Whether you’re producing Trap, Hip-Hop, RnB or Lofi, 808 Bass Drums are one of the most used and important elements, even sometimes in House and Pop. To celebrate our latest Trap pack, Festival Trap 3, we have put together 5 tips and tricks for getting your 808’s sounding fat, tight and clean.
Download the full pack here: Festival Trap 3
1. Bouncing to Audio
What makes an 808 so iconic is the long decay/release that causes that low end boom and rumble. The problem with working with 808’s in midi is the inability to see the tail of the audio. If the second 808 starts, before the first finishes, they overlap and can cause problems, such as muddying up the mix and phasing. There is two ways to avoid this. Some synths allow you to set the voicing to mono, meaning only one note can play at the same time. Another way to avoid overlap is to bounce to audio and apply appropriate cuts and fades at the end of the clips. This technique has our preference as you’re able to see the waveform and allows you to be more accurate.
Adding distortion or saturation to your 808’s will add depth and allow them to cut through the mix more. 808’s are primarily composed of low frequencies that don’t translate well through phones, laptops, earbuds and cheap speakers. Adding these overtones using saturation will produce more midrange frequencies making for a more powerful sound and allow the overall sound to be identified more clearly on any speaker.
3. Subtractive EQ
A key tip for a cleaner 808 is to do some precise EQ’ing. Always check for problematic frequencies and reduce the band by an appropriate amount, without butchering the sound too much and taking away its body. Resonant frequencies can build up if a lot of processing has been applied to the sound, so they usually need some taking care of. If you struggle to find the frequencies by ear naturally, start with a very narrow EQ band and sweep the spectrum until you hear tones that sound out of place or out of key.
Using an 808 bass together with a kick drum and struggling to balance them, even with the help of subtractive EQ’ing? Side-chaining can go a long way to make both the kick and the 808 bass more powerful and punchy. Use side-chain compression or manual side-chain, and side-chain the 808 bass to the kick drum. This means every time the kick hits, the 808 bass will duck to let through the punch of the kick. This way you avoid any unpleasant muddiness.
Check out our blog post on our favourite side-chain plugins here.
Compression is key for bringing elements forward in the mix and adding body. Try using an Optical or FET compressor with a short attack, medium release and heavy ratio. Having it just touch the compressor with 1-3db reduction will really bring the 808 to life. Remember to always match your input/output levels to achieve unity gain. Not only does this stop any unforeseen clipping, but allows you to correctly listen back to the compressor and actually hear what it’s adding (or not) to the sound.
Sometimes, when your 808 is played low in the register, it might be hard to make out which note is being played. Try to transpose it up an octave, this will make it easier to detect which notes you are playing. Then, once you know you’ve got the correct notes, transpose it back down to the original octave.
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