The Roland TR-606 – Percussive Twin For TB-303!
Roland’s TR-606 “Drumatix” is a comprehensive rhythm section housed in a compact silver box. Launched in 1981 as the percussive companion to the TB-303 bass synthesizer, the TR-606 is an analog synthesis drum machine. It is capable of storing up to thirty-two patterns and eight songs created with its seven programmable sounds, which include accent, bass drum, hi tom, low tom, snare drum, open hat, closed hat, and cymbal.
Although lacking swing parameter capabilities, the TR-606’s accent level control allows for modification of volume on individual beats, while the pattern play mode strings together four consecutive patterns to create an extended groove.
More customization is achieved through the 606’s ability to effortlessly switch between play and edit modes, allowing a user to make adjustments to the pattern while the sequencer continues to run—a feature not included on many other models in the TR series.
Where Can I Buy A Roland TR-606?
Printed eighth notes and quarter notes adorn the top of the 606’s keypad, which is inset with a row of 16 red circular lights resting above their corresponding rectangular buttons. Easily accessible dials located in the middle of the console dictate the tempo and volume, as well as instrument selection and track and pattern modes.
Although only equipped with mono audio output, additional modifications available from Kenton Electronics and Analog Solutions dedicate an individual output for each drum tone. Using the Roland DINSync system, the TB-606 can be played in tandem with other electronic instruments that are connected through two outputs on the unit.
From the crisp sound of its snare and hiss of its cymbal to the low patter of its bass drum and hollow ring of its toms, the TB-606 has a distinctly metallic sound that lends sonorous novelty to a variety of genres. As was the case with the TB-303, the TR-606’s potential popularity fell victim to other trends in the realm of music technology and electronic instrumentation in the late 1980s.
The ideal consumer for which Roland’s products were marketed—the solo artist lacking a backing band—tended to favor pre-recorded drum sounds and real bass lines as the practice of sampling became the trend du jour.
Yet, as prices dipped and units became relatively inexpensive, the TR-606 made a comeback, finding new worth in the acid house music scene. It continues to be used today, especially by electronic musicians seeking to add a funky, vintage sound to their compositions.
How Much Does A Roland TR-606 Cost?
If you’re lucky enough to find a Roland TR-606 for sale they’ll normally* range anywhere between £400 and £700
*prices generally seen on auction sites. If you see them cheaper, you may be on to a bargain.
Who Uses Or Used The Roland TR-606?
Famous and not so famous users of the 606 are: Aphex Twin/Universal Indicator, Daft Punk, Beathaven, Tiga, Moby, Mathew Jonson, Autechre, Venetian Snares, Squarepusher, The Chemical Brothers, Merzbow, RZA, DMX Krew, Chris Moss Acid and many, many more!
Alternatives To The Roland TR-606?
There are many different alternatives to the 606 whether as hardware, software, analog or digital. These are as follows: Cyclone TT606, Roland Aira TR-8s, Boss DR-110, samples, emulators and VSTs.
However, when we compare it to the real thing it’s noticeable that the alternatives don’t quite stack up. They are a great option though for people with a lower budget.
Classic Roland TR-606 Videos, Tutorials & Demos
This playlist includes a large variety of videos that show you how to program the 606 in track and song mode. There are also a couple of videos that feature 6o6 upgrades and explain how they work and why they’ve been modified.
All in all, loads to watch, listen and learn before getting your own!
Classic Roland TR-606 Tracks
The playlist above features some 606 classics including: Plastikman – Plasticity, Gak and Glob, Polygon Window – Supremacy II and Untitled.
Other Roland Products?
The famous Roland synths, drum machines and effects include: SH 101, MC 202, TB 303, TR 606, TR 707, TR 808, TR 909, Juno 60, RE-201 Space Echo.