Getting Started With the Roland TB-03 Synth

Roland's Boutique TB-03 synth is great for making acid bass sequences that evoke classic EDM tracks. Here's how to get started and make your first sequence.  

Roland's TB-03 gives producers the sound of the classic TB-303 in a smaller, portable model. The LED screen simplifies programming and the new Overdrive and Delay effects add originality and character to the machine's already unique sounds. There's never been a better time to add some acid into your tracks and the TB-03 makes programming bass lines a breeze. Here's a tutorial on how to get started programming the TB-03 and use the machine's new effects.  

Programming in TB-303 Original Mode


There are two different ways to program the TB-03, in TB-303 Original Mode and Step Recording Mode. Programming in TB-303 Original Mode is the same programming style that was used on the TB-303.

1. Clearing a Pattern

Start by erasing a Pattern and clearing out space to program a new one. The TB-03 has two different Modes, Pattern Play and Pattern Write. Switch the Pattern Knob to Pattern Write. Next hold down the Pattern that you want to clear by using buttons one to eight.

2. Changing the Number of Steps in a Pattern

The maximum number of Steps a Pattern can have is sixteen. To change the number of Steps in a pattern, hold down the Function Button and press the Step button the number of times you want Steps to be created. Eg. to create eight Steps, press the Function button eight times. 

3. Changing to Triplet Mode

By default, each Step is a 16th note. To change to Triplet Mode, hold down the Function button and press the Triplet button to enter Triplet grid. 

4. Writing a Pattern

Check and adjust the tempo by quickly pressing the Tempo button. The Tempo is displayed on the LCD screen. Use the value knob to set the value you want the pattern to be.

Press Pitch Mode, then use the Keyboard buttons (one to eight) to enter the Pitches. The octave of each note can be changed by pressing Transpose Up or Down, then pressing the note key. When finished programming notes, press the Function button.  

5. Checking Pitches

Press the Pitch Mode button, then press the Tap button to check the Pitch of each note, and press the Function button to finish.

6. Enter the Timing

Press the Time Mode button and use the note selector buttons; the note, tie or rest to enter the timing. Check the time by pressing the Time mode, then press the Tap button to check the data of each note and Function to finish. 

7.Adding Accents or Slides

Press Pitch Mode, and press the Tap button to check each note. In order to add an Accent, hold down the Tap button and and press the Accent button. To add a Slide, hold down the Tap button and press the Slide button. Press the Function button to finish. 

The sound of the TB-03

Step Recording Mode 

Beginners may find it easier to work in Step Recording Mode, a new mode that was added on the TB-03. This Mode allows you to program in notes, their timing and slides and ties by using the Step number on the display. 

Begin by holding down the Function button and turning the Value knob to Mode. Let go of the Function button and turn the Value knob to Step. Press the Function button. Next, program the TB-03. The major difference here is that you can jump between the Pitch Mode and Time Mode to program the TB-03, which makes the programming faster and easier.

1. Adding Effects

Overdrive and Delay can be added to sequences to give them character. The TB-03 features three types of Overdrive. To change the Overdrive type, hold down the Function button and turn the Value knob until oD (Overdrive) is displayed. Release the Function button and turn the Value knob to 1. Turn the Overdrive knob clockwise to hear the effect. Try changing the Overdrive to Type 2 by turning the Value knob to 2 and increasing the Overdrive by turning the Overdrive knob. Repeat with Overdrive type 3 by turning the Value knob to 3.

The Overdrive Types are as follows: 

1 – Overdrive Sound of the BOSS OD-2

2 – Traditional distortion sound

3 – Overdrive/Distortion Combo

Add Delay to the Sequence by holding down the Function button and turning the Value knob until the screen reads d.typ (Delay Type.) Let go of the Function button and turn the Value knob to try out each type of effect. The TB-03 has two types of Delay and one Reverb. The Delay types are as follows:

tape – Tape Echo

digi – Digital Delay

reu – Reverb

Apply each type of Delay and the Reverb by adjusting the Time and Feedback knobs in the Delay section. I recommend keeping the Time knob fairly low, otherwise the effects may quickly get out of hand! 


The TB-03 takes a bit of time to learn to program, but once you understand how to use the machine it's simple to create interesting bass lines. Programming in patterns on the TB-03 and using the effects can be a lot of fun and an easy way to start building a track. The TB-03 is a great machine to use on its own and its even better when paired with one of Roland's drum machines. Here's to happy programming and acid lines in your tracks!

Watch this live action video course covering the fundamentals of using the TB-03.

Sara Simms captivates the world as an innovative musician, DJ, turntablist and electronic music producer. She's a multi-instrumentalist who's known for her love of music technology. Sara makes her mark in the music community by crafting diverse sets with styles ranging from pulsating techno to house. She balances technical skills wi... Read More


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