Studio Gear : The Roland R-8 Drum Machine

The Roland R-8's best feature is 8 separate outputs.

The Roland R-8’s best feature is 8 separate outputs.

Although dated, the Roland R-8 is a great drum machine. The sounds are accurate, crisp and clear actual recordings of live drum hits. It can be programmed in real time by tapping the pads while listening to a click track generated in the machine or it can programmed step-by-step.

We have a real drum kit in the studio as well as various software and keyboard generated options for drum sounds so this relic rarely gets used, live drums are vastly better than programmed, but there are situations where it comes in handy. Often if an idea comes up and no drummer is handy, I’ll lay a drum track to catch a groove while tracking other instruments then, if the tracks are tight enough, replace it with live drums at the next session.

If you ever need to do that, or want to start out with a session quality drum track just click here to access our studio drummer and samples of his work. He’ll deliver better tracks than any machine will, guaranteed.

Other situations arise where a client specifically requests a drum machine, where a client can’t afford to pay a drummer or where the music demands one. One demo we did started with a drum machine intro then morphed into live drums as verse 1 began, just for something cool and different to add to the project.

By far the best feature, and the reason I prefer the R-8 over newer models, is the 8 separate outputs numbered 1-6 and stereo left/stereo right. Once you have a good pattern going or a complete song ready in mono mode, you can then assign the drums to the outputs. That means kick drum can go to output #1 and end up on its own track in Pro Tools. Ditto up to 7 more drums or cymbals.

Newer machines like the Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-880 have only stereo outputs so you either have to do stereo and be stuck with the drum mix as-is, drive it via midi and do several passes to get individual tracks on each drum, or record everything on a stereo track and slice/dice the parts to other tracks, tedious!- b.e.

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