How to Enhance the Tone and Character of an 808

Transcript:

Hey folks, Matt Weiss here, www.weiss-sound.com, www.theproaudiofiles.com. I’m going to combine a couple of different ideas and relate them to one of our favorite subjects in the world: 808 kick drums. Now, this is a little bit of a weird technique. It sort of involved concepts learned in both the mixing hip hop tutorial as well as the mixing compression tutorial, but it’s going to show you how to approach an 808 a little differently. So let’s check out this 808 kick drum right here.

[Music]

For me, the interest in an 808 kick drum is generally what’s living the upper octaves. The lower octave is usually just sort of a fat sine wave. The upper octaves are where the distortion and character start showing up. Now, what this tutorial that I’m doing right now is going to show you is how to bring out a lot of that character in a very transparent, but bold way. The thing you have to keep in mind is that it’s all arrangement-dependent. I’m going to play the track.

[Music]

When you have a very dense track that has a lot of lower-mid content, or even just general mid-range content, sometimes you just want that sine wave 808, and that’s fine. When you have a more open arrangements that don’t have a lot going on, that’s usually when you want to play up the character of the 808. Sometimes you find yourself in an arrangement like this one where it could kind of go either way, and sometimes you’ve got to make a judgement call.

I’ve made a clone of it because this is going to be a type of parallel processing and the idea here is to target the tone of the 808. So the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going this FabFilter Pro-Q and I’m going to throw on a high-pass filter and I’m going to get rid of the subtones.

[Music]

So what I’ve done is I’m high-passing around the 180 Hz and what that does is it eliminates some of the subtone. Now, this is the first little tricky piece. If I were to play this at the same time as the original 808.

[Music]

What happens is that the low low end ends up getting sucked out. This is because there is something called phase and that’s how EQs work. They work based on phase change, but not a lot of people necessarily know that, but one of the thing that happens is that everything that’s happening below the cut-off and a lot of what’s happening above the cut-off are coming out of phase with itself.

Normally when you hear just one thing you don’t really hear phase, but when you play it with something that has similar sonic material, those little phase differences make a big difference and that’s why the bottom end of this 808 is just getting ripped out when you play the two at the same time. So I’m going to change this to linear phase mode and what that means is that the absolute phase of everything is going to stay the same and that’s going to allow the low end to stay more consistent when I play them back-to-back.

[Music]

Notice that the low end actually stays in place now? That’s good. That’s our first step. Okay. Now the next step is that I really want to target just the tone which is that sort of buzzy distortion, but I don’t want to add extra punch to the 808 itself. What I’m going to do now is I’m going to pull up another FabFilter plugin called the Pro-G which is a gate/expander which has a very unique function called ducking. And what ducking does is it’s kind of like compression, where when the volume exceeds the threshold it’s going to pull the level down.

The difference between ducking and compression is it’s going to pull the level down more than what a compressor could. Instead of pulling it down based on the level of the threshold, it’s going to pull down based on a preset range. And if I set that range down to 100 decibels, that means that if it absolutely breaches the threshold, a high ratio will pull it all the way down to 100 decibels. So what we’re doing is trying to remove the attack using this ducking mechanism.

[Music]

There’s still a little bit of leading-edge in there. You sort of hear it like it’s the sort of fluttery turning on thing. I’m going to use a look-ahead to get rid of that.

[Music]

Not bad. Now I’m going to turn up the output volume.

[Music]

What I’ve essentially done is I’ve isolated the buzzy quality of the 808.

Now I’m going to listen in the context of the mix and decide how much extra buzz I want and if I need to do anything else.

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.
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  • The Catalyzt

    I gotta say your tutorials and videos are some of the most useful idea starters and that I’ve ever run across on the net. And thats just the free stuff. I shall definitely be back

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