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3 Techniques for Mixing 808s

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3 Techniques for Mixing 808s
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Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, today we are going to be talking about everybody’s favorite subject in the world, 808s.

But before we get started, check out the description below, there’s some links to some full length tutorials that get really in depth into a lot of mixing concepts, and they are something that you are going to want to check out.

Alright, let’s get started by playing this record, and then I’m going to start getting into the concepts.

[mix]

Alright, so the title of this video says, “3 Techniques for Mixing 808s,” but we are going to actually talk about 4, because it’s extremely important to talk about the number one technique, and that is not messing with it. Because if the 808 already sounds good, we’re done, and I think that a lot of the times, people really under value the power of just letting something be what it is. I’d say about one third of the 808s that come across my desk, I’m not really doing anything except for setting the level, and this would be an example of a situation where I feel like I could probably get away with that.

[mix]

I like this 808. I feel like if I set it correctly against the kick drum, I could be done.

Now, I might also want to try a few other things to see if I could make it a little bit bigger, so the first technique that I’m going to show you is just basic EQ, and EQing it like we would basically EQ any other element.

What’s important to recognize in the 808 is that it’s not just a sine wave. That’s really the part of the 808 that’s boring. The interesting part of the 808 is everything that’s above it. So if I solo up these 808 layers here, we really have just this main layer, and then these two are kind of in the background, we get this.

[808]

Now to me, the interesting stuff is all of the buzzy, grungy textural stuff that’s happening way above the fundamental frequency. Everything that’s 80Hz and below, I’m kind of over. Not that important. But everything that’s 100Hz and above, that’s where the fun stuff starts happening.

So I’m going to grab an EQ here. Let’s do the eiosis Air EQ Premium, because it’s premium. Gives us a handy little graph if you want to visualize it.

So this is the stuff here that we’re ignoring, and this is the good stuff all above it.

Now, let’s demonstrate that by making this 808 a lot brighter and see what happens.

[808]

Now personally, I don’t like the attack of the 808, it sounds really choppy and weird, but I just wanted to show you how I can bring up those buzzy qualities, and suddenly, the 808 has a lot more character.

Now let’s bring in the kick drum, because really what’s going to make the big difference is how the 808 and the kick blend together.

[808 and kick drum]

Here’s our kick in solo.

[kick]

Here’s with the 808.

[kick and 808]

I think I can kind of make a little pocket for the kick by sculpting and contouring the EQ carefully.

Let’s make a little room for the kick, let’s find out where that muddy stuff is living…

[kick and 808]

Yeah, this is where the — right around 200, 220, something like that, that’s where our 808 is kind of making the kick feel a little bit smaller, so I’m going to take out some of that.

[kick and 808]

And you hear when I do that, the kick becomes a lot more pronounced, right? So this control right here, instead of thinking of it as an EQ control, I’m going to think of it as a kick clarity control. How much clarity do I need from the kick? That’s going to be this knob right here.

Alright, let’s set it around maybe minus 2.5dB for now, and now, let’s play around with a few other things. Let’s see if we can make the 808 feel a little bit fuller. Now, when I say fuller, I don’t mean have more power or more fundamental tone, I mean have more of that content that’s going to show up on smaller speakers, have more of that fundamental bass content that’s going to provide body to the sound. That’s going to be the octave above the fundamental frequency.

[kick and 808]

Yeah. So this is going to be a fullness control right here. And let’s set it to about one and a half dB for now.

And then lastly, let’s see if we can get a little bit more of that spark in the 808, that buzzy texture that really defines what this 808 is.

[kick and 808]

Nice. So this one here is our texture control. So now that we’ve got these three things figured out, we’ve got our fullness control, we’ve got our kick clarity control, and we’ve got our texture control, and now we can kind of set things where they make sense, and for that, I think I’m going to bring in the rest of the mix. Let’s zero these all out, or get close to zeroing them all out, and then figure out what we want to hear.

[mix]

Nice. Alright, so without it, we get this.

[mix, without eiosis]

Not bad, but kind of a little thin feeling. With it, we get this.

[mix, with eiosis]

And what’s important is that the feel of the 808 doesn’t feel like it’s overwhelmed the record, but it feels like it’s bigger within the record, so I feel like we’ve made some good EQ choices.

Alright, that’s technique number one. EQing to get the exact contour of sound that we really want.

Alright, technique number two. Usually, we think of sub bass elements as being mono. That’s where the power is going to come from, when they live in that phantom center, and if we spread them out from mono, we might have some problems with phase if we’re playing over a club speaker or something like that, but we could do something like use iZotope Ozone.

