Robotic 808 drum-machine

Moritz Simon Geist recreated the iconic 808 drum-machine using analog parts and robotic controllers, experimenting with many instruments in order to recreate the 808's repertoire. However, Geist is interested in "error" in music, saying, ". A drum beaten by a mechanic robot arm can never be as predictable as a computer generated sound. Consequently, the mechanic character of the installation MR-808 introduces fallibility into the performance."

For the installation MR-808 eleven sound of the 808 were replaced by mechanical actuators and physical tone-makers. I designed all instruments in reference to the famous sounds of the TR-808. A huge number of experiments were carried out since 2011 and a varity of instruments have been built. The instruments include: Snare, Bass drum, Hi-Hat, Carabassa, Clave, Ride, Clap, Tom (3x) and Cowbell.

Motors and solenoids were used as actuators, which are triggered by a power electronic device and an Arduino Microcontroller. The musical control is realized with MIDI, the latency and the lighting control system are implemented in MAX / MSP. You can read more about the details of the techniques here.

Let’s get mechanical: MR-808 is the first drum robot that reproduces the drum sounds of the 80s – in the real world (via JWZ)


  1. Step 1: Build kickass Robotic 808 drum-machine.
    Step 2: Invite Trent Reznor over for the evening.
    Step 3: Profit!

  2. utterly awesome.  unfortunately it doesn’t really sound like an 808.  at least not from the recording…

  3. I wonder if the “clap” sound is made with real human hands, electronically actuated?  I did not see any in the video.

    1. There used to be this place in Houston called Pipe Organ Pizza. It had an old theater organ with not just every kind of pipe, but also pneumatically actuated percussion and other special effects. I understand that there were similar pizza places in other cities. Place only lasted about five years.

      This video reminded me of it. 

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