R-8 tech specs
As you might expect, you can tap in rhythms and play them back. More surprisingly, you can slightly randomise the nuance of each hit ("random feel"), and simultaneously superimpose patterns of subtle shifts ("regular feel"). The latter can be based on either the MIDI clock pulses, varying each hit based on when in the bar it occurs, or each note's velocity, varying it based on its strength.
These subtle variations affect the sample playback's volume, pitch, decay, and "nuance" (for most sounds, slight lowpass filtering). In other words, Roland went to great care to make sure that this drum machine doesn't sound completely monotonous.
As it's a rompler, the sounds are designed to be universally useful, so they're clean and generic. They may be useful for performing musicians, while sound designers are better off with a sampler offering a similar level of flexibility to alter the volume, pitch, decay, and lowpass filter's cutoff point, based on each note's velocity.
As far as the patterns of velocities themselves go, it's an interesting idea, but I can't help thinking its implementation would be better suited to the inevitable accompanying MIDI sequencer itself — doubly so for the R-8M.
R-8M tech specs
The next year, Roland released a rackmount followup, the R-8M. By this point it looked even more similar to the U-110 and its followup, the U-220.
As you might expect from a rackmount variation, this does away with the MPC-style drumpads and internal sequencer, relying on a separate MIDI sequencer to trigger its notes. It does, however, retain the ability to add randomised and patterned shifts to each note based on its timing or velocity.
...I do like using the R-8 off its own internal memory, and just using the computer to arrange program changes for it, because I really like the edit features on it. You can get a limited amount of control through the computer over, say, the pitchwheel, but I much prefer to adjust the pitch on the R-8 itself. Like, putting in a constant hi-hat, doing the pitch on it, and recording that over a bar. You get all sorts of strange things happening. And you can't transfer that into the computer. So the R-8 always runs by itself.
We're into rhythm and sound, basically. In terms of melody, for us it isn't so much about writing a tune, it's more about using the sound at different pitches to create a feel. I suppose rhythm is everything to us. A note is just a sound played for a different length at a different pitch. The R-8 taught us to experiment with pitch and sounds within rhythm structures. We tend to use notes in a very rhythmic way.
- 808 State
- Aphex Twin
- Derrick May
- Kevin Saunderson
- Speedy J
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- "R-8 manual" Roland, 1988, p. 224
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- "R-8M manual" Roland, 1989, p. 130
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- "R-8M manual" Roland, 1989
- "R-8 MkII manual" Roland, 1992