· By Jan Branicki
How to Mix an 808? Tips for Balancing the Sound
If you want to pump up the bass with the 808, you must first explore the right balancing; otherwise, your mixing efforts will be down the drain. From hip-hop to metal and many emerging genres, 808 packs a punch that can be felt through the body.
However, balancing 808 to make it cut through a mix is quite challenging. Hence beginners struggle to make it sound clear and punchy and often end up with a muddy and messy soundtrack.
If you are dealing with the same situation, this article will help you explore how to mix 808 for a perfectly balanced and impactful track.
Significance of the 808 Sound in Different Genres
Named after the famous Ronald TR-808 Rhythm composer, 808 has been a crucial part of electro, dance, pop and many other electronic music genres since the 1980s.
First used in hip-hop by music producer Afrika Bambaataa in the 80s; since then, 808 has been a vital part of hip-hop. It gave a fresh and unique sound to hip-hop, setting it apart from other genres.
Talking more about its significance, 808 has been a go-to tool for music producers like Rick Rubin (the producer for famous artists like Adele) in his early tracks with Jazzy J and Beastie Boys.
808 is considered a distinctive element of trap music as it creates the rolling hi-hat patterns that are a unique characteristic of the genre. Many sound producers distort 808 to give a gritty hard hitting effect that suits the genre well. Mask Off by Future is a prime example of the heavy use of 808 in the Trap genre.
Similarly, 808 has played a key role in shaping EDM. From house to dubstep, the punchy and versatile bass sound has been imperative to many subgenres of EDM. The 808 is used in the genre to create driving basslines, percussion, melody, and atmospheric effects.
Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites by Skrillets is known for its heavy use of 808 kick drum that gives a pounding effect to the track. The importance of 808 can be evaluated by the fact that Kanye West released an album with 808 named 808 and Heartbreaks.
How Proper 808 Mixing is Crucial for a Balanced & Professional Mix
Although 808 kick drum samples are highly significant to modern hip hop, when not mixed properly may sound thin and weak, making your entire track sound boomy. There are certain aspects that not only amateurs but even professionals struggle with while balancing 808; for instance, many may need help while mixing 808 drums.
Similarly, you must master the art of frequency balance, clarity and stereo placement so that 808 remains well-defined throughout the track, and neither do they get lost in the mix nor overpower other instruments. Lastly, you should be able to create the right amount of punch to drive the rhythm else it will quash the rest of the sounds.
How to Mix an 808? Tips and Techniques
Here are some crucial 808 mixing tips:
1. Importance of Right 808 Samples
If you have picked bad 808 samples, mixing would be 10X challenging. Hence, go for high-quality 808 samples that are clean, punchy and have a consistent body.
You can even synthesize 808 sounds using a sine wave with a fast attack envelope assigned to the pitch. Xfer Serum and other dedicated plugins, such as New Era 808 and BD-808, are great synthesizers for shaping distinctive 808 sounds.
2. Role of EQ in 808 Mixing
EQ is used in 808 mixing to remove unnecessary frequencies and to create space in the track for other instruments. However, you need to be more considerate about how the 808 interacts with the kick sounds.
Make sure your Kick has a different note than your 808, as it helps your 808 mix better and allows you to carve out space for other sounds. Additionally, a high pass filter can help mixing 808 sound, but be careful of the overuse as it may thin out the sound.
Moreover, EQ enables you to cut or boost certain frequencies and uplift the desired characteristics of 808 sound while eliminating muddiness and chances of clashing with other sound elements. All in all, the appropriate use of EQ helps you achieve a balanced and more cohesive track.
3. Using Compression and Limiting on 808
Once you have set the tone of 808, the next step is to work on dynamics. Compression is essential to control the transient and volume of 808, making it more pleasant and consistent in the track.
However, you don’t need to compress the 808 heavily; just a little bit will shape the transient well to achieve a tight and punchy 808 sound. Moreover, the side chain compression of 2:1 or 4:1 with a medium-fast attack will be enough for 808 cutting through the mix.
Moreover, limiting is also an effective way of increasing the perceived loudness of 808, allowing it to exceed a certain peak. However, the limiter threshold should be carefully set to prevent 808 squashing and unwanted distortions.
4. Adding a Kick on 808
How to mix 808 and kick? You can do this by side-chaining the 808 to the kick drum, making room for the Kick every time it hits. It allows kicks to cut through and prevents the low end from getting too cluttered. While working on threshold and compression, you must listen to Kick and 808 together to ensure they harmonize well and do not overpower each other.
While mixing 808 kick, you can use plugins like Waves Rbass to add depth to the kick-drum and to enhance the low end of 808. Additionally, you may use the Waves SSL-G Master Bus Compressor plugin to glue Kick and 808 together.
5. Adding Harmonic Saturation & Distortion to an 808
A subtle distortion can help 808 sound cut through the mix. Distortion is a great way to enhance 808s as it adds harmonic saturation to 808, extending the instrument into high-frequency ranges. You can use distortion or saturation plugins to add subtle harmonic overtones or crush it in parallel for a more aggressive sound.
Don't hesitate to experiment with different types of distortion or saturation, like transistor emulation, overdrive or subtle saturation, to explore what best suits your mix. Moreover, you can use plugins like Animate, which uses threshold-triggered saturation to produce enthralling 808s.
Since the 1980s, the iconic 808 sound has been a staple in countless tracks. Although it packs a powerful punch that can elevate any beat, it can be tricky to mix 808 without making errors.
To achieve a precise 808 mix, you need to start with the right samples, master compression and limiting to control its dynamics, use EQ to remove unwanted frequencies and experiment with saturation to add character to the sound.