How to Make an Acid House Jam with Roland AIRA TB-3 and the TR-8

The Roland AIRA TR-8 and TB-3 demand to be played, tweaked and performed with. In this tutorial for beginner users, Sara Simms shows how to create an Acid House beat and bassline using these machines.  

Acid house is a genre that's come back in style and is gaining popularity worldwide. Equipment produced by Roland, including the Roland TB-303 and the TR-808 helped producers to create the acid house genre in the late eighties. Roland has recently launched their AIRA line, and the AIRA TR-8 and ARIA TB-3 are perfectly suited for creating acid house tracks. Ready to learn how to create some acid of your own? Here's a guide on how to make an acid house jam using these two great machines. 

1. Get the Sound   

If you're not overly familiar with the genre, you may want to check out some classic acid house records like Phuture - Acid Tracks, Armando – 151, and Josh Wink – A Higher State Of Consciousness for inspiration

 

2. Connect the Units

Connect the AIRA TR-8 to the TB-3 by connecting the MIDI Output on the TR-8 to the MIDI Input on the TB-3. This connection makes the TR-8 the master, and the TB-3 is slaved to the TR-8's MIDI signal. The audio output from the TB-3 can be plugged into the TR-8's External Input, or can be plugged directly into your sound card. The audio output from the TR-8 should be plugged directly into your sound card.  

3. Program the Bass

Basslines on the TB-3 can be programmed using either Step Recording, or real time recording. If you'd like to try programming a bassline using Step Record, Press Step Rec on the TB-3. 

step record

Play the corresponding key on the keyboard to input the note; the TB-3 will automatically move forward to the next step. To leave a blank space, use the Clear/Rest button to move onto the next step. 

Clear/rest

By default, the TB-3 is set to 16 steps; since we're just getting started work with sixteen steps for now. Use the Plus and Minus buttons on either side of the TB-3 to change octaves.

Here's a very simple acid bass line you can try programming using Step Record. Play the notes on the keyboard to input the note values. 

  • Step One: C 
  • Step Two: Rest
  • Step Three: Rest
  • Step Four: C
  • Step Five & Six: Rest
  • Step Seven: Bb
  • Steps Eight – Twelve: Rest
  • (Move up one octave)
  • Step Thirteen: F 
  • Step Fourteen: Bb
  • Step Fifteen: Eb
  • Step Sixteen: F 

Here's what the programmed pattern sounds like:

Press play on the TB-3 and check out your bassline. If you want to change any notes, use the Value knob to scroll forwards or backwards and input different values using the keyboard. You can also use the Slide/Tie button to tie notes together. 

slide tie

 

If you want to change the sound, press the key-board, XY play or Env Mod to display the sound. Bank A is made up of TB-303 sounds, and Bank B is bass sounds. 

Modulating the Bass

To modulate the bassline in the track and give it a characteristic acid sound, try modulating the cutoff and resonance. Start with the cutoff set around 10 o'clock and the resonance set to around 8 o'clock. Slowly bring up the resonance until it's all the way to the far right, and then bring up the cutoff. Once the cutoff and resonance are both all the way up, you should have a sound that is quite acid like! These movements can be made in real time and recorded or performed live during a set. 

You can use the touch pad on the TB-3 to control envelope modulation and decay. Press the ENV Mod button and swipe your finger across the X-axis on the touch screen to control the envelope modulation and the Y-axis to change the decay.

Env mod

 

The Drums  

Next its time to program a simple house beat on the TR-8. 

Bass Drum 

Start out by pressing TR-Rec, and click on the Bass Drum (BD) button. On the steps, touch the buttons 1, 5, 9 and 13 to program in your kicks. 

TR-8 Kick

Snare

Next add in snares by pressing the Snare Drum (SD) button and touching Steps 5 and 13. If you like, you can add an accent to a specific step on the TR-8 by pressing the step button in the Accent section and selecting a specific step. I've selected to accent step 5, where the first snare drum lands.

snares

Add a layer to the snare pattern by pressing the HandClap button (HC) and programming in hand claps on the same steps as the snare, 5 and 13. This will help to give the snare sound extra character.

Hi Hats

Click on the Closed Hihat (CH) and click on numbers 3, 7, 11 and 15 to program in your hihats. 

hihats

 

Toms

Program in some toms by pressing the LowTom (LT) button and programming in a pattern you like. I've programmed in toms for my beat on steps 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14 & 15.

toms

Ride  

Program in a ride cymbal by clicking on RideCymbal (RC) and selecting the steps you'd like the ride to play on. For my pattern, I've programmed in the rides on beats 3, 8, 10, 13 & 15.

ride

Crash Cymbal 

You may want to add in a crash cymbal for use later on in the track. Although you may not use the crash cymbal throughout the whole track, its useful to have one on hand. Click the CrashCymbal button and select the steps where you'd like to have crash cymbal play. I've programmed in the crashes on beats 11 and 15.

crash cymbal

 

Once you've got all the drums in place, fine tune the drums by using the tune and decay parameters on the Roland TR-8. The kick is going to sound best when its tuned to the bass. Mix the level of each drum by adjusting the linear volume control until you have a sound you're happy with. 

Adding Effects

Reverb or delay can be added to individual steps, or to groups of drum sounds on the TR-8. To add Reverb to a particular step, select the Step button located in that section and then select the steps you want to be effected with the reverb. If you'd like to send reverb to a particular drum hit (e.g., the snare) in the drum select section, select kit, hold down the 'step' button and turn off any instruments you do not want to be effected.  

Here's what the full acid jam should sound like: 

Recording Your Track

The next step is to record the bass line and drums into your DAW, so you can turn your jam into a full track. You can also make a great video for YouTube or for your social media. Enjoy your new acid sounds and have fun tweaking the AIRA TR-8 and TB-3! 

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

Discussion

DJ Adityo
I make the pattern on my tb3, as you say... I press stop rec. first, the play blinks. I make the pattern... press step re... ok it plays then i go to another pattern and when i come back my pattern that you have thought me is gone... I also tried by pushing play right after and still do not save the pattern... why...

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