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
Mike S.
March 8, 2013 @ 2:23 pm
This little machine is DA FUNK! I will never sell mine.
Ai100
February 26, 2013 @ 2:25 pm
I have one. It sounds really nice. And better housing than the CR68.
Henrik Appelt
December 4, 2012 @ 10:33 am
This drum machine is not a slimmed down CR68. It's half a decade older and sounds much better. Has more sounds too. It's from 1973. The later CR68/78 are from late 70's.
The TR77 is very difficult to add MIDI triggers too, but the TR-66 is just as easy as the CR's to add triggers too. And it sounds as good as the TR77. There seems a big misunderstandig going on with the TR-66. It was figured in later catalogs alongside the TR808 and CR68/78 showing to have had an extremly long production life. 9 years or more. Not difficult to understand if you know the qualities of this machine.
Chris
October 3, 2012 @ 5:31 am
I had a chance to hear one these in action at the weekend. I'd bought a TR-77 on eBay, and when I went to pick it up the seller also had a TR-66 that he was kind enough to demo for me. It sounds great, with a lot of "body" to the sounds and definitely not the thin sounds I expected. I'd go as far as saying that the kick and snare are better than the TR-77 although the 66 has far fewer sounds overall. I'm going to keep an eye out for one, as not only does it sound good, it should also be easier to fit external trigger inputs to than the 77 since it doesn't appear to use inverted triggers.
donkeith
April 25, 2012 @ 1:05 pm
i,had one of these and my x wife sold it during a divorce.it was great machine. where can i get another? please let me know,
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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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