The Ultimate Guide to the TR-8S Rhythm Performer – Creating a Pattern in TR-REC Mode

TR-8S Ultimate Guide
TR-8S Guide

Let’s start from scratch and create a pattern using the 16 Pads just to the right of the Start/Stop button at the front of the Roland TR-8S. These pads let us access the 16 steps of the sequencer which we use to program beats.

TR-8S Guide

TR-style step recording was first introduced in the Roland TR-808. It’s still a great way to quickly create patterns, with clear visual feedback showing the beats on which each instrument is playing.

The steps of the sequencer are by default set to sixteenth notes, so the 16 steps make up one bar having four beats. The first step of each beat is highlighted in grey.

First select an empty pattern to start creating your new beat. Press and hold the PTN Select button, located in the upper left of the control surface, just below the Volume Knob and the SHIFT Button.

TR-8SThen press Pad 8 to choose Bank #8. Release the PTN Select button and press Pad 1 to select Pattern #1.

Press the TR-REC Button, just to the right of the PTN Select Button, to enter Step Recording mode.

Press the BD button, just below the far left fader on the front panel, to select the Bass Drum Instrument.

Now to create a basic “four on the floor” pattern. With a Bass Drum on each beat, press Pads 1, 5, 9 and 13. Those Pads will now light in red, showing the Bass Drum is assigned to each of the selected steps.

Press the Start/Stop button to start playing your pattern.

TR-8SNext to add the Snare Drum, press the SD button, just to the right of the BD button, to select the Snare Drum Instrument, then press Pads 5 and 13. The selected Pads light up in red, and the Snare Drum plays on the second and fourth beats of the measure.

Now for one more element, let’s add a classic “high hat on the upbeats”: Press the CH button to select the Closed High Hat Instrument. Press Pads 3,7,11 and 15.

Congratulations you’ve just created your first beat on the TR-8S!

(Of course, this activity can be highly habit-forming.) 

Contributed by Alexander Marlowe for Roland Corporation Australia

Creating Variations within Patterns

The TR-8S gives us the ability to record up to eight Variations per Pattern. This is achieved using the Variation Buttons A-H, located just above the Start/Stop Button. If you’d like to record another Variation in the same Pattern, just press another one of the buttons A-H and repeat the steps described above. Maybe try a different high hat pattern, or experiment with adding a snare drum hit on another step of the sequence.
To clear a pattern, press the PTN Select button, then hold the Clear button, located just above the TR-REC button, and press the Pad of the pattern you want to clear.


It’s super easy to add an instrument to every step of the pattern.

For example, to add a Closed High Hat on every step: press the TR-REC button, press the CH button, make sure none of the Pads are lighted red, if any of them are, press those Pads to turn them off. Now place your index finger just to the left of Pad 1, press down and slide your finger from left to right across the sixteen pads to select them all.

This gives you Closed High Hats playing on every 16th note of the measure. Press the Start/Stop Button to start playing your Pattern. To experiment with different high hat rhythms, you can now try pressing random Pads to turn off and on some of the steps, until you find a high hat pattern that feels right.

If you want to clear the high hat and start fresh, press and hold the CH button and press the Clear button to erase the entire high hat pattern.

Article written by Alex Marlowe

Alex MarloweAlex Marlowe is a Composer/Producer, Musician and Consultant based in Melbourne, Australia. Alex has placed music in numerous movies and TV shows, and toured worldwide as a keyboardist with major artists. As a Teacher and Consultant, Alex has worked with platinum songwriters, music editors, producers and composers, and conducted courses in Music Production and Music Software, including at the Songwriting School of Los Angeles. You can find more info, and contact Alex at:

TR-8S Ultimate Guide

This Article is part of a series called The Ultimate Guide to the TR-8S Rhythm Performer, for the Guide’s Main Page click here.

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