Free Softube plugin with Loopcloud - See Deal

Support

Blog

What is 303 Day? Why do we Celebrate the Legacy of the Roland TB-303?
3 Mar '2024
This is your essential guide to 303 Day – explaining the reasons for its place in the calendar, and what makes the synthesizer and its acid tones so legendary.
What is 303 day cover 1920x1080

Roland Corporation, more commonly known as Roland, are responsible for some of the most well-known and widely used instruments today. Very few manufacturers have built up the same legacy of the Japanese brand. Sure, Korg has made some legendary synths, and Yamaha is perhaps more of a household name, but neither is credited for the evolution of a genre in the same way that Roland is.

 

 

The Roland TR-808 changed the bass in Hip-Hop, the TR-909 changed the drums in House and Techno, and the TB-303 catalysed a whole new genre in Acid House. Each of these celebrated instruments has its own day dedicated to them each year, and in this article, we’ll be sharing everything there is to know about 303 Day. 

 

What is 303 Day?

 

303 Day, also known as 303 Appreciation Day is a yearly reminder for us to give the Roland TB-303 its much-deserved flowers. If you’re an Acid House enthusiast or an owner of any version of the TB-303, whether original or cloned, you probably don’t need the reminder.

 

Why do we celebrate 303 Day?

The Roland TB-303 is by no means the biggest or most popular synthesiser in existence today, so why do we celebrate 303 Day? It’s celebrated in recognition of how its squelchy, resonant, digital tones changed the sonic landscape of contemporary music over the years. That, and because its name matches a certain date in March.

 

When is 303 Day?

If you’re going to celebrate 303 Day, you’ll want to be sure to get your timings right. There is somewhat of an internet misconception that 303 Day is celebrated on 30th March, but actually, 303 Day is on 3rd March. The confusion could stem from the US vs UK date formatting, where the US format would format the date as 3/03 while the UK would format it as 30/3. Either way, it’s celebrated on 3rd March every year.

 

 

What happens on 303 Day?

To the layperson, 303 Day is just like any other day in the year, and to be honest, even we music-heads can go about our business without much deviation from our usual schedule. Celebrating the TB-303 on the same day each year simply gives us the opportunity to recognise its contribution to music, and to remember some of its key triumphs from its 40-year lifetime.

 

 

What is the TB-303 Synth?

 

The Roland TB-303 is a monophonic analogue bass synthesiser that was available for just three years, between 1981 and 1984. The TB-303 is characterised by its “squelchy” tone along with its rich and dynamic harmonic content.

Originally designed to replace a bass guitarist, it quickly became clear that the sound and operation of the compact synth didn’t exactly lend itself to this application. Instead, early adopters of the TB-303 identified how the synth could be used to add a unique style of bass to their productions, or even a lead sound when played at a higher register. 

 

How many TB-303 synths were made?

 

Despite its huge fanbase today, at the time of launch, the Roland TB-303 was a commercial failure by all accounts. Roland developed and marketed the synth intending it to replace a band’s bass guitarist. When musicians took delivery of their new instrument and discovered that the sound didn’t even resemble a bass guitar, they weren’t too impressed. For this reason, the original TB-303 was discontinued in 1984, with only 10,000 units having been manufactured.

 

Despite Roland ceasing to produce any more TB-303s, their popularity grew in parallel with the Acid House scene, thus creating a demand for the synth that outstripped supply. Since the original 303’s discontinuation, manufacturers such as Mode Machines, DINSync, Abstrakt Instruments, Behringer and others jumped at the opportunity to have their two cents on a synth classic. As such, there are a range of 303 clones that can be picked up on the second-hand market for considerably less than an original.

 

Who are some notable users of the Roland TB-303?

 

At the time of release, the sound of the Roland TB-303 spread like wildfire and made it into many corners of the music scene. Orange Juice used the 303 in their pop-hit Rip It Up, Daft Punk added a 303 sequence in the B section of Da Funk, and Timbaland used it while producing the bassline in Aaliyah’s Try Again.

 

 

Other notable users of the Roland TB-303 include Charanjit Singh, DJ Pierre, Josh Wink, New Order, Richie Hawtin, Fatboy Slim and many more.

 

Famous tracks that use the TB-303?

 

There are a whole host of tracks that wield the TB-303 as a production tool, and we’ve selected some standouts to give you a sense of what the synthesizer can do:

 

A Guy Called Gerald - Voodoo Ray

 

 

Fatboy Slim - Everybody Needs a 303

 

 

DJ Pierre - Let the Music Take You Higher (Yo Yo Mix)

 

 

Josh Wink - Higher State of Consciousness

 

 

What is Acid House music?

 

Acid House, commonly known as simply “Acid”, refers to House music that utilises a Roland TB-303 or similar to create the characteristic basses and leads that the synth is renowned for. For a song to fall into the House category it will generally have a 4/4 kick pattern and a tempo of 115bpm to 130bpm. Acid House was ubiquitous in nightclubs in the late 80s and 90s, owing to its synthesised sounds and repetitive drum patterns.

 

 

Acid House is relatively minimalistic by design, giving the TB-303 the chance to take centre stage in a production. An original Roland TB-303 doesn’t need to be used for a song to be officially classed as Acid House. There are several 303 clones, replicas and software emulations on the market that offer much of the same tone and usability of the original, without the price tag of a hardware classic.

 

To get your hands on the legendary 303 sound, check out the Loopmasters sample pack Three Zero Three, a definitive analogue Acid odyssey featuring the legendary 303 synthesizer and its many incarnations and clones.

 

How did the TB-303 produce its Acid-style sound?

 

The Roland TB-303 had a single oscillator, which could either be set to a sawtooth or square wave. While this may seem restrictive, it didn’t really matter. Much of the classic 303 sound can be credited to the synth’s filter circuit and internal sequencer. The 24dB per octave low pass filter could be controlled using the Cut Off Freq and Resonance knobs, but it was the filter envelope and accent control knobs that allowed producers to get truly creative.

 

Combining the complex but powerful sequencer with some filter tweaking made it quick and simple to create evolving basslines and lead sounds that sounded like nothing else. The sequencer’s Accent and Slide steps allowed the user to write dynamic and compelling sequences with little-to-no musical training.

 

How you can get the authentic 303 sound?

 

Ultimately, the best way to get those classic squelchy 303 tones in your productions, is by splashing out on an original on a second-hand marketplace such as eBay or Reverb. Sadly, many of us don’t have upwards of £2,000 to spend on a 40-year-old synthesiser.

 

Thankfully, there are other (more wallet-friendly) ways to get your hands on the authentic 303 sound, one of which would be to buy a 303 reimagining from Roland themselves. The TB-03 is a miniature TB-303 remake from Roland’s Boutique range, while the TB-3 is a modern interpretation of the original, complete with a new aesthetic and a touch screen.

 

Best TB-303 VST Plugins

 

If software is more your jam, there are a whole host of plugin emulations available too. D16 Group have the Phoscyon 2, Arturia have the Acid V, Audio Blast have the AcidBox V2, Applied Acoustic Systems have the Ultra Analog Session. As you can see, there are plenty of options for those wanting to capture the essence of the original Roland TB-303 sound, along with the practicality and price tag of software.

 

Where to find the best TB-303 samples?

 

Loopmasters is home to thousands of high-quality, royalty-free sample packs covering various instruments, styles and genres. It even has a page dedicated to the best Acid House sample packs from the likes of Blind Audio, Resonance Sound, UNDRGRND SOUNDS and many more.

 

Loopcloud has a huge catalogue of exclusive 303 collections available. 

 

 

We would recommend any of these Collections to get your Acid tracks off to a flying start.