interface correspond to the 16th notes of a single bar in 4/4 meter. For example, punching the buttons 1, 5, 9 and 13 on the bass drum part would create a simple "four to the floor" beat. Multiple patterns can be grouped or chained together which allows the user to create drum patterns that are longer than one bar in length or, alternatively, create drum patterns in compound meters outside of 3/4 or 4/4.

While the sequencer is running, a light runs from step 1 to step 16.


The TR-909 has several editing modes: pattern editing where one focuses solely on the 16 steps, and track editing, which allows for chaining various patterns in a row. Because it has MIDI, it's also possible to control other instruments with the sequencer.

This machine and its unique sequencer (both Roland and other manufacturers used either a grid-based sequencer, showing the dots on an LCD, or another method that did not display the pattern at all) were the basis for so-called grooveboxes -- self-contained compact synthesizer workstations with rudimentary keyboards and pattern-based sequencers, aimed at creators of electronic music, using sample-based sound generation and a number of realtime controls.


  1. ^ Martin Russ. Sound synthesis and sampling. p. 66. 
  2. ^ a b Reid, Gordon (December 2014). "The history of Roland: part 2 | Sound On Sound". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2016. 
  3. ^ Hsieh, Christine. "Electronic Musician: Tadao Kikumoto". Retrieved . 
  4. ^ Butler, Mark Jonathan. "Unlocking the Groove: Rhythm, Meter, and Musical Design in Electronic Dance Music". Indiana University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-2533-4662-2. p. 64
  5. ^ Reid, Gordon (December 2014). "The history of Roland: part 2 | Sound On Sound". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 2016. 
  6. ^ Roland Corp (January 20, 2014). "How Roland Came Up With 909 Sounds". Roland. Retrieved 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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