Roland TR-505

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The Roland TR-505
ManufacturerRoland Corporation
Price$318 US (1986)
Technical specifications
Polyphony8 voices
Synthesis typeDigital sample-based
Velocity expressionNo
Storage memoryPatterns: 48 user, 48 preset. 6 Songs.
HardwareMain panel features a simple LCD display, 15 buttons, 2 knobs, 16 trigger pads, 2 outputs for left and right/mono, headphone jack, and tape input/output.
Keyboard16 pattern keys
External controlMIDI in/out, start/stop foot pedal jack.
Audio sample8-bit unsigned PCM data, with a 25.00 kHz sampling rate

The Roland TR-505 rhythm composer is a drum machine and MIDI sequencer released by Roland Corporation in 1986.[1][2] It hails from the same family of drum machines as the Roland TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, TR-626 and TR-606. The drum kit includes basic rock drum sounds similar to those of the TR-707, plus a complement of Latin-style drum sounds similar to those of the TR-727 (the Latin version of the TR-707)[3]

Voice synthesis[edit]

Samples in the TR-505 are stored as 8-bit unsigned PCM waveforms at a sample rate of 25 kHz. The TR-505 offers some major improvements over the TR-707, including 16 digitally recorded PCM drum sounds (four more than the TR-707) and five Latin percussion voices from the TR-727, reducing the need to buy a separate unit or PCM card.[4][3]

Summary of drum voices:[5]: 9 

Low conga Hi conga Timbale Low cowbell Hi cowbell Clap Crash Ride
Kick Snare Low tom Mid tom Hi tom Rimshot / sidestick Closed hi-hat Open hi-hat

Although there are 16 drum samples, the TR-505 only has an 8-voice polyphony, restricting some sounds from playing simultaneously: low conga or hi conga; timbale, low tom, mid tom, or hi tom; low cowbell or hi cowbell; hand clap or rim shot; crash cymbal or ride cymbal; closed hi-hat or open hi-hat.[5]: 9 

The TR-505 offers very limited voice editing in the form of volume, velocity, MIDI channel, and MIDI note of each voice as a global parameter.[5]: 14,40,42 


The TR-505 contains 48 factory sequencer patterns, organized into 3 pattern groups (A, B, and C). The drum machine can also store 48 user created sequencer patterns, organized into 3 pattern groups (D, E, and F).[3]

The TR-505 features five basic modes, including the following:[5]: 8 

  • Track play - plays whole tracks (arrangements of patterns to form songs).
  • Track write - sequence patterns into tracks.
  • Step write - sequence patterns by stepping through each position in the pattern.
  • Tap write - sequence patterns by tapping drums sounds in real time.
  • Real time - play patterns in real time by tapping the pads.

An accent can be applied to any position in a pattern and will affect all instruments triggered at that position by increasing output volume.[5]: 15 

Users can copy, insert, or delete one or more steps in any given pattern, and copy, insert, or delete patterns anywhere in a track (song).[1]

Each individual pattern is a single measure long, The default time signature is 4/4 consisting of 16 steps and quarter note scale, resulting in each step representing a sixteenth note. Other time signatures can be programmed by changing the Last Step (length of patterns) and the scale, allowing for shuffle and swing rhythms.[5]: 24 

Two or more patterns can be combined, using pattern chaining, to play as a single pattern. Each pattern in the chain occupies a pad, but it will only trigger the chain as a whole, not the individual pattern.[5]: 27 

Up to six tracks (songs) can be programmed using combinations of patterns.[5]: 16  Each song can consist of up to 423 bars (patterns).[6][5]: 18 

Keyboard and external control[edit]

The TR-505 consists of 16 individual instrument/ pattern pads.[6] The pads are not velocity sensitive, but can be modified by the accent parameter.[5]: 51 

The TR-505 can transmit and receive on MIDI channels 1 through 16 and Notes numbers 25 to 99. It also contains a MIDI Omni mode allowing it to receive all MIDI data. The TR-505 responds to the following MIDI messages:[3]

  • Key message - trigger signal for the individual voice.
  • Velocity message - Note-on velocity is both transmitted and received allowing more expressive.[5]: 51 
  • Track number message - track/song select
  • Bar Number message - Song position
  • Clock message - tempo synchronization, start, stop, etc..


The TR-505 can store 48 ROM patterns, 48 RAM patterns, 6 tracks, and a maximum of 423 measures.[7]: 1 

The Tape interface (in/out) allow the Tracks and Patterns in internal memory to be stored on external tape.[4] Data can be Saved, Verified, and Loaded from the tape.[5]: 35,36,37 


There are companies, websites, and magazine articles documenting a DIY process for circuit bending and modifying the factory setting of the Roland TR-505. An example of a few modifications include changing audio samples,[8] voice circuit bending,[9] adding individual audio outputs,[10] adding CV outputs,[11] adding pitch change to each voice,[9] and adding circuits to randomize sequences.[9]


  1. ^ a b Gilchrist, Trevor (May 1986). "Drumatix Goes Digital". Electronics & Music Maker. 6 (3): 38.
  2. ^ Lockwood, Hannah. "ROLAND DRUM MACHINE HISTORY: 1964 – 2016". Roland Australia Blog. Roland Corporation. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Reed, Tony. "Roland TR 505 Rhythm Composer". RhythmCheck. International Musician. 12 (6): 102–103.
  4. ^ a b Gilby, Ian (April 1986). "Beat Box". Sound on Sound. 1 (6): 24.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Roland TR-505 Owner Manual, Osaka Japan: Roland Corporation.
  6. ^ a b "Roland TR505". Making Music. 1 (1): 27–28. Apr 1986.
  7. ^ TR-505 Service Notes. (Jun 1986). Osaka, Japan: Roland Corporation.
  8. ^ "Roland TR-505 ROM Expansion". HKA Design. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "TR-505". Burnkit 2600. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  10. ^ "Project: Separate out for the Roland 505". International Musician. 13 (4). Mar 1987.
  11. ^ "Roland TR505". Polymonial. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  • Gilby, Ian. "Beat Box". Sound On Sound. April 1986. p. 24. ISSN 0951-6816. OCLC 925234032.
  • Gilchrist, Trevor. "Drumatix Goes Digital". Electronics & Music Maker. May 1986. p. 38-39.
  • Reed, Tony. "Roland TR 505 Rhythm Composer". International Musician. May 1986. p. 102-103
  • "Roland TR505". Making Music. April 1986. p. 27-28

Further reading[edit]

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