3 Tips To Instantly Improve Your 808s Today!
3 TIPS TO INSTANTLY IMPROVE YOUR 808s TODAY!
Written By: Eric “Realistic” Michael
808 kick drums are a staple in Trap & Hip Hop. They have even started shaping other modern music genres as a whole the last few years. Having an 808 that hits with impact & power in your mix can set you apart & make the listening experience even better! After you come up with the pattern, notes, & slides you want, these techniques will help shape your 808 to hit even better!
One key factor with a great sounding mix on your 808s is choosing the right samples & choosing high quality 808s. Our latest 808 Pack is a massive library of high quality 808s. 808 Formula 3 comes with 88 one shots, 20 audio loops, 20 MIDI loops, & 20 chord progressions. It’s filled with all types of 808s that have different styles & tones and they’re all tuned to the note “C natural” for easy beat making.
Now that you have your high quality 808s in place, let’s get into how to get the most out of 808s in your mix!
1) Add a bass generator
This is how we are going to make the 808 felt & shake the room. The most common one to use is a plugin by WAVES called “RBass”. This plugin goes on sale for around $29 a few times a year, so if you’re looking to grab it one day, just be on the lookout for the sale! If you don’t want to drop the cash on a new plugin, you can make your own RBass style plugin by side-chaining your DAWs stock signal generator (or sometimes called an oscillator) to your 808. There’s a few steps, but it’s not too bad to knock out & we have a full video tutorial on how to execute making your own.
What this technique is doing is adding a sine wave underneath your 808. You choose the frequency inside of the plugin & it plays a sine wave at that frequency underneath your 808 & stops playing when the 808 is no longer playing.
We recommend adding 2-3 of these to your 808 chain at different frequencies. Each song is different, so you will want to play around with the frequency setting to find the right fit, but set the1st one between 32-40Hz, the second one between 60-70Hz, & the 3rd one between 120-130Hz. 32-40Hz is going to be for subwoofers & you won’t hear this one most basic speakers, but it’s good to account for subwoofers & systems with powerful sub range, because the last thing you want is for your tracks to sound weak on a powerful system. 60-70Hz is the area that we want to feel the bass & not so much hear it. This is the area that will give us the trunk rattlers & the feeling of bass through our whole bodies when the 808 is hitting. 120-130Hz will help us hear the sub-tones better & also add some thickness to the 808 that will help for punch. Each area plays a different but important role. That’s why we recommend adding three & targeting each different area. We also recommend lowering the intensity a bit too. We usually aim for the intensity to be between -10 to -5, otherwise it becomes overwhelming which will create chaos & muddiness in the mix.
2) DO YOUR DISTORTION ON A PARALLEL CHANNEL
This is where the magic comes into play & will set your 808s apart from everyone else. Chances are you’re already aware that adding distortion to your 808 can really get it to cut through the mix; however, you may have noticed that when you apply the distortion directly on your 808, you lose some important sub-frequency information & it doesn’t quite shake the room the way it did before the distortion was added. The reason for this is because the distortion is exciting the harmonics & turning the low end information into high end information. You can still have the best of both worlds though! Just duplicate your 808 channel so now you have two channels with your 808 on it. On the1st channel, leave all you of your bass generator information on it (like RBass). We want the 1st channel to be all low end & nothing else. We even recommend adding a low-pass filter & set it to about 300Hz. That way this channel is purely meant for sub-frequencies.
On your new channel, you will want to remove your bass generators. Add a high pass filter as the first thing in the chain & set it to around 280Hz. What we just did was remove all of the sub-frequencies so now they won’t clash with the original 808 channel. Next, you will want to add your favorite distortion plugin. Our two favorites are Decapitator & Saturn, but really any distortion plugin will work. Even stock plugins! You can get a little aggressive with the drive knob on this too. 4-6 is a pretty good drive level to aim for with your distortion on this channel. You will want to give it some bite to it really cuts through the mix & the bass is well heard.
This will help your 808 be heard on all different types of speakers now, including smartphone, laptop, & Bluetooth speakers. What we did with this technique was excite all the midrange frequencies without affecting any of the low end frequencies. The 1st channel with all of the bass information is the channel that is meant to be felt. The 2nd channel with the distortion & no low end is meant to be heard. Now you have the best of both worlds & all that’s left is blending the two to taste!
Extra tip! You may want to have your 1st channel (low end) be lower in volume than the 2nd channel (high end). The 1st channel is meant to be felt, so the volume doesn’t need to be very high. Having it lower will give you more headroom & avoid muddiness/clashing throughout the mix as well. That’s the advantage of this technique too because we can make the bass well heard without adding a ton of low end to the mix.
3) ADD SOME COMPRESSION
Adding some compression to your 808 can really give it some thickness & knock! Believe it or not, we actually recommend adding two compressors in the chain back-to-back. The 1st compressor is set to just lightly tame things & really just add some tone. The 2nd compressor is meant to be a little bit more aggressive & add some punch to it. You will want to add the compressors to your 1st original bass channel (low end) & not your 2nd duplicated bass channel (high end.) It’s such a simple move, but yet it will add some extra power to your 808!
Here are the settings we recommend:
- Slow attack
- Slow release
- Around 2dB in gain reduction
- Medium attack
- Medium release
- Around 4-5dB in gain reduction
That’s all you need to do to improve your 808s instantly! You should notice a drastic improvement to the impact, power, & over feel of your 808s with these techniques. Feel free to save this blog to have as a guide to follow along with when you implement this technique on your next mix! We also have a full video demonstrating some of these same techniques that’s free to watch on YouTube called “Make Your Bass Heard On Any Speaker Every Time!”
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Realistic is a Music Producer and Engineer located in the Twin Cities. He has been producing music for Hip-Hop & Pop music since 2004. In 2017 he graduated with an AAS in Music Production & Engineering. Real is the chief mixing engineer for SoundOracle.net where mixes all loops & sounds on the site & also provides mixing & mastering services on the site to artists & producers.