Roland R-8
Human Rhythm Composer

The R-8 was the standard studio drum machine of the early '90s (and to a degree, is still used today).  The editing possibilities are incredible, the sounds are very good, and can be expanded with many PCM cards that make this unit truly flexible.  The "Ethnic" and "Dance" cards in particular are sought after.  The sounds in ROM are also very high-quality, and focus mostly on rock and Latin genres.  No electronic sounds or special FX on board - you have to buy the cards or the R-8MkII, which had a larger ROM that included those sounds.


Roland R-8 sound demos:

Let's listen to the on-board demonstration song, song 0 "JUNGLE":



As you can hear, this great demo-song focuses on the amazing editing possibilities of the machine and pad-assigning features.  You hear sounds that sound like exotic birds, gun shots, marimbas and bells, but they are all part of the basic ROM sounds.  They are edited and modified to achieve those effects - great job, Roland programmers.

And here below you can listen to the factory patterns - I recorded four measures for each pattern.  I cut the .mp3 samples very accurately in Sound Forge so they loop perfectly, in case you want to use them with your sequencer :-)

R-8 Preset Patterns (all patterns were recorded at 120BPM for sampling convenience.)  (Press "PATTERN" and then "4" to access the factory preset patterns):


Stream all preset patterns below:

Preset name with .mp3 sample My comments
00  8BEAT1 Standard, classic rock rhythm.
01  8BEAT2 Similar to the above, with a darker drum set.
02  8BEAT3 Tight rhythm, tight set.
03  8BEAT4 Great pattern; powerful, with gated snare.
04  16BEAT1 Classic 16th rhythm.
05  16BEAT2 Similar to the above, with a nice open hat and a warmer drum set.
06  16BEAT3 Awesome, groovy.  This would work well for many genres (with -/+ BPMs)
07  DISCO1 Classic late '70s club rhythm, complete with open hats and claps.
08  DISCO2 A variation on Disco1.  This disco meets P-Funk.
09  SLOWROCK A somewhat weak pattern, let down by the rim shot.
10  SHUFFLE1 Classic blues/rock blues pattern.  Very useful.
11  SHUFFLE2 The blues pattern.
12  FUNKY1 Definitely funky and swingy.
13  FUNKY2 See above, this time with ride cymbal.
14  FUNKY3 Very aggressive rhythm, this will work well in many genres (funk, rap, industrial...)
15  OLDIES1 Very cool rhythm.  Notice how great the resolution of this machine is, and the "Human Rhythm factor" in this pattern.
16  OLDIES2 Although a little slow (for my decision to sample everything at 120), this is nice.  Reminds of the classic Motown rhythms.
17  OLDIES3 A "twist" rhythm.  Useful for Ska, also.
18  METAL1 Highly produced hard-rock pattern.  Typical of the time this machine was produced.
19  METAL2 Ride cymbal variation of the above.
20  SWING1 Awesome cool, relaxed jazz rhythm.  This sounds very real, with the exact pan-pot positioning in the stereo field, from the drummer's perspective.
21  SWING2 Classic jazz rhythm.  Think the '40s, on the hi-hat only.  You can notice the great recording of these samples (use some headphones for best effect), with a nice room ambience - it sounds so real.
22  BOSANOVA This rhythm is a typical bossanova, but employs a bass drum that is too "hard", in my opinion.
23  MAMBO Fantastic latin rhythm!  You could fool a lot of people in believing it's the real thing - congas, bell, maracas and all.
24  MERENGUE Similar to the above but with a different flavor.  Again, this rhythm should be faster (Merengue usually is), but I recorded it a 120BPM.
25  RHUMBA Wow, this is great and reminds me of Martin Denny's albums!
26  BEGUINE Classic '50s rhythm.
27  SAMBA Divine rhythm!  Note in particular how well the cabasa is programmed!  Realistic, huh?  And the floor toms give it a great "Rio De Janeiro streets" feel.
28  SALSA This sounds more like a Samba, not Salsa...
29  TANGO Nice military feel, a bit repetitive.
30  REGGAE Very good reggae pattern.
31  COUNT Useful as intro, or metronome.


And now for your sampling pleasures, here are the original drum samples sampled at 44.1kHz, normalized and trimmed in Sound Forge.  Assign them to your favorite hardware or software sampler, and you'll have a virtual R-8 (with basic ROM sounds) at your disposal.

R-8 Drum Samples (44.1MHz, stereo, .wav files in a .zip folder)

Roland R-8


Roland R-8 pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge)

front panel left              display                 drum pads            back panel

Features at a glance
Year of release: 199_
Polyphony: __
Display: yes, LCD, black characters on green background.  Non-lit.  LCD contrast on the back of unit.
Preset Patterns: 32 patterns in ROM; a total of 99 available.
Pads: yes, 16
Pads respond to velocity: yes
Pads respond to aftertouch no
Sound generation method: PCM
MIDI: in, out, thru
Sound expansion capabilities: 1 slot for ROM card; 1 slot for RAM card.
Outputs: 8 separate outputs; phones
Effects: no
Controls: 2 sliders; buttons; on-board drum pads
Pedal controls: Value (EV-5, 10); Start/Stop foot switch
Tape Sync: yes: in, out

Roland R-8 initialization: 

To initialize the Roland R-8 to factory settings:

Hold both "CURSOR/PAGE" and "PARAMETER/SELECT" while powering up (the display will show "SYSTEM INITIALIZE --> --> Press ENTER.); press ENTER twice.




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