by Native Instruments

The best songs featuring the iconic
TR-909 drum machine

The best songs featuring the iconic TR909

The TR-909 drum machine is renowned for its punchy and crisp kick drum, its bright, sharp snare snap, and its tight, metallic hi-hats. It’s been featured in both chart-topping hits and experimental tracks, and we’re exploring the entire range of the TR-909 in a Spotify playlist created by Native Instruments’ manager of sound design, Antonio de Spirt in honor of our new Expansion, Drum State.

Drum State captures an essential drum machine in all its vibrant colors and shades. With more than 241 loops, 539 drum samples, and dozens of kits, you can explore every sonic detail from this essential building block of pop and electronic music.

Let’s dig into the top 10 picks from this Spotify playlist to get you inspired to create your own legendary sounds.

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What is the TR-909?

The TR-909 drum machine was created in 1984 by the Roland Corporation. It’s renowned for its iconic analog drum sounds which have become staples in electronic music genres such as techno, house, and acid. The TR-909’s distinctive sound and easy-to-use interface have made it a classic piece of equipment, shaping the sound of countless tracks and influencing generations of musicians and producers.

Roland TR909
Roland TR909, courtesy of Brandon Daniel

1. Daft Punk – “Revolution 909”

The drums in Daft Punk’s “Revolution 909” feature a punchy, driving kick drum that propels the track with a thumping beat that’s characteristic of the TR-909’s signature sound.

The track also includes crisp hi-hats and a tight snare, creating a dynamic and infectious rhythm that underpins the song’s groove.

2. Madonna – “Vogue”

Known for its celebration of glamour and self-expression, the drums in Madonna’s “Vogue” are characterized by a sleek, syncopated beat with a crisp snare, sharp hi-hats, and a pulsating bass drum that drive the song’s iconic dance rhythm.

3. Robin S. – “Show Me Love”

The percussion “Show Me Love” by Robin S. features a driving house beat created by the punchy, rhythmic kick drum combined with crisp, snappy hi-hats.

4. Phil Collins – “Take Me Home”

The drums in Phil Collins’s “Take Me Home” are characterized by a powerful and distinctive gated reverb effect on the snare, creating a dense, atmospheric rhythm that drives the song.

5. Aphex Twin – “Heliosphan”

“Heliosphan” is characterized by intricate layers of shimmering synthesizers, hypnotic arpeggios, and pulsating rhythms that ebb and flow. The drums provide the foundation for this dream-like atmosphere, with glitchy rhythms and unconventional patterns that are combined with ethereal synthesizers.

6. Adamski, Seal – “Killer”

“Killer” is one of the prime examples of early 1990s electronic music that includes pulsating bass drum pattern and crisp, syncopated hi-hats. With Seal’s soulful vocals on top of the TR-909, this track became an instant classic.

7. Whitney Houston – “I’m Every Woman”

Whitney’s empowerment anthem features a lively combination of dynamic kick drums, crisp snare hits, and vibrant hi-hats.

8. Kendrick Lamar ft. Summer Walker & Ghostface Killah – “Purple Hearts”

The laid-back vibe of “Purple Hearts” compliments the snappiness of the vintage TR-909 sound. The drums help carry the smooth groove throughout the song, and the cymbals add some sparkle and shimmer to an otherwise tight percussion sound.

9. LFO – “LFO (The Leeds Warehouse Mix)”

This classic acid house track features a raw, stripped-down percussion sound that gives the song its underground vibe. It also features the TB-303 bass synthesizer.


10. Plastikman – “Spastik”

“Spastik” is a quintessential example of minimalist techno that includes intricate and distorted metallic percussion. These drums bring a hypotonic, trance-like vibe to the song that have helped it become a staple in DJ sets worldwide.

Get inspired with iconic drum sounds

Now that you’ve heard some of the best examples of the iconic electric drum machine, it’s time to get started on your own tracks. Check out the Drum State Expansion and use it to endless rhythmic possibilities that span multiple genres.

Get Drum State

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