Roland TR-909  

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"The Belleville Three were using the TR-909 not only while DJing, but for the production of early techno tracks like Juan Atkins's afrofuturism track "No UFO's." Detroit techno was selling well in Chicago, being played alongside Euro synth-pop and Italo disco, so the TR-909 sound was being played in Chicago even though nobody in Chicago had the machine. However, when Derrick May sold the 909 to DJ Frankie Knuckles, the 909 became a major link between the sound of Detroit techno and the sound of Chicago house music." --Sholem Stein

The Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer is a partially analog, partially sample-based drum machine built by the Japanese Roland Corporation in 1984. The brainchild of Tadao Kikumoto, the engineer behind the Roland TB-303, it features a 16-step music sequencer and a drum kit that, at that time, aimed for realism and cost-effectiveness. It is fully-programmable, and like its predecessor, the TR-808, could store entire songs with multiple sections, as opposed to simply storing patterns. Only around 10,000 units were produced.

History

As with the TB-303, the realism of the TR-909 was severely 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. More expensive, sample-based drum computers were better at faithfully reproducing real drum sounds, while the TR-909 sounded synthetic. This synthetic sound was exactly the characteristic that led to the hand-in-hand rise of techno and house music, because the unrealistic, futuristic drum sounds were employed by the Belleville Three.

Juan Atkins, one of the Belleville Three, had already been using a TR-808 while DJing, but moved to the 909, creating beats alongside the music on his turntables at Detroit social-club parties DJed by Deep Space (Atkins and Derrick May). The Belleville Three were using the TR-909 not only while DJing, but for the production of early techno tracks like Atkins' afrofuturism track "No UFO's." Detroit techno was selling well in Chicago, being played alongside Euro synth-pop and "progressive" Italian music, so the TR-909 sound was being played in Chicago even though nobody in Chicago had the machine. However, in a desperate attempt to obtain rent money, Derrick May sold the 909 to DJ Frankie Knuckles, making the 909 a major link between the sound of Detroit techno and the sound of Chicago house music.

"The four-to-the-floor groove and endless snare-roll crescendi ubiquitous in house, techno, and everything that followed come from the [TR-]808 and 909."



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