How To Mix 808 Kick Drums
The 808 kick has become synonymous with contemporary music and has shaped so many amazing genres including Hip-hop, Trap, House & Pop. Interestingly though, this incredible drum machine was originally created as a play along tool for musicians who didn’t have a drummer to hand. After launching in the 1980, the unit flopped and ceased manufacturing. It was only through necessity that poor Hip-Hop & House producers would reach for this machine and turn it into the icon it has become today. Fancy knowing more? We covered the 808 in depth over > > HERE > >
The development of this incredible kick has often lead to producers struggling to control the incredible sub frequencies leaving their mixes flabby and weak. We explored a few ideas on the best way to tame the beast!
What is the 808 Kick?
The 808 kick is kick drum sound found inside the 808 Rhythm Composer. The sound is highly tuneable, had a controllable decay dial and offered new levels of sub frequency rarely used in music of the 80’s.
Controlling Subs & EQ
Remember, just because you’re loving having your room shake with subs doesn’t always mean it’s the best thing for the mix.
Try high passing your 808 sub at 20hz and begin working up from there. Depending on the tuning and note choices you might be able to go higher without losing the weight and impact.
You may often find the fundamental frequency of the 808 can be a little too intense. Try using a notch EQ for lower the level of this fundamental. Remember, as we mentioned in our EQ guide > > HERE > > it’s not always necessary to gain our notch down by 30dB, we’re just trying to level things out a little. See examples below:
Side-Chain Compression & Kick Compromise
Side chaining your 808 to the kick can be a great way to stop clashing sub frequencies. Technique:
- Place a compressor on your 808 channel (Make sure the comp has an external trigger (key) input.
- Set the input of the compressor to your kick channel
- Set the threshold so that each time the kick plays you get a little gain reduction on your 808 channel.
- Changing the attack and release time can have drastic effects on the impact of your 808. Fast release and it starts to pump, slow release and you might lose the impact of your subs, balance is key so experiment.
An often overthought idea is to really think about the relationship between your kick and the 808. If the sub is huge do you really need the kick to have lots of energy around 40hz? Maybe choose a kick that knocks at a higher frequency and sits above the sub. The impact of them both will be much greater than having clashing / competing frequencies.
Saturation & Harmonics – Small Speaker translation
Getting the bass to cut through on a small system like laptops, radios, cheap headphones and cars can be tricky, but this is where saturation comes into play. Many of these playback systems have roll offs at around 100hz so your room shaking 40hz sub will just disappear.
Saturation allows us to generate harmonic content in higher frequencies than the fundamental (note) thus cutting through in a dense mix. I personally like to create an aux send (Sends in Logic) for which I can send my 808 signal. Here’s what I do:
- Create an Aux Send channel in your DAW
- Apply and EQ with a high pass of around 120Hz (I don’t want clashing sub frequencies)
- Get creative, add saturators, tape machines, pre-amp plug ins, amp emulators. All of these things have the opportunity to generate useful harmonics. Try pushing the input of your tape machine plug-in and see what happens.
- Play with width. Try a little stereo widening and see what happens. Using a combination of the send and also the HPF on our Aux means the super low frequencies are in mono – this is a good thing!
Looking to add some iconic 808's into your tracks?! Check our extensive range of Drum machine samples and get inspired!
Don’t forget to tune your 808’s people! Hearing the note produced by subs can be tricky so here’s 2 methods:
- Try adding a tuning plug-in after the 808.. this should get you a pitch you can work with.
- If you don’t have a tuner plug-in try pitching up your 808 by an octave. This increase in pitch means we can now hear what note is being played. Find the right note for your song then pitch it back down by 12 semi-tones (octave).
Decay Length and mono sample playback
Overlapping 808 bass notes can be a nightmare, cause sub frequency build ups and clash terribly leaving you with a messy, muddy mix.
Tip: Check your sampler is playing back monophonically (By mono we’re referring to only playing 1 note at a time not the alternative to stereo).
This will ensure when the next note starts it will cut off the last note played.
You can also modify the decay time of your sample so that the envelope has ended before the next note begins.
The Touch Loops team.