Transforming stock Roland TR-8 drums into weird loops
Roland’s famous drum machines have been rinsed to death, so let’s take the sounds much, much further with creative signal processing
We’ve put together this 124bpm drum groove using the TR-8. The loop comprises an 808 kick on the downbeat, 909 toms acting as bass, and the usual house-style clap, hats, cymbals and perc. This drum machine is great for on-the-fly experimentation, as we can pull down faders to mute individual hits.
Time to engage the Ring Modulator, which multiplies the incoming signal with its internal carrier oscillator to produce dissonant partials. After a bit of tweaking, we turn the distorted loop into a clangorous, pumping groove. The kick and toms in the loop have become a weird robotic riff among the crunchy hats.
Next, we bring all 11 drum sounds back into the mix, then engage the Phaser. As well as imparting the expected ‘whooshing’ effect, this also dampens the loop’s heavily distorted top-end frequencies. Again, muting drums helps us find completely new creations. Soloing the kick and toms now creates sweeping synth-like tones.
Our drum machine’s mono output is routed into our chain of three Moogerfooger pedals – a ring mod, phaser and chorus/flanger. Before turning the effects pedals on, we crank up the first pedal’s Drive knob to maximum. This instantly decimates the clean loop into a crunchy, characterful mess of analogue distortion.
Currently, all 11 of the TR-8’s drum channels are playing. How will the processing react if we mute some of the drums? Pulling down TR-8 faders lets us try. Isolating the hi-hats leaves us with an aggressive ‘top loop’, whereas the removal of everything except the kick, rimshots and small crash create a sparse, alien-like bubbling effect.
Finally, we mute the Phaser, then turn the Cluster Flux on. It’s set to Chorus mode, with high negative Feedback, and Mix at halfway. Again, we have more luck when certain drums are removed from the groove – with the bass drum and toms silenced, we create a bouncy metallic rhythm that sounds nothing like the sounds we started with. Mission accomplished!