Tutorial for the Roland MC 808

Updated July 19, 2017

The Roland MC-808, released in 2006, is a multifunction drum machine that's also a sampler, sequencer and synthesizer. Like other instruments in Roland's "groovebox" line, the MC-808 is optimised for onstage performance with motorised faders, easy interface and ability to store sounds on a 2 GB card. Two features all new 808 users should understand are creating a new beat and transferring samples from a computer to the 808.

Go to the "Mode" section and press the "Pattern" button.

Turn the "Value" dial to select an empty pattern location (empty patterns start at Number 684). If you hold "Shift" while turning the "Value" dial, you'll be able to move through available values more quickly.

Press "Enter," "Patch/Sample," "Part Select 10" and then turn the "Value" dial to choose which drum kit you want to use.

Press "Record" and then press "Enter" when the display reads "Realtime Rec." Cursor right to choose the "Rec. Measure Len:" parameter.

Turn the "Value" dial to choose the length of your pattern in measures. Cursor right until you see the "Qtz Reso" parameter. Turn the "Value" dial to decide how you want to quantise resolution.

Press "Play." After a two-measure count-in, start tapping out your pattern on the MC-808's velocity pads. As you record, the pattern plays over and over, allowing you to build up the pattern bit by bit each time the pattern comes back around.

When you're finished recording, press the "Stop" button.

Connect the MC-808 to your computer via USB and press the "System" button.

While holding down "Shift," press "Pad 8" (USB). Set USB mode to "Storage," cursor right twice to select "USB Storage" and then press the "Enter" button.

Select whether you want the MC-808's internal storage or your Compact Flash storage to appear on your computer, and then press "Enter." The screen will read, "SYSTEM:USB:STORAGE Connected." If any windows pop open on your computer, close them. On Macs, "MC808 USER" or "MC808 CARD" appears as a drive on your desktop. On PCs, "MC808 User" or "MC808 Card" appears in your "My Computer" folder.

Double-click the MC808 drive. You'll find two folders named "Roland" and "TMP." Double-click the TMP folder, and you'll see two folders named "Audio_Import" and "SMF."

Find the file you want to import. Drag any 16-bit, 44.1kHz .WAV or AIFF file into the "Audio_Import" folder. When you're done, eject the MC-808 drive from your computer. On Macs, that means dragging the drive to the "Trash." On PCs, click the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon. On the MC-808, press EXIT twice.

Press the appropriate "User" or "Card" group button, depending on the storage type you selected in Step 3, and then press "Patch/Sample." Hold down "Shift" and press Pad 13 (Import) to display a list of the samples ready for importing. If the screen says "(Empty)," repeat Steps 1 through 5.

Select each sample you wish to import, and press "Enter" twice. The sample will appear in the "USAM" bank of 14 patches. Repeat to import additional samples.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 GB Compact Flash card
  • USB cable
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About the Author

Everett Bradman has been an editor since 1994 and a professional writer since 2000. He has worked for "The Miami Herald," the "San Francisco Bay Guardian," "Rolling Stone," "Vibe," "Bass Player," "Computer Shopper" and NYC & Company. He holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Florida A&M University.