808 Kick Drum Mixing and Mastering Guide

by Anders Johanson January 03, 2021 5 min read

808 Kick Drum

The Kick Drum of the Roland TR 808

The Roland TR 808 drumThe use of 808 has been a fundamental element in hip-hop production for numerous years, yet many musicians in project-studios continue to face difficulties in attaining an exceptional 808 sound in their personal mixes. With that in mind, presented below are a few sonic suggestions to assist you in extracting the utmost potential from your 808 samples.

The 808's key point to understand is that while its potent low-frequency pitch fundamental is highly praised, it can also pose a significant drawback. Undoubtedly, it can shake up the subwoofers in people's cars, but unfortunately, this impactful bass won't carry over effectively on smaller devices. speakersand earphones of the majority of mainstream listeners, as there is a lack of high frequency energy. Consequently, numerous sound engineers intentionally modify the 808 to produce extra harmonics in the upper range. For example, Young Guru, a longstanding studio collaborator of Jay-Z, asserts that the most common misconception regarding 808s is that they solely consist of bass.

That aspect of the 808 is the simplest, but it may not always be audible on a radio... It requires a touch of distortion to allow that element to seep into the 120Hz and 140Hz range, and then extend even deeper into your midrange.

Kick generated by low end and polarity problems can cause issues in a line up.

Alternatively, many producers opt to incorporate additional drum samples, including live drum loops, in conjunction with their usage of the 808 to enhance the midrange tones. However, this approach presents a potential downside. When layering multiple kick drums, there is a risk of frequency cancellations occurring, particularly at lower frequencies. It is crucial to address two key factors: firstly, ensuring that the waveforms of the different drum sounds align consistently for each hit, and secondly, experimenting with refining the exact timing and polarity relationship between the layers to achieve the optimal mixed sound. DJ Swivel, renowned for his work with Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Kanye West, emphasizes the importance of making meticulous adjustments in terms of a few milliseconds to guarantee perfect alignment of the kicks and prevent any phase inversion. This meticulous process ensures that each drum's impact is as powerful as the previous one. For an even more nuanced sonic experience, consider exploring advanced phase-manipulation tools like all-pass filtering, such as the one available in Cockos's freeware package. ReaEQplugin) and phase rotation (Variety Of Sound's plugin) and phase rotation (Variety Of Sound's. Reworded: plugin) as well as phase shift (the plugin from Variety Of Sound) and phase rotation (Variety Of Sound's plugin) and phase rotation (from Variety Of Sound). PreFIXOne excellent alternative to consider is the utilization of this remarkable freeware option. This particular solution offers a variety of advantages and can be considered as a solid choice.

808 Notching Fundamentals

When layering a bass part alongside the 808, similar concerns can arise. This issue is explained by producer Bob Horn, known for his work with Usher, Timbaland, and Akon, who states that the 808 is a real musical tone. Sometimes, when using a synth bass, it may play the same pitch as the 808, causing conflict. To avoid this, it is wise to tune the 808 sample to a pitch that doesn't clash with the bass line or remove the fundamental frequency of the 808 from the bass channel. Some inventive individuals completely bypass this problem by creating a musical call-and-response between the 808 and bass or by adjusting the tuning of the 808 in real-time, turning the kick into a bass line itself. Check out Dr. Dre's seminal album 2001 and listen to the song 'Bit*h Ni***z' for an example of this technique.

There are numerous detuned 808 samples available on the internet in addition to the topic of tuning. To ensure that the 808 notes align with the notes you are playing, it is essential to utilize a tuner plugin to modify the root note and tuning of the 808 sample. Additionally, the length of the 808 is an important factor to take into account. The original hardware provides insight into the significance of these aspects. drum machinesthe ability to adjust the Decay control is crucial. However, many producers overlook the impact of sampling on the sustain of the sound. When dealing with faster kick-drum patterns, for example, it is important to recognize this limitation. The overlapping endings of lengthy 808 samples can swiftly result in an accumulation of unwanted low-end mixture disorder that deprives the entire mixture of impact and vigor. One way to address this issue is by using the envelope controls of your sampler to shorten the sample tails, or by ensuring that the sample triggers monophonically to avoid overlap. Interestingly, the latter method can also prevent unintended MIDI double-triggers from causing a flanging effect, which is something you should be cautious about when using any programmed drum sample.

using a third-party gate plugin that includes the Hold time feature.) To put it simply, even if you come across an 808 pattern that has already been bounced as a continuous audio track for mixdown, you still have the ability to adjust the length of the drum to suit your preferences. Gating is often the easiest solution to this, as the lack of level variation in most programmed 808 parts makes it easy to achieve consistent triggering. However, my main suggestion is to use a gate plugin with a Hold time setting in addition to the more common Attack and Release time controls. This will provide you with extra flexibility when it comes to defining the exact release envelope of the mixed kick sound. If your DAW's built-in gate plugin does not have this feature, you can try using a third-party gate plugin that does. Bob Perry Audio's freeware plugin instead.)

The length of the 808 is not merely a technical question related to mixing, but it also plays an important role in the rhythmic groove. An interesting technique is to enhance the subjective power and momentum of a snare sound by cutting off the sustain tail of the kick, creating a sensation that the kick 'carries' the listener from the downbeat to the backbeat of the snare. Another clever approach is to shorten the sustain of off-beat kick hits in a pattern, which helps reduce their rhythmic stress. This can be achieved by adjusting the settings in the sampler or by routing the subsidiary hits to a separate audio track with modified gate settings.


808 Sliding & Gliding

The 808 slides are a widely utilized technique in contemporary electronic music and beat production. It is a simple method that can be achieved with minimal adjustments. To start, it is crucial to set the 808 as 'monophonic' by selecting a '1' for the number of voices. This ensures that only one note will be triggered at a time, rather than multiple notes like a chord. To enable sliding or gliding, switch the 808 sampler to the 'Legato' option. Lastly, adjust the Glide Time to create either long or quick 808 glides. In this instance, we utilized Ableton's sampler, which has a direct 'Glide' setting, but you can implement similar adjustments on any DAW or sampler you are using.

Drum Kick Mastering

Ultimately, the loudness of a track when mastered is heavily influenced by the way the 808 is mixed. This is due to the fact that the main limitation in achieving desired loudness levels lies in the low-frequency headroom. In many cases, kick-drum peaks on commercially mastered tracks are intentionally clipped instead of limited to boost overall loudness. Surprisingly, this distortion can work in favor of ensuring the track translates well on smaller speakers, as long as it doesn't drastically alter the drum's tone or compromise its attack.

Must-Have 808 Drum Kit for Serum Presets

The team at Samplified has crafted an ultra-focused drum kit with especially accentuated 808 sounds. serum presetIntroducing an exclusive package comprising of 50 exceptional 808 presets that boast unprecedented levels of customization. These presets are incredibly versatile and can seamlessly blend into any genre of music you are currently creating. Take a moment to listen to the captivating demo track provided below.

Try out these presets to have full control over the source audio and wavetables, allowing you to create your own long-lasting tones and powerful sub frequencies. Developed by Samplified's talented sound designers, they utilize the impressive and widely-used Serum engine by Xfer to its fullest potential, offering limitless possibilities for sound design. Don't forget to explore our preset pack below, and stay tuned for upcoming music projects, demos, and tutorials.

Anders Johanson
Anders Johanson

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