In this day in age “808’s” have become an essential tool for music producers.
808’s are used in a wide variety of genres including EDM, Trap, R&B and much more… In most cases, 808’s are the core of the track and carries the track melodically.
As we know 808’s are important and you can easily drag and drop an 808 sample into your track and call it a day. But without understanding the proper techniques on how to use 808’s your track can be doomed from the start.
Below we’ve written 8 Tips For Crafting your 808’s to sit properly within your mix.
So let get started!
If you are using an 808 from a drum kit, it is essential that you choose the right sample that suits the genre and feel of your composition. Carefully choosing your samples from the start is very important. If you load samples that do not match the overall feel you’re going for, chances are you will struggle when mixing everything together.
Your 808’s should sound good before any processing has been done.
Audition several samples before deciding on the right one for your track. If you’re having a hard time choosing one, load multiple 808’s and toggle between them as you make progress on your song. Split testing your samples is a great way to experiment with your sound. This will give you different variations you can draw inspiration from and help determine which sample works best for your track.
So when you’re in your sound selection phase of your composition, be sure to be picky with the 808 you choose. You want to be sure to choose the right Sample that’ll translate the emotions you want to convey onto your listeners.
Additionally, this mindset also applies to all other sounds/samples.
Tuning Your 808’s
99% of the time you’re 808’s don’t sit properly in the mix because they’re out of tune with your song. 808 samples you download will almost always sound out of place when played with your melodies. I actually recommend Subculture 808’s because these samples are professionally made and pre-tuned.
If you don’t have Subculture 808’s, finding the correct key and tuning your 808’s can be a problem child and time consuming. This is actually a weak point for most producers who are just starting off. The easiest and fastest things you can do are transposing the samples and using with your ears to get the right sound. But if your ears aren’t trained to listen for these subtleties, luckily, there are plugins you can turn to that’ll help get this done.
Ableton actually has a stock plug-in called - Tuner.
Tuner is a very simple audio analyzer that detects notes, frequency and correct pitch in cents. Drag and drop the tuner onto your midi/audio track and let tuner do it’s thing. If you don’t use Ableton or don’t have access to the Tuner plug-in there are free plugins you can use such as, Gtuner or ERSdrums. You can apply this method to other samples that you’re using in your composition as well. Tuning your 808’s and other drum samples can significantly improve the overall sound of your productions.
Layer your 808’s with a kick
Many music producers pair their 808’s with a kick. If your composition feels empty or flat layering a kick on top of your 808 can give you the bottom sub, thump and punch. This technique of layering can add the extra oomph you’re looking for.
But there are some things you want to watch out for when doing this as you can undoubtedly drench your track with so much low-end frequencies that it distracts your listeners from experiencing your composition as a whole.
808’s take up a large chunk of the low-end frequency range. So, you’d want to experiment with layering it with a kick that’s short, tight and typically in the mid frequency range. You can also try grabbing a kick that’s in the higher frequency range giving you a little ‘top’ to the overall sound.
Applying EQ to your 808’s
EQ’ing 808’s is not necessary and probably necessary at the same time. This is actually dependent on the sample, song and role you want it to play in the mix. Here are few good questions to ask yourself when deciding on whether you should EQ your 808’s or not.
Is the 808 tuned?
Is the 808 layered with other samples?
If so, are all samples in tune with each other or are they clashing?
And, What frequencies are causing the problem?
For the most part, you’d want to make sure your 808’s and other samples are in tune and sound good together, usually with no EQ. If your 808’s are layered with a kick then EQ’ing is almost always a necessity.
With that being said, a great staring point is rolling off your lows below 20-30hz and adding a high shelf at around 1-2k.
This will clean up some the mud and give you a neater sound. Again, this is dependent on your track so experiment and try different things!
Applying Side-chain Compression to your 808’s
This is not totally necessary but Side-chain compression is one of my favorite techniques when it comes to mixing.
There are numerous ways to go about side chaining and almost every DAW supports this feature. Essentially what you’re doing is ducking the 808 out of the way when the kick hits. This gives the kick drum space to breathe and punch through those troublesome frequencies while allowing the low-end rumble of the 808 to resonate after the initial hit.
This is definitely the way to go if you’re looking for that pumping effect or if you want to add additional harmonics from the 808 while giving the kick drum room to poke through. There are no set rules to setting this up because every sample is different. You can create some pretty cool vibes using this technique. So be playful and experiment!
Adding Distortion to 808’s
We’ve all had trouble mixing 808’s at some point and that’s because 808’s are tricky to work with. As we’ve mentioned before 808’s are made up almost entirely of low-end frequencies. While your 808’s may appear loud and thumping on your monitors, they can disappear on smaller sound systems.
So how can you make your 808’s cut through on laptops, iPhones or ear buds??? Simple answer… Distortion!
When applying distortion to your 808, you’re basically elevating the harmonic tones of your 808. This causes our ears to think that the 808’s are louder than it actually is. Pretty awesome, aye?!
There are tools available like, SoundToys – Decapitator, that’ll do the trick. But, Ableton has a built in plug-in called: Dynamic Tube. This is actually a great starting point if you have no other options available.
A little color will help your 808’s pop out on smaller systems. So keep in mind that when applying distortion, subtlety is key and as always experiment until you get the sound you’re looking for.
Applying Saturation to 808’s
Saturation is another approach for subtle distortion. Like distortion, saturation also adds harmonics and character to your 808’s making them more audible on smaller speaker systems, such as ear buds, phones or laptop speakers. You want to use this technique sparingly as you can easily and quickly produce a blown out sound and that’s no no… The key to using this method is applying light saturation on the lower frequencies and heavier saturation on the harmonics (mid-range frequencies) of the 808.
As a starting point, use Ableton’s native plug-in - Saturator. Within the saturator, adjust the drive, Freq and width knob to your liking. Drop the ‘Base’ knob all the way down and work your way up until your ears are happy with they’re hearing. What the Base knob is doing is controlling how much of the lower-end frequencies are being affected. So the lower you go, the less the low-end will be affected.
The beautiful thing about music is that there are no rules to what you can create. So with that being said, there are no set guidelines to 808 placements in drum patterns. In fact, if there were guidelines it’d probably be very basic and boring. But keep in mind, the placement of your 808’s can make or break your track. For example, if you use an 808 with a short release setting, this can leave space in between your counts/beats resulting in a track that feels empty or bland. On the other hand, an 808 with a long release setting can result to overlapping notes or tones and can quickly muddy up your track. And this leads us back to our previous tips, choose wisely, experiment and have fun!
So there you have it, 8 mixing tips on crafting your 808’s.
We absolutely appreciate you reading through this article and hope you take away a few new tricks to test out on your own.
If you’ve made it this far I’d like to leave you with a little secret weapon of mine…
Its called RBass from Waves… This is a plug-in for processing sub bass and IMO a very good one!
What RBass does is, it produces deeper, richer lows that translates very well on most sound systems.
We truly hope you enjoy these fast and easy ways to improve your 808’s!
If you have any questions about anything in this article don’t hesitate to shoot us an email or contact us below!
Thanks again for reading!
Now get out there and create something that the world hasn’t heard yet!
Written for TheProducerKit.com by
IDKjunior | Producer | Guest Blogger
IDKjunior is an aspiring music producer based in Vallejo, Ca.
IDK’s passion for music began as young child being exposed to other producers and dj’s. While in high school, IDKjunior saved enough money to invest into turntables and began DJ’ing Hard House, Jungle and Trance. This hobby slowly turned into an obsession. He then began wanting learn more about music production and eventually bought his first DAW, Fruity Loops (FLstudio) and the rest is history.
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