Zoë Blade's notebook


TB-303 tech specs

The TB-303 was a simple monophonic synthesiser with built-in digital step sequencer relased by Roland in 1982.

It only does one thing, namely playing acidlines with plenty of sliding and accents, and it does it extremely well. Its contorted screams form the basis of a whole genre of music, acid house, and often elevate more than a few others.

When taking centre stage, it works even better through a distortion or overdrive effect, such as a Boss ROD-10.


[Pierre] made the mistake of telling all his DJ friends that it was a TB-303 on "Acid Tracks", so next thing I knew, within four months there were about sixty acid records out, and within five more months there were over a thousand — just in Chicago!

— Marshall Jefferson, 1989[5]

The people who made the Bassline must have been mental to make it do all that it can do. They can't have thought "That's too much, that doesn't sound like a bassline." They must have been into acid music already!

— Mark Bell, LFO, 1991[6]

Alexander Robotnik's "Les Problemes D'Amour", released in 1983, was a huge "progressive" hit in Chicago, selling around twelve thousand import copies. A few years later, house producers, already enamoured of Roland drum machines and synths, started messing around with the 303, discovering applications that the manufacturers had never imagined.

Simon Reynolds, Energy Flash, 1998[7]

I started twisting the knobs, seeing what they do, because that's what I do: twist knobs. So I was doing that, and we fell in love with the sounds it was making. We fell in love with how I was twisting the knobs with the beat. And then I started twisting them a certain way, and putting emotion and feeling behind it, and Spanky was, like, "Yo, Pierre, keep doing that, I like that." I was, like, "Yeah, this is something!" We were, like, "Yo, that's style." We said "Forget trying to make a bassline, let's program it like this and just twist the knobs." And so that's what we did, you know?

— DJ Pierre, Phuture, 2014[8]

On most of the tunes, the 303 and the bassline were the only things that were actually played in a traditional way. The rest of it was gross manipulation of samples... It only had four knobs to twiddle. You could learn the permutations of what happened between the four of them. And the great fun was that you did it all live.

Fatboy Slim, 2017[9]

Notable users

Technical notes

The TB-303 uses a 4-bit NEC μPD650 microprocessor, and three NEC μPD444s for a combined 3072 nibbles of RAM.

In MC-8 and MC-4 terms, you can think of the TB-303's accent and slide as two MPX (Boolean) outputs. The timebase (clock resolution) is 48 (based on a 24 PPQN clock, but noting the downticks as well as the upticks). Each note, being a sixteenth note, lasts 7 ticks, with a 5 tick gap, unless it's sliding — then it lasts all 12 ticks.[47] Each rest lasts all 12 ticks. This makes for a very simplified MicroComposer, which allows you to enter notes through a more intuitive interface, at least by MC standards.