So I’m going to go in here, I’m going to grab our iZotope Ozone 9 Imager, and I’m going to create a split band. Now, the sub stuff, the bass stuff, I’m going to leave untouched. I’m really going to focus on this top band here.

[808 high filter]

Yeah, that stuff. Alright, I’m going to hit stereoize, and I’m going to turn up the bandwidth on this top band.

[808 high filter]

So now, the stuff that’s living above 200Hz, I’m splitting it into a stereo signal. The stuff that’s below…

[808 low filter]

That’s still going to be mono.

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[808]

So without.

[808, no Imager]

With.

[808 with Imager]

Kind of cool, right? It’s like the power is still there, because I’ve left all the sub bass stuff mono, but now, there’s this more expansive sound, because I’ve spread out all of those overtones into a stereo picture, and I can use this control here, this crossover to kind of find that sweetspot, where basically, the lower I go, the more stuff is going to get spread to the sides. We’re going to get a more expansive sound the lower we go, but we’re also going to lose a little bit of our punch, and so in every record, there’s going to be a sweet spot based on how much punch we need versus how much expanse we need, so if it’s something that’s more like a droney, psychedelic kind of sound, then I might go pretty low, but if it’s something where it needs to have a good amount of knock, probably not going to go too much lower than about 200Hz.

Let’s bring in the rest of the record and see if we can find a little sweet spot.

[mix, adjusting Imager]

Yeah, I can sort of feel the power getting lost at around 150Hz, so I probably want to stick in that 200 range.

[mix]

Alright, before.

[music]

After.

[music]

Nice. And if we take those two off, we started like this.

[mix, no 808 processing]

With them on.

[mix, processed 808]

Now we have a much bigger 808, and we haven’t even really changed the overall output level by the way, when we started hitting our limiter at the end, we’re going to be able to get this basically just as loud without any cost to the sound.

Alright, now I want to show you a third technique. This one is really way different, but this is something that can be done — if you get an 808 and it just isn’t working. It’s not good, maybe it’s got a thin texture, maybe it just isn’t right for the record, so this is sort of a more extreme example of something we can do, but it’s something that I want to show you.

What we can do is we can get rid of everything except for the lowest portion of the 808.

[808, filtered]

Right, so we’ve got now a lot of that 808 texture completely eliminated, we’re really just hearing the fundamental tone and that first octave above it, that first overtone, and that’s it. So we’ve now gone to a very sinusoidal sort of sound.

[808, filtered]

Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to put our own character into it, and for that, we’re going to use distortion and/or saturation, or pushing saturation into distortion, or just straight up distortion, just depends on how transformative you want to get.

So I’m going to show you two examples of this, one would be using — probably my favorite plugin for doing this would be probably the Black Box, which is a Plugin Alliance plugin, and I’m going to use this saturation knob. Really cool stuff starts to happen when I bring that in.

[808, with Black Box]

And I’m going to put a little bit more weight into the triode here. Just get a little bit more edge, then back off the output just a little.

[808]

There we go. So without it.

[808, no Black Box]

With it.

[808 with Black Box]

And you’ll notice we get that sort of grimy, grungy texture that starts to show up a few octaves above. Now what I can do is I can grab an EQ, I can go back in, and I can play up that texture.

[808]

Cool. So before…

[808, no processing]

After.

[808, processed]

We’ve really transformed the 808 into something pretty different. So let’s play the 808 without that.

[808, unprocessed]

With.

[808]

Now, I mean, I don’t think that this is the right 808 for this record, it sounds off to me, but it’s just to show that you can really change something around. I’m going to show you another way that we can do this. We could use something a little bit more aggressive, like iZotope Trash, which is one of my favorite, favorite plugins. It’s just so much fun. Here we go. And there’s so many things that you can do, I mean, you can really turn an 808 into a million different things with a million different ways. We could spend an hour on this plugin, but what I’m going to do is just use one of my own personal presets, I have my extra fat 808, and let’s play that.

[mix]

That’s pretty cool. I like the original sound of this 808, which makes sense, since I made the beat. I’m going to stick with that, but I definitely like the EQ moves, and the Imager, so I think that’s going to make the best combination for this particular record.

[music]

That’s three techniques we can use to get our 808s right.

Alright guys, if you dig what I’m doing on this channel, hit that like button, if you want to catch more of these videos, hit that subscribe with the bell so that you get notifications, and don’t forget to check the description below for full length, for sale tutorials. There’s a whole bunch of great stuff in there that you can learn, and I will catch you next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com

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