The 808 dominated the hottest rap songs in 2014. MikeWillMadeIt / Rae Sremmurd’s “No Flex Zone”, London / Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle”, Lil Wayne & Drake’s “Believe Me”, and Jahlil Beats / Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga” all featured trunk rattling bass patterns.
It is more important now, than ever, to mix your 808’s properly. Mixing 808’s seems to be a problem area for a lot of producers and engineers. I took some time to write a list of 8 808 mixing tips that I wish someone told me when I first started producing.
- Sound Selection – The most important part of mixing 808’s is choosing the appropriate sounds for your composition. If your sounds do not match your beat, you will STRUGGLE when trying to mix everything together. The 808 you start with should sound good BEFORE you put any effects on it. I cannot stress this enough! If your 808 sucks before you mix, it is going to suck after you mix!
An 808 should only be used if it matches the feeling of your instrumental, overall. You may be better off using a subbass or a live bass. Always audition a few sounds before deciding on one. You aren’t necessarily going to use the same 808 in a trap beat as you would in an R&B beat. Listen to some hit records in the genre of music you’re making to get a feel for what sounds you need.
- Make Space – You have to give your 808 some room to breathe. The 808 dominates the frequencies below 150hz. Do not hesitate to use a high pass filter on the other sounds in your instrumental. Start the cutoff at 100hz and work your way up. If other instruments are bleeding too much into the bass region, your 808 is going to sound muddy.
When creating your melodies, leave some room for the bass to hit. Usher & Juicy J’s track “I Don’t Mind” is an excellent example of leaving room for the bass. The producers, Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and Rock City, only used a few sounds so that the bass would be loud and present in the final mix.
- Layering – You can cheat in your composition by adding some other sounds to hit with your 808’s. It’s common for producers to use a punchy kick drum to compliment their 808. Adding a punchy kick drum can give your 808 that impact you’re looking for. Producers like 808 Mafia, Lex Luger, Sonny Digital, and Metro Boomin make use of orchestral hits, staccato strings, tubular bells, and crashes to emphasize their 808 patterns. You can mix elements like these throughout your track to make your 808’s stand out more.
- Creating The Right Pattern – Engineers, this tip isn’t going to help you very much. The bassline you compose with your 808 makes a huge difference on how good it sounds. It’s easy to do too much or to not do enough with your 808’s. Sometimes your 808 shouldn’t change pitch very often. Sometimes your 808 should have a lot of space between each hit. As the producer, you are responsible for making a pattern that compliments the rest of the melodies and sounds in the beat. Jahlil Beats did a good job of complimenting the melodies when he produced “Hot Nigga”. He put several breakdowns in the beat without any 808’s at all.
Your 808’s will be easier to mix if they emphasize the chord progressions in your beat. If your melodies are complex, your 808 patterns should be simple and vice versa. Mixing is all about making sounds work together. Keep in mind that you are making an instrumental for a rapper or singer to work with. Leave them some space to work as well.
- Sidechain – Sidechain compression is one of my favorite mixing techniques. I use sidechain compression to make other sounds in my beat quieter when my 808 hits. I believe sidechaining is an option in all major DAWs. I have no problem doing it in Logic Pro X. If you need help with sidechain compression, click here!
- Check Your Mix – Your monitoring environment is crucial when mixing 808’s. Be sure to listen to your mix on multiple sets of speakers and/or headphones. It’s harder to hear deep frequencies on headphones, but a lot of producers achieve solid mixes with them. If you can, listen to your mix with a subwoofer. Compare your bass levels to the levels of industry beats.
- Distort – Distorting your 808’s will make them stand out more in the final mix. Distortion enriches the harmonic content of your sound. This process causes us to perceive the 808 to be louder than it actually is! Very helpful!
Go through all of your stock distortion plugins and see what works best for you. I personally like to use Overdrive, Distortion, and Bitcrusher on my 808’s. Check out TM88’s 808 distortion technique on Que & T.I.’s “Jungle Fever Remix.”
- Bass Mixing Plugins – There are several plugins designed for mixing low-end frequencies. WAVES has two bass mixing plugins that I like: Maxxbass and R-Bass. You have to pay for them, but they are definitely worth the money.
If your budget is tight, you can get Camel Crusher for free from Camel Audio. This plugin is great for getting distortion on your 808’s! You should go download that right now!
I hope you found these 8 mixing tips useful. What did I forget? If you have any tips to add or questions to ask, please contact me on Twitter or Facebook! If you need 808’s or other drum samples be sure to check out our store!
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