The 808 is one of the most famous sounds in modern music.
Originally a drum sound that was invented in the 80s, it’s astounding that it’s still a sound that many want to achieve and use in their tracks today.
For example, 808s are a staple in trap music, and are heavily used in electronic music and pop music too.
But why do producers love 808s so much and how can you incorporate professional-sounding 808s into your music?
Well, that’s what we’ll be discussing in our article today!
Read on to discover what an 808 is, its origins, and seven ways you can use 808s to really elevate your music.
So What Exactly Is An 808?
808 refers to the sounds of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, and is notable for its punchiness and how it can easily be tuned to different pitches.
The original TR-808 is made up of programmable clap, clave, cowbell, cymbal, hi conga, mid conga, low conga, open hi-hat, closed hi-hat, kick, maracas, rimshot, hi-tom, mid tom, low tom, and snare sounds.
808s are inspired by static noise that has been intricately sound designed to replicate the resonating drum head and the strike of a beater.
This gives you an attack that is high in volume and a swift resonating decay.
However, in the modern day, 808 drums tend to sound different to the original 808s.
Producers spend hours crafting and contorting the classic 808 sounds into their own sound, by adding distortion, compression, and tinkering with attack and decay.
If you simply search 808 online, you’ll find hundreds of iterations of this sound.
The Origins Of TR-808
As we’ve already mentioned, the 808 sound came from the Roland TR-808, which was a drum machine that defined house and techno sounds in the 1980s and 1990s.
But the drum machine also inspired hip hop producers such as Afrika Bambaataa and Rick Rubin that pioneered the 808-drenched sound in the hip-hop of the 90s, and they were particularly interested in the 808 bass.
The TR-808 is a much coveted piece of vintage music equipment.
This interest in the 808 bass drum sample is what 808 is primarily known for today.
However, the clap, cowbell, cymbal hi-hat, and the snare are still regularly used sounds and beloved today.
Plus, the bass of the 808 could often shake walls and rattle cars which give it an incredibly appealing intensity that paired well with 90s rap.
Producers soon began altering the TR-808 stock sound to create even more powerful subby kicks.
7 Ways To Use 808s Without Breaking The Bank
Luckily, there is no need to hand over thousands and thousands of dollars to buy a vintage TR-808 to achieve that authentic and fascinating 808 sound.
Modern 808s that appear in electronic and trap music have normally undergone a lot of processing to give them a more distorted, and booming sound.
There are lots of ways to create fantastic 808 sounds on a budget, and we’re going to take you through 7 popular methods you can use to achieve this.
Begin With A High-Quality 808 Sample
First, you need to get your hands on a good 808 sample.
Your DAW will probably have a couple of options, but if you’re after a particular type of 808 it may be a good idea to check out online sample markets like LANDR Samples.
Tune The 808
808s are basically a short sub-oscillator frequency burst which means they oscillate to reach a certain pitch.
Incorrectly turned 808s are not going to sound great in your arrangement, which is why it’s so important that they are tuned to your track’s key before you incorporate them.
Understand The Frequency Spectrum
By default, 808s will take up a lot of room in the lower-end of your mix.
This can be an issue because your 808 is situated at the stronger range of the sub-frequency spectrum.
This should be more than 30Hz ideally.
When your 808 is excessively subby it will lack power, but you need to avoid wandering into higher bass frequencies too.
The perfect sub-frequency range is between 30 Hz and 60 Hz.
A lot of speaker systems will have difficulty in recreating frequencies under 40 Hz.
You need to be extra careful with these super low frequencies and ensure your high pass filter is set high enough.
EQ The 808s To The Low-End Of Your Mix
There is no arguing that 808s should be the only thing at the low-end of your mix.
Therefore you will need to EQ a significant amount of the low-end from your synth bass frequencies and kicks, or you risk making your 808s weaker.
Up Your 808’s Attack Time
Upping the attack time of the 808 bass can help to distinguish the bass from the rest of the sounds in the low-end of the track.
This slows down the peak volume of the 808 hits, allowing you to listen to the kick first before the 808 sub frequencies swells.
Upping the attack time helps to round out your entire sound.
Use A Hi-Pass Filter To Polish The Lows
For other parts of your tracks that are not in the low-end, it’s pretty simple to emphasize the 808 by using the hi-pass filter.
This makes sure instruments such as snares and hi-hats are not getting in on the low-end action reserved for the 808.
Make Your Own Sample
Practically any single cycle waveform can be used to create your own 808 sample.
After all, the origins of the 808 were based in white noise samples.
Creating your own 808 sound does require a knowledge of some sound design concepts and technical know-how.
But there are plenty of videos on YouTube that break down exactly what you need to know.
It’s hard to underestimate the importance of the 808 and the impact it has had on music.
After all, the 808 ushered in a new era of music.
Hearing a pounding 808 sound in your track is sure to get you pumped, and we hope our article has shown you that it’s easier than many think!