Roland TR-66 Rhythm Arranger

Roland TR-66 Image

The TR-66, released in 1973, is one of the earliest models of drum machine to come from Roland, and it was also the precursor to the more famous CR-line of CompuRhythm drum machines that would come out of Roland five years later. The TR-66, however, is not truly a drum machine—it is a rhythm arranger, just like it says on the front! There are 18 initial drum patterns using kick, snare and hihat sounds arranged into several rock, swing, march and dance patterns. These patterns could then be combined with one (or more) of the 9 stylized rhythm patterns selected by the buttons along the bottom row of the TR-66. These included Waltz, Cha-Cha, Bossa Nova, Rhumba, etc. Two or more rhythm pattern buttons can be pressed simultaneously for more unique combinations. All 27 patterns also have an A/B/Auto variation mode. There are literally hundreds of possible rhythm arrangements!

Sonically, the TR-66 is a classic. All of its 11 sounds are pure analog. They’re nothing too fancy, but they have a soft and warm sound quality reminiscent of what was later found in the CR-series. The sounds include kick, snare, hihat, conga, bongos, claves, maracas, cowbell, rim shot, and cymbal. There’s no sound edit ability, however, other than the “Balance” knob which acts like an overall tone control. Tempo can be roughly adjusted—there is a giant knob with “Slow” to “Fast” indicators on it—the tempo range covers 50 to 200 bpm. With only a Start Switch input in the rear, there is no hope of actually synchronizing the TR-66 to any other equipment in your studio (without modifying it).

The TR-66 probably offers little use to modern day music production, practically speaking. The inability to synchronize it means that if anybody wants to use its Rhythm Arrangements, and many still do, the strategy is often to sample it, and work with the sampled loops inside your DAW. Of course, that also means there are plenty of pre-sampled TR-66 loops out there so musicians can easily get TR-66 sounds without ever owning one. Actual units are more often collected, sampled by their owners, and otherwise shown off as a display piece of a classic Roland instrument that came before its more famous CR-series and TR-series descendants.

The TR-66 has been used by Depeche Mode and Roxy Music.

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13 Visitor comments
senor v
June 25, 2011 @ 5:18 pm
Unusable? I was getting a little groove off Audio Clip 1. Definitely going to download and run it through my MPC just to see what I can come up with, and if I can find one down the road, I'll most certainly get it.
July 23, 2010 @ 10:51 pm
Martin Gore has one, he probably samples it into his mpc!?
October 15, 2009 @ 10:36 am
the TR-66 appeared way before the CR-68 and sounds nothing like it or the CR-78. the TR-66 sounds much darker and thicker than the CR series. by using the 27 presets (alone or in combination) , the balance knob and the variations, this box is quite useful. especially for live electronic performances. easily one of my fave early beatboxs...
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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - 6 voice
  • Sounds - Kick, Snare, Rim shot, Claves, HiHat, Cymbal, Conga, Low Bongo, High Bongo, Cowbell, Maracas
  • Controls - Tempo and balance
  • Patterns - 27 Patterns: 18 Drum patterns and 9 Rhythm patterns
  • Keyboard - None
  • Control - Start Switch Trigger Input
  • Weight - 8.8 pounds (4 Kg)
  • Date Produced - 1973

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