Roland MC-303
the original GrooveBox


The Roland MC-303 is the original GrooveBox.  It came out in 1996, when Trance was at its apex, and - as you can tell from several of its factory preset patterns - Goa Trance is particularly well represented.

The term "Groove Box" was created by Roland, and then several other manufacturers started producing their own versions of grooveboxes, from Yamaha's AN/DX200, to Korg's very popular Electribe series.

A Groovebox is basically a portable unit that features sounds in ROM, a sequencer, the ability to program patterns from the unit itself, knobs/sliders and other controls, arpeggiator, and other functions.  It's particularly useful for live performances.

A very good addition on the MC-303 is the inclusion of the "RPS" (Realtime Phrase Sequence) - you can play back phrases from the onboard buttons.  Arpeggiator and sequencer are also very complete and effective.

The vintage-style knobs offer an array of controls:  volume, arpeggio rate, quantize, effect, LFO, envelope control, and the must-have cutoff and resonance.  There also are eight switch-buttons that allow you to mute in or out parts in the song/pattern.  This is invaluable for live use, where simply by acting on the mute patterns, you can produce engaging build ups and generally spice up tracks, by mixing elements in and out.

The MC-303 also works via MIDI as a standard PCM sound module (similar sounds as on the Roland JV-series, but tailored for dance/electronica.


Roland MC-303 audio demos


Factory Demo Songs:

Here is the Factory Demo Song sequence.  It's pretty long at 12:00 minutes, but represents well what you can do with this machine.

Factory Demo Songs

Individual examples:

Stream all the patch examples below as an .m3u playlist

Pattern name with audio demo My comments
A-01 Goa Trance Pattern 1 Classic mid-1990s Trance busy pattern
A-05 Goa Trance Pattern 5 Typical Goa Trance interweaving synth lines, a la Astral Projection.
A-21 Goa Trance Pattern 21 Another typical Goa Trance pattern
A-23 Goa Trance Break Pattern 1 Another Astral Projection, Infected Mushroom type pattern.
A-30 Trance Pattern 2 Nice dancey pattern.
A-40 Trance Pattern 12 Jumpy good.
A-45 Trance Pattern 17 Techno-heavy.
A-48 Trance Pattern Break 3 Nice 16th bass drum a la New Order's "Blue Monday"
B-06 Techno Pattern 6 Warm-sounding.
B-09 House Pattern 1 Super-groovy and soulful House
B-12 House Pattern 4 Reminds of Haddaway's "What Is Love"
B-18 House Pattern 10 Nice '90s British House
B-19 House Pattern 11 Curiously '80s sounding.
B-26 House Pattern 18 Nice Techno-House
B-28 House Pattern 20 Very stilish
B-33 Hip Hop Pattern 3 Funky goodness, 1970s-flavor
B-35 Hip Hop Pattern 5 Hip Hop happy
B-39 Jazz Funk Pattern 3 Good quality sounds on this machine.
B-41 Jazz Funk Pattern 5 Nice Fender Jazz bass sample
B-43 Jungle Pattern 1 Dreamy Jungle/Drum 'n' Bass pattern
B-47 Jungle Pattern 5 More aggressive version of D 'n' B.  Excellent resonant filter synths.
C-14 Jungle Break Pattern 3 Dark and ominous
C-21 Trip Hop Pattern 3 Nice relaxed pattern
C-25 Trip Hop Pattern 7 Nice British pattern, a bit a la 808-State
C-31 Trip Hop Break Pattern 3 Mysterious
C-32 Salsa Pattern Happy Salsa beat.  The MC-303 is versatile!
C-33 Samba Pattern More versatility here... a succulent Samba rhythm!
E-10 Goa Trance Drums Pattern Banks E through I are "building blocks" - percussion, bass, synth lines to mix and match into your songs.  This is a straight Techno beat.
E-15 Goa Trance Drums Fill In Groovy fill
E-44 House Clavi Phrase Nice Clavinet sound
F-01 House Piano Riff Typical modern House electric piano pattern
F-08 House Snare Roll Standard rising 909 snare, heard in (too) many songs.
F-14 House Bass Line Gluey resonant bass line.
F-49 Jungle Synth Riff Washy synth.
G-14 Jungle Oboe Riff The oboe!
H-02 Trip Hop Wah Wah Guit Nice sampled wah-wah guitar.
i-11 Trip Hop Sound Effects Classic electronica "impossible" 32nd sequenced drum roll.


The Roland MC-303 as a sound module

The MC-303 can obviously also be used as a sound module via MIDI.  Its sounds are typical Roland JV/XP ROM, but leaning toward the electronic side.  Here is an example of the MC-303's internal sounds being played by a keyboard:

MC-303 as a sound module

Roland MC-303 specifications


Year of release: 1996
Polyphony: 28-voice
Sound generation method: PCM
Preset memories  
MIDI: in, out
Sound expansion capabilities: no
Sequencer yes
Arpeggiator yes
Effects yes
Velocity yes

A few years after the MC-303, after the introduction of the MC-505, several artists used a groovebox for the "At Home With The Groovebox" compilation, that received good reviews and featured artists from totally different backgrounds - with in common only the fact they used solely a groovebox for their song.


Roland MC-303 pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)


Roland MC-303 manual

available at



SITE Type of resource DESCRIPTION

Roland MC-303 review with audio demo