The TR-707 is the first drum machine I ever owned, purchased years ago from a friend of a friend in South Brooklyn. I remember holding it close and being terrified of breaking it as I took the subway home. It seemed so precious: my first real bit of gear.
To this day, the TR-707 has remained a key part of mine and many other producers’ studios. Though overshadowed by its more famous siblings in the Rhythm Composer family, the TR-707 is still a vital player in dance music.
Released by Roland in 1985, the all-digital TR-707 had a huge impact on early Chicago house, and acid house in particular. Its snare, claps, and hi-hats helped shape house’s grooving sound, while its toms featured a lovely round decay that got any body rocking.
The TR-707 cowbell is its most recognizable facet, still ringing out today across many a track and sample pack. Its 15 digital sounds are sampled at 12 bits, and it can send or receive MIDI.
Each drum has individual volume sliders and output jacks for each instrument group, which means you can multitrack every single drum into a mixer with ease. Okay, you can’t edit the drum sounds beyond that, but when the hi-hat sounds this good, what is there to change?
With a versatile step sequencing approach common for the Rhythm Composer series, it’s also very intuitive and easy to program. The TR-707 remains far more affordable than the ubiquitous TR-808 or punchy TR-909, making it a great starter drum machine. Today, those looking to get their hands on a TR-707 need look no further than the Roland TR-8S, which comes loaded with every sound from Roland’s sought-after drum machine series, including the TR-707.
From the iconic ’80s acid house of Mr Fingers and Marshall Jefferson to the current experimentations of French trio J-Zbel and Canadian hardware duo Minimal Violence, the TR-707 is still going strong.
In celebration of 707 day, here’s a playlist of tracks featuring the underrated Roland machine.