This year 909 Day is a HUGE deal.
If you were thinking of getting a new MIDI controller or drum machine, today is your day.
To celebrate the 33rd birthday of their iconic TR-909 drum machine, Roland is unveiling a ton of new gear, including reissues of the 909 and the 303!
Join the party! Here are 909 tools for you to use and 9 tracks made with 909s to play today.
Why the 909 is so iconic
Introduced in 1983 (three years after its sibling the TR-808) the Roland TR-909 was a hybrid— partly analog and partly sample-based (for the cymbals and hi-hats).
The 909 had a fuller kick and a snappier snare than the 808. The easy to use 16-step sequencer was perfect for dance music rhythms.
The 909 was one of Roland’s early drum machines to feature MIDI connections. It also saved patterns and songs – making it good for both studio and live sets.
But the 909 was discontinued only 2 years after it was introduced. It failed at its intended purpose of being a ‘realistic’ sounding drum machine. Like the TB-303, it was initially a failure.
But it ended up in the right hands…
Drum Machines for Ableton Live
Get your Ableton Live 909 – it’s included in the free Drum Machines pack. It was carefully sampled and processed to be close to the original. Get it here.
BPB Cassette 909
Bedroom Producer Blog has a free sample pack made with TR-909 samples. You get 155 samples: 71 are clean and 84 are processed through cassette tape for some extra crunch. Grab it at the bottom of this page.
909 Samples from Mars
Ok, this sample pack isn’t free, but we really like what the folks at Samples from Mars are doing. This meticulously recorded and tape-saturated sample pack gives you over 300 sounds from the 909 to play with. Grab it here (it’s on sale today only!).
9 Amazing Tracks made with a 909
Here 9 tracks made with a 909. Some will be obvious and others will surprise you! Crank up the volume and listen for the unmistakable thud of that kick.
Phil Collins – “Take Me Home” (1985)
Phil Collins is not the first artist that comes to mind when people say ‘909.’ But he’s among the pop musicians that adopted drum machines early on. You can hear those 909 toms, claps and high hats in this song.
Rhythim Is Rhythim – “Strings of Life” (1987)
Rhythim Is Rhythim is one the aliases of Detroit techno legend Derrick May. As Complex put it:“If Detroit techno were its own country, this would easily be the national anthem.”
Mr Fingers – “Can You Feel It” (1988)
This house banger is unmistakably driven by a 909 kick and slap. And that rim shot, ayayay. Please drop what you are doing and dance to this.
Inner City – “Big Fun” (1988)
Inner City was a duo formed by techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson and Paris Grey. The ‘Big Fun’ single reached the top of the dance charts in the US and became very popular worldwide. It was one of the first albums to bring dance music to the mainstream internationally.
Joey Beltram – “Energy Flash” (1990)
Energy Flash is an iconic rave anthem by Joey Beltram. This track brought a harder and darker sound to techno. The 909 was the perfect machine for the new direction that techno was taking in the 90s.
The Martian – “Star Dancer” (1993)
This track was featured on the second EP put out by seminal Detroit techno label Red Planet. There’s some debate about this, but it’s believed that The Martian was in fact the iconic producer Mad Mike, a member of the Underground Resistance collective.
Jeff Mills – “The Bells” (1996)
Probably Jeff Mills’ most well known track, this techno banger is a great example of the driving thump of the 909. Mills is well known for his 909 wizardry – in fact many call him The Wizard.
Also watch him tweak those knobs – it’s mind blowing:
Björk – “Hunter” (1997)
A less obvious but very original example of 909 use is Björk’s Hunter. The co-producer Mark Bell explained: “we all had a go on the filtering and played around with the decay of each individual drum” (via Mixmag). This track goes to show how the 909 can be used in novel ways.
Chambray – “Rub” (2014)
I wouldn’t be able to tell you if a hardware 909 or samples were used here. What I can say is that the legacy of the 909 continues to come alive in contemporary productions either way. It’s actually hard to avoid the 909 nowadays in dance music—no complaints here!
909 day is every day
The TR-909 drum machine went from a failure to an icon in electronic dance music and beyond.
Stay tuned for the full specs on Roland’s remake of it, the TR-09 (and 30+ new instruments). In the meantime play with the free 909s that I’ve linked above and groove to the hits produced with the machine.
Everybody loves the 909, even Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead:
Happy 909 day!