Part of the appeal of the Roland TR-8 drum machine and TB-3 bassline synth is their hands-on control. But apart from the normal reasons you’d additionally want external MIDI control, you’ll need it for certain kinds of automation recording.

The problem is, the AIRAs (at least with their current firmware) lack the ability to record automation internally. You can record patterns on the TR-8 and TB-3, but not changes to sound parameters, effects, or that Scatter thing. So, if you’re making a pattern and find a shifting timbre or glitchy effect you like, there’s no way to save it easily for performance (apart from recording audio, of course).

The solution is to make use of MIDI Control Change messages. Yet, for a company that almost always fastidiously shares its MIDI implementation in documentation, Roland has mysteriously not done so on AIRA. Fortunately, my colleague NERK, with whom I make music as the dubious, shady techno duo NERKKIRN, has gone through and worked out what the MIDI messages are.

A complete list (so far) for both the TB-3 and TR-8 is below. These aren’t official, so it’s possible there are more messages missing; we’re in touch with Roland to try to find out, but if you’ve discovered any more, or any more tips or hacks, we’d love to hear them.

NERK, aka Benjamin Weiss, has also built some Max for Live remotes for each device. The TR-8 is available as both a Drum Rack and a remote control surface, for convenience. Download them free at maxforlive.com:


Roland AIRA TR-8 Drum Rack and Remote 1.0


Roland AIRA TB-3 Remote 1.0

With those patches, it’s even easier to take control of parameters by mapping them to other hardware, including Ableton’s own Push, as Ableton LiveSchool demonstrates in a recent tutorial:

Now, on to the MIDI implementation. So far, if it’s an onboard control on either device in the form of a knob or fader, you can automate it with MIDI.

There are some more frustrating limitations that it appears can’t be solved with this approach, however. On the TB-3, for instance, my understanding is that you can’t transmit slide changes when playing patterns. Slide is recorded in step mode, but not in real-time recording (which is a bit bizarre, as it seems you’d want it even more in the latter) – that I’ve confirmed with Roland. If I’m correct that you can’t transmit these via MIDI, it limits the TB-3’s usefulness as a sequencer for external gear and means you can’t use this to record.

That said, I still think these two boxes deliver phenomenal value. They sound great, they have lots of controls, they’re great fun to use, and they look … well, okay, I’m going to look into how to cover up those green edges. I’m hopeful for a firmware update that fills in the gaps, but it’s still pretty easy to recommend the two – especially when armed with this MIDI knowledge the docs forgot.

Here we go:

See De:Bug Magazine for the complete German versions and coverage:

AIRA TR-8 und TB-3 in Live modulieren und die Liste der MIDI CCs


MIDI implementation

Note that this is both send and receive. The TB-3 I think is a pretty useful controller for outboard gear, so that works nicely.


71, Accent
9, Shuffle

91, Reverb Level
89, Reverb Time
90, Reverb Gate

16, Delay Level
17, Delay Time
18, Delay Feedback

12, Ext In Level
13, Ext In Side Chain

20, BD Tune
21, BD Attack
22, BD Comp
23, BD Decay
24, BD Volume

25, SD Tune
26, SD Snappy
27, SD Comp
28, SD Decay
29, SD Volume

46, LT Tune
47, LT Decay
48, LT Volume

49, MT Tune
50, MT Decay
51, MT Volume

52, HT Tune
53, HT Decay
54, HT Volume

55, RS Tune
56, RS Decay
57, RS Volume

58, HC Tune;
59, HC Decay;
60, HC Volume;

61, CH Tune
62, CH Decay
63, CH Volume

80, OH Tune
81, OH Decay
82, OH Volume

83, CC Tune
84, CC Decay
85, CC Volume

86, RC Tune
87, RC Decay
88, RC Volume


74, Cutoff
71, Resonance
16, Accent
17, Effect
12, ENV
13, MOD
11, X

Updated: Change the lights. Thanks to reader Lorido on this tip, via comments:

hold “PTN SELECT” *+ power on (under the hood mode)
hold “DEPTH (scatter)” + turn “Scatter Wheel”
you can choose of 6 color sets no. 2 is dimmed original
hit “START/STOP” to save

No word yet on what up up down down left right left right does.

For more NERK:


NERKKIRN at V-Records

And for German speakers, De:Bug lives online:

  • B

    Good work! I dont suppose you have figured out any more ‘under the hood’ controls? How do I make the lights a little dimmer?

  • Lorido

    hold “PTN SELECT” *+ power on (under the hood mode)
    hold “DEPTH (scatter)” + turn “Scatter Wheel”
    you can choose of 6 color sets no. 2 is dimmed original
    hit “START/STOP” to save

    have fun

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Whoa. Nice. Adding that to the story.

