How the Roland TB 303 came to influence Dance music and Rave culture


The Roland TB 303 was designed by Tadao Kikumoto and manufactured by the Roland Corporation (Japan). It was released in 1981 as an accompaniment to the TR-808 drum machine. The 303 was a bass synthesizer with a pitch-to-voltage (CV) interface and a transposition control that allowed a performer to change the tone of the instrument from bass guitar to lead. It also had an on-board low-pass filter, accent control and portamento.
The TB 303 was originally intended to partner with the TR 606 drum machine so that composers could create a simple backing track for composing. The problem was it sounded nothing like a bass guitar so it did not catch on and Roland ceased production.
However, this strange silver box was destined to become one of the most influential electronic synthesizers as it became the heart of a new form of electronic music was emerging in the USA, Detroit Techno.

Detroit Techno and the birth of Acid House.

The sound of Detroit techno is considered to be a technological and minimalistic version of house music with heavy, hypnotic bass lines and nonstop repetitive beats. It became popular in the mid-80s and early 90’s during the rise of rave culture with many DJs mixing dance tracks from different record labels into an almost continuous performance. The original Detroit Techno artists were Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May. They would experiment with making tracks for several hours, often exchanging ideas and working as a team to create music that sounded good. Meanwhile, Chicago Djs were pushing the house style in another direction and Acid house was born

Acid House and the 2nd Summer of Love

Acid house was an entirely new style of music that combined minimalist production aesthetics with a prevalent four on the floor beat. The soundscape became defined by using these iconic Roland TB-303 synthesizers and modulating their frequency or resonance control for texture which created movement within otherwise simple bass patterns.
The first Acid House single was ” Acid Trax “, produced in 1984 by Chicago-based DJ Pierre. Another early Acid House track was ” Ain’t No Love (The Ox Mix) ” by Mac Ten aka Mac Stevens, released in Detroit on DJ Ron Hardy’s label Magic Heart Records. Other notable acid house tracks of 1987 included Phuture’s “Acid Tracks”, and UK artist CJ Bolland’s “Sugar is Sweeter as the new sound started to gain momentum in Britain hearding the second summer of love.

The UK Acid House scene

In the late 1980s, a culture started to develop which was a fusion of acid house music and MDMA. The “Acid House Kings” Phuture had a track which sampled the dialogue from the 1967 Peter Fonda B-Movie “The Trip”.
The influx of these records in the UK fuelled the appetite for this type of music and in 1987/88 you started to see records from US producers such as Mr Fingers, Ce Ce Rogers & Adonis being imported into the UK on 12″ vinyl at a much faster tempo than house listeners were used to, these tracks were between 130 to 140 bpm.

Many DJ’s started to create their own tracks using keyboards, drum machines and samplers mixing in drum breaks with acid lines to create this new fangled sound. By 1989 the scene was blossoming with people organising illegal parties known as “raves” which would be held in empty warehouses and factory units. UK DJ’s such as Carl Cox Fabio & Grooverider were held in high esteem within the scene and travelled abroad to play at raves across Europe, spreading the acid house sound.
The illegal status of these parties and the drug associated with it gave this genre a bad name as there were many deaths at these raves due to overcrowding and also the drug aspect. Soon this music became frowned apron by the authorities who would stamp down introducing a act of parliament to make outdoor raves illegal.
However, the success of the music could not be denied and by late 1988/89 you started to see some records charting high in the UK charts including “Theme from S’Express” (produced by DJ’s Mark Moore & Dave Dorrell) & “House arrest” by Robin S (produced by DJ Pierre).

The rest is history. The dance scene continued to grow with the birth of the super club and the hedonistic vibe of Ibiza ending up as EDM with the global superstar DJ and a sound now fully entrenched in popular music.