ROLAND TB-303 BASS LINE

If squelchy, acidic lines are what you’re after, look no fur­ther

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

Use in mu­sic

The 303’s throaty squelch can be heard on tracks rang­ing from Or­ange Juice’s 1983 topten hit Rip It Up through Phuture’s late 80s Acid Tracks to Hard­floor’s Acpe­ri­ence in 1992. This de facto acid house sound has since be­come in­stantly recog­nis­able.

How it works

The Min­i­moog’s po­si­tion as the reign­ing king of bass was once seen as unas­sail­able. How sur­pris­ing it must have been, then, that it was kicked from its perch by an in­ex­pen­sive lump of sil­ver plas­tic with a lim­ited sonic pal­ette. And yet, Roland’s diminu­tive TB-303 has done ex­actly that, beget­ting en­tire gen­res of mu­sic and be­com­ing the standard for gen­er­a­tions of pro­duc­ers in the process.

A com­mer­cial fail­ure at the time of its re­lease in 1981, the TB-303 was blown out on the cheap when it was dis­con­tin­ued. It would be sec­ond­hand users that pro­pelled the 303 into leg­endary sta­tus.

A joy­ously sim­ple in­stru­ment, the 303’s lone os­cil­la­tor could pro­duce ei­ther a square or saw­tooth wave (but not both at once) to be spat through a wildly squelchy 24dB low­pass fil­ter (not a three-pole, 18dB job as so of­ten claimed). Con­trol over the sin­gle en­ve­lope gen­er­a­tor was lim­ited to De­cay time and fil­ter mod amount. An Ac­cent pa­ram­e­ter was also pro­vided.

Sim­ple, to-the-point, and nearly im­pos­si­ble to screw up, the sound of the TB-303 ranges from smooth and rounded to raw and gritty. Equally sim­ple, the unit’s se­quencer – if not ex­actly in­tu­itive – was at least an in­ter­est­ing source of ran­dom pat­terns, its key fea­ture be­ing a char­ac­ter­is­tic por­ta­mento (or ‘slide’).

Get the sound

The sim­plic­ity of the TB-303 made it an ob­vi­ous tar­get for soft­ware de­vel­op­ers, and its most fa­mous em­u­la­tion was Pro­peller­head’s sem­i­nal Re­Birth, re­leased in 1998. A killer clone of the 303 and the equally-revered TR-808 and TR-909 drum ma­chines, it proved once and for all that en­tire tunes could be made in a com­puter.

Re­Birth has been dis­con­tin­ued, but mod­ern users can buy Au­dioReal­ism’s BassLine 3, D16 Group’s Phoscyon, Au­dio Blast’s Acid Box; or, if you’re short on cash, grab the free and open-source Free­birth.

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