    • Lorido

      Hi Peter, you are welcome :)

      I dont´t know if iam allowed to link to other Forums, but on GS there is a nice tips and tricks thread ” Aira questions and tricks ”

      all the candy for the color mode switch goes to user “Pesco” on GS
      he found the dim / color modes in trial and error :)

      have fun.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Absolutely! It’s the Internet, feel free to link anywhere – um, anywhere respectable. Link? :)

    • Syver
  • Secret Squirrel

    I really don’t know what Roland are up to holding back info like this but after speaking with someone at the company he divulged a couple more “under the hood” settings which he was not allowed to tell me about and that I have found no mention of anywhere on the internet about. Both things make the TR8 behave rather differently than out of the box. I’ve tested and they are real. Maybe they are working so hard to finish the System 1 and the MIDI box (which is out in July BTW) they need to hold back information to look as though they’ve been busy with new FW…I don’t know but it’s weird…The other thing is I wonder what secrets the TB3 holds??

    • Deft Monk

      System 1 is out in july??!?! what the bajeezus is the midi box haven’t seen anything about that

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yes, upgrades via firmware seem likely, and that could unlock other functionality. I had heard the same. There’s nothing yet, though, so nothing to comment on.

  • b

    Thanks for that Lorido.
    Secret squirell – tell us how to do this then? Its not cool to be coy!

  • wndfrm

    yes.. do share more secret modes :) i’ve been enjoying the simple joy of triggering my nord mod with the note outs.. it makes a nice controller too.

    • mikee

      have you been successfull in actually using the assignable outs as proper trigger outs? I know they will synch to tempo, but getting the notes right I have had no success with. No one has ever made a video of it either. Please see


  • Just another user

    All of these comments seem fake.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Um… I think they’re real. 😉

  • trash80

    Nice. He may want to change the knob’s “Update Limit (ms)” parameter in the inspector so something higher than 1 ms to avoid high CPU usage when sequencing automation. Especially since MIDI can’t go that fast. That knob parameter is always overlooked- the default is way too low for practical usage. Think I usually set it to 10. Sequence 4 of the knobs and watch the CPU usage spike at 1ms. 😐

  • slee

    Roland has gotten around to posting the “Official” midi cc chart….


    Found it here:


  • Sava

    This may be a dumb question but on the tr8, there are 16 kits and 8 different kicks for example, are they defined anywhere, ie 1) 808 kick 2) 909 kick, etc? Also, tr8 only has 16 memory locations, will this be updated? Any way to do a sysex dump?

  • seixlack

    is it possible to record the rolls?

  • Guest

    I was trying to get the TB-3 to send MIDI notation into the Korg Volca Bass, but I was only able to get a time code sync. What am I missing?

  • Lee S

    I was trying to get the TB-3 to send MIDI notation into the Korg Volca Bass, but I was only able to get a time code sync. What am I missing??

    • themood13

      Midi channel maybe. Make sure the Tb-3 and Volca Bass are on the same channel if you want the tb-3 to trigger notes on the VBass. GL.

  • Kepi

    Is it possible to control the pattern selection (between A/B) via midi?

  • https://soundcloud.com/voice303 Voice303

    Does Anyone know if its possible to trigger different sequences on the TB-3 sequencer using midi? I see you can play the TB-3 using your midi keyboard in a traditional manner, but as for actually changing the sequencer pattern or sound setting I am at a loss. Being able to do automation is great but the real power and sound of the TB-3 comes into play with its internal sequencer. I have just been programming the sequences and manually recording me playing them.

    • https://soundcloud.com/voice303 Voice303

      BTW for all who use Reaper I have created a track template you can use in a similar manner to the above Ableton Live plugin: http://stash.reaper.fm/v/20697/TB-3.RTrackTemplate


    • https://soundcloud.com/voice303 Voice303

      I recommend you use my new JSFX script instead as it gives you nicely named sliders and envelopes which makes using it much nicer: http://stash.reaper.fm/v/20717/tb-3

  • syver

    Thanks. I was able to use the TR-8 Drumrack very easily but I have failed to used the TB3 remote. How do you set this up in Ableton ? with an External Instrument ?

  • Josh
  • André et Michèle

    Just discovered a firmware update for the TR-8 released today:


    Includes some changes to rolls, scatter enable, and host of other miscellaneous things; no new instruments though (at least according to the documentation). Haven’t had a chance to try the update yet . . .

  • Radical Light

    just down loaded the Max for live Tr-8 controller. Thank you. I love you.

  • hexclan

    don’t buy it, it lacks the analgue components that give that authentic sound and texture…this is like running an overpriced pc with a circuit modeled virtual vst…shame on you Roland AIRA is going to ruin your legendary reputation by alienating the cult followers…

  • ACIDis

    When controlling the tr8 via midi from an external sequencer and if you wan’t it not only to receive clock sync signal but also the start/stop command perform the following:
    Hold “patern select” and power up the tr8, then look at the sixth button, if it’s illuminated the tr will not respond to external start /stop signals. When it’s not illuminated the tr is ready to receive start/stop… Save the desired setting by pushing “start /stop”. Took me a while to figure this out ( btw; this is only possible after the 1.1 firmware update has been performed). Hope this will help someone. …