Using A Roland TR-8 To Play Expressive Synths In Ableton

The Roland AIRA TR-8 is an incredibly powerful standalone performance and production tool – but what would happen if you super-charged it with a bit of creative MIDI mapping and sound manipulation in Ableton Live? In part one of a new series, Ean shares his technique for taking the tom-tom channel on the TR-8, adding resonance to create a synthesizer-like sound, and then adding more effects on top. It makes for an expressive and fun performance tool – watch the full video inside.

MIDI Mapping Roland TR-8 In Ableton

Basic Setup Instructions

As a reminder for if you’re setting this up for yourself, here’s what Ean did in this video:

  • Connect the Roland TR-8 to Ableton Live via USB
  • Send the TR-8’s audio output into Ableton Live – set up a new audio channel for each instrument on the TR-8
  • Make sure the TR-8 is also set up as a MIDI input device in Ableton’s preferences – this allows you to MIDI map the controls on the device
  • Add an Ableton Resonator device to the Tom channel – in the video, Ean applies the Berlin preset.
  • Hunt for expressive controls inside of the Resonator (Color, Decay, etc), find a solid range, and MIDI map the TR-8’s knobs to them. Use Ableton’s mapping interface to set the start and end points for the knobs’ controls!
  • Note that the original control of the knob will still exist – for example, in the video Ean maps the resonator’s decay to the decay knob for the tom channel. Try to find controls that work well together!
  • Add a Grain Delay audio effect, apply the Kick Toner preset to detune and repitch the synth – and map the

Gear Used In This Video

Want to see this technique in action in a performance? There’s a full performance video in this series coming out soon, but int the mean time, see a similar setup in a performance that posted to Ean’s Facebook page back in October:

Back in action with a fresh One Take Track #LiveMusic

Posted by Ean Golden on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stay tuned to DJTT in the coming weeks for more tutorials from Ean on making music production more interesting and playable. 

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