Tadao Kikumoto

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Tadao Kikumoto (菊本忠男, Kikumoto Tadao) is Roland's senior managing director and head of its R&D center.[1] He designed the TB-303 bass synthesizer and the TR-909 drum machine.[2] He was also the chief engineer of the Roland TR-808 drum machine.[3]

Roland TR-808[edit]


The Roland TR-808, a programmable drum machine, was launched in 1980. The TR-808 included unique artificial percussion sounds, such as “the hum kick, the ticky snare, the tishy hi-hats (open and closed) and the spacey cowbell.”[4]

The machine is particularly noted for its powerful booming bass drum sound, built from a combination of a bridged T-network sine oscillator, a low-pass filter, and a voltage-controlled amplifier.[5][6] The bass drum decay control allows the user to lengthen the sound, creating uniquely low frequencies that flatten slightly over long periods,[5] which can be used to create basslines[7] or bass drops.[8] It was the first drum machine with the ability to program an entire percussion track of a song from beginning to end, complete with breaks and rolls.[9] The machine includes volume knobs for each voice, multiple audio outputs, and a DIN sync port (a precursor to MIDI) to synchronize with other devices via the Digital Control Bus (DCB) interface, considered groundbreaking at the time.[10] The machine has three trigger outputs, used to synchronize/control synthesizers and other equipment.[11][10]


The TR-808 would become a fixture of the burgeoning underground dance, electro, house, techno, R&B and hip-hop genres, mainly because of their relatively low cost and the unique character of their analogue-generated sounds. It was first utilized by Japanese electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra in the year of its release, after which it would gain worldwide popularity with Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and Afrikaa Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" in 1982.[4]

The track informed the development of pop-oriented electronic music and of hip hop music,[12] and genres including electro,[13] Miami bass, and Detroit techno.[14] The 808 was instrumental to the origins of house and techno, and remains a staple of electronic dance music.[15]

Producer Rick Rubin and hip hop group Original Concept popularized the technique of lengthening the bass drum decay and tuning it to different pitches to create basslines.[7] The technique was adopted by Miami bass producers,[7] who also used the 808 to produce a bass drop,[8] which has since been incorporated into a number of hip hop and dance genres, either produced by an 808 or using a sample of an 808 bass drop.[16] The Bomb Squad popularized the use of samplers to manipulate the 808 bass, which became common in hip hop music.[16] Dynamix II popularized this technique in dance music, which has since used the 808 sub-bass extensively, in genres such as trap, deep house and drum and bass.[17] 808 samples were the basis for jungle and drum and bass, which developed from British producers using samplers to manipulate 808 sounds.[16]

The analogue-based Roland machines have endured over time. The beats of the TR-808 have since been widely featured in popular music, and can be heard on countless recordings up to the present day.[4] Because of its bass and long decay, the kick drum from the TR-808 has also featured as a bass line in various genres such as hip hop and drum and bass. Since the mid-1980s, the TR-808 and TR-909 have been used on more hit records than any other drum machines,[18] attaining an iconic status within the music industry.[4]

Roland TR-909[edit]

While the TR-808 was fully analogue synthesis-based, the Roland TR-909 combined analogue synthesis with digital sampling.[19] The TR-909 was also notable for being the first MIDI-equipped drum machine.[20][21] In turn, the TR-909 was succeeded in 1984 by the Roland TR-707, which was entirely based on digital sampling.[22]

The TR-909 eventually came to be held in reverence by music producers, hip hop music DJs and beatmakers, and techno and other electronic dance music-style DJs. Much like the TR-808's importance to hip hop, the TR-909 holds a similar important for dance music, such as techno and house music.[23][24]

Roland TB-303[edit]

Tadao Kikumoto's invention of the TB-303 in 1981 has been listed by The Guardian in 2011 as one of the 50 key events in the history of dance music, for its key role in the foundation of acid house. The article described it as one of the "first boxes to define the sound of electronic dance music."[25]


  1. ^ Kakehashi, Ikutaro; Robert Olsen (2002). I Believe in Music. Hal Leonard. p. 222. ISBN 0-634-03783-8.
  2. ^ Hsieh, Christine. "Electronic Musician: Tadao Kikumoto". Archived from the original on 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  3. ^ Wolbe, Trent (30 January 2013). "How the 808 drum machine got its cymbal, and other tales from music's geeky underbelly". The Verge. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Jason Anderson (November 28, 2008). "Slaves to the rhythm: Kanye West is the latest to pay tribute to a classic drum machine". CBC News. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  5. ^ a b Reid, Gordon (February 2002). "Synth Secrets: Practical Bass Drum Synthesis". Sound on Sound. UK: SOS Publications Group. Archived from the original on 2004-02-15. Retrieved 2015-11-25.
  6. ^ Norris, Chris (13 August 2015). "The 808 Heard Round the World". The New Yorker. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Leight, Elias (6 December 2016). "8 Ways the 808 Drum Machine Changed Pop Music". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b Spin, February 1990, page 24
  9. ^ Contemporary Keyboard, Volume 7, Issues 1-6, 1981: "The Roland TR-808 will undoubtedly become the standard for rhythm machines of the future because it does what no rhythm machine of the past has ever done. Not only does the TR-808 allow programming of individual rhythm patterns, it can also program the entire percussion track of a song from beginning to end, complete with breaks, rolls, literally anything you can think of."
  10. ^ a b Kirn, Peter (2011). Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-61713-446-3.
  11. ^ db: The Sound Engineering Magazine, July 1972, page 32
  12. ^ Hawking, Tom (16 January 2014). "10 Great Songs Built Around the 808". Flavorwire. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  13. ^ Russell Hartenberger (2016), The Cambridge Companion to Percussion, page 87, Cambridge University Press
  14. ^ Anderson, Jason (27 November 2008). "Slaves to the rhythm". CBC News. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  15. ^ Six Machines That Changed The Music World, Wired, May 2002
  16. ^ a b c 808 (documentary film)
  17. ^ The top 10 dance music production clichés, MusicRadar, September 2, 2013
  18. ^ Peter Wells (2004), A Beginner's Guide to Digital Video, AVA Books, p. 18, ISBN 2-88479-037-3, retrieved 2011-05-20
  19. ^ Roland Corp (January 20, 2014). "How Roland Came Up With 909 Sounds". Roland. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  20. ^ Martin Russ (2004). Sound synthesis and sampling. Taylor & Francis. p. 66. ISBN 9780240516929.
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ "The 14 drum machines that shaped modern music". 22 September 2016.
  23. ^ "Nine Great Tracks That Use the Roland TR-909 | Complex". Complex Networks.
  24. ^ "9 of the best 909 tracks using the TR-909 - Features - Mixmag".
  25. ^ Vine, Richard (July 15, 2011). "Tadao Kikumoto invents the Roland TB-303". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved June 29, 2012.