  1. "Soho Soundhouse" Soho Soundhouse (Vendor), Electronics & Music Maker, Dec 1982, p. 45
  2. "Future Music" Future Music (Vendor), Electronics & Music Maker, Oct 1982, p. 29
  3. "Soho Soundhouse" Soho Soundhouse (Vendor), Electronics & Music Maker, Jan 1986, p. 42
  4. "TB-303 service notes" Roland, Feb 1982
  5. "Emotional Foundations" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Mar 1989, pp. 54—57
  6. "Deep Vibrations" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Aug 1991, pp. 60—65
  7. Energy Flash Simon Reynolds, 1998, ISBN 0-330-35056-0, p. 24
  8. "Back to the Phuture: DJ Pierre on Inventing Acid and Why EDM Fans Need to Learn Their History" Ruth Saxelby, The Fader, Aug 2014
  9. "Classic Tracks: Fatboy Slim 'Praise You'" Tom Doyle, Sound On Sound, Jan 2017
  10. "The State of Technology" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Nov 1989, pp. 54—60
  11. "Aphex Twin studio collage"
  12. "Teenage Kicks" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Oct 1993, pp. 18—19
  13. "Emotional Impact" Richard Buskin, Sound On Sound, Dec 2001
  14. "In the Studio With Biosphere" Headphone Commute, Jan 2021
  15. "Mixing Lessons" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Nov 1988, pp. 40—44
  16. "What's That Noise?" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, Aug 1990, pp. 30—34
  17. "Eat Static: Chart Success" Jonathan Miller, Sound On Sound, Jan 1997
  18. "Past, Present and Future" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Aug 1992, pp. 61—66
  19. "A Guy Called Gerald" Vie Marshall, Micro Music, Oct 1989, pp. 75—76
  20. "Voodoo Chile" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Apr 1990, pp. 50—54
  21. "Everyone Loves a 303, Exclusive Mix From the Legendary Hardfloor" Ian French, Decoded Magazine, Nov 2014
  22. "Kracked Plastik" Roger Brown, The Mix, Dec 1994, pp. 110—114
  23. "Signal Path: Richie Hawtin on His Origins as F.U.S.E. and How He Made Techno in the Early '90s" Maya-Roisin Slater, Fact, May 2019
  24. "Heaven 17" Mark Jenkins, Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music, Nov 1983, pp. 16—18
  25. "What instruments were used on Leftfield's Leftism?" Entropy, Gear Space, Nov 2007
  26. "Machine Head" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Jul 1991, pp. 56—62
  27. "Interview: Originals... Kurtis Mantronik" 909 Originals, Aug 2020
  28. Everything Is Wrong Moby, 1995
  29. "Recording Moby's 'Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?'" Tom Flint, Sound On Sound, Feb 2000
  30. "Under New Orders" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Apr 1994, pp. 44—48
  31. "The Magic Circle" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Jun 1993, pp. 56—60
  32. "[Unknown]" Dave Robinson, Future Music, Aug 1993
  33. "Music of Spheres" Nigel Humberstone, Sound On Sound, Apr 1994
  34. "'Chime' by Orbital" Mat Smith, Electronic Sound, Apr 2017
  35. "Pet Sounds" Ian Masterson, Music Technology, Dec 1993, pp. 46—50
  36. "The Lone Raver" Tim Goodyer, Music Technology, May 1992, pp. 68—72
  37. Wind It Up (Rewound) The Prodigy, 1993
  38. "Prodigious Talent" David Robinson, Future Music, Feb 1993, pp. 31—34
  39. "Liam Howlett: The Prodigy & Firestarter" Paul Nagle, Sound On Sound, Sep 1996
  40. "Playing With Fire!" Robin Green, The Mix, Mar 1997
  41. House Music... The Real Story Jesse Saunders, 2007, ISBN 1-4241-8994-2, pp. 55—57
  42. "The Techno Wave" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Sep 1988, pp. 70—73
  43. "Live Tech Intelligence" Richard Wentk, Future Music, Apr 1993, pp. 17—20
  44. "Rack & Roll" Phil Ward, Music Technology, Dec 1993, pp. 20—22
  45. "SNAP! to tomorrow" Roger Brown, The Mix, Nov 1994, pp. 84—88
  46. "Warp Factor 8" Simon Trask, Music Technology, Nov 1993, pp. 32—33
  47. "Investigating the Slide Function of the TB-303" Robin Whittle, Jun 2012





Digital step sequencers: MS-1 | RD-6 | SH-101 | TB-303 | TR-606 | TR-808

Hardwired synthesisers: CZ-101 | Juno-6 | Juno-106 | MS-1 | Model D | Polivoks | RS-101 | RS-202 | SH-101 | TB-303 | VC340 | VP-330

Monophonic synthesisers: MS-1 | Model D | SH-101 | TB-303

Roland: DCB | JV-1080 | Juno-6 | Juno-106 | MC-4 | MC-8 | MPU-101 | R-8 | RS-101 | RS-202 | SH-101 | SN-R8 series | SN-U110 series | SO-PCM1 series | SR-JV80 series | System-100 | System-100M | TB-303 | TR-606 | TR-808 | TR-909 | U-110 | VP-330 | W-30