Getting that big, boomy low end that is extremely popular in today’s music, is a must when you are creating a beat. Most genres of music consist of a low end that is very thick, heavy, and loud, so there are various ways you can achieve that sound.
Most of the time you can get away with just having multiple kick drums layered on top of each other, but for this article, you need to take it a bit deeper. No, deeper. Deeper than that….
The TR-808 is a classic analog drum machine that has been used many times over on countless hits, and it’s still being used today. The reason why it’s so popular is mainly because of two sounds: the kick and snare. Both sound very unique, and you can recognize the sound just as easily as a soldier recognizing the sound of an AK-47 assault rifle.
The boom from the 808 kick is very special because of the type of oscillation used on it, and the fact that it can be used on its own, or along with another kick drum.
Even though the drums from the TR-808 don’t sound like real drums from an actual drum kit, it’s still great to use, especially if you’re producing any type of electronic-based music.
I just recently worked on a beat where I sampled James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” drum break. At first, I just looped the break and it sounded great with the piano I threw on top, but something was missing. As I browsed through my library of kicks, I figured why not layer another kick at the beginning of every 4 bars?
So I grabbed the 808 kick – beautiful.
What I ended up with was a simple solution – the 808 kick drum comes in at the beginning of every 4 bars, which instantly adds thickness to the Funky Drummer break, which even though it’s one of the best breaks ever – it’s not bottom-heavy.
Usually I layer thick kicks with one another, but adding the 808 just solves lots of issues, like if you have trouble playing out a bassline, for example. There are times when you want to make a bassline for your beat but you just can’t find anything good to use, except for a sub-bass note, but that can muddy up your low end very quickly.
Get That Thickness
One of the tricks that I like to use to replace a bassline is to do what I just did. It’s simple and fills out the low-end, at least for one note every 4 bars. It seems like there would still be a lot of space to fill for the bass, but not really. That’s because the 808 kick has a nice decay to it, so it will linger on for the entire 4 bars, especially if you add more decay.
Some producers like to use the 808 a lot, and I mean A LOT. I completely understand if your genre needs that 808, as some genres live and die by the low-end thump, but don’t overuse it. As I just mentioned, the 808 has decay and resonance on it already, so if you have a bunch of 808’s playing through, you could end up with a lot of low-end distortion and bass rattling, which of course is a big mistake.
As with any type of instrument that you use, use it sparingly. The 808 kick drum is very heavy and has a great punch, but when you layer it with another kick, you have to take something away. One of the rules of mixing is always, “subtract, never add” (something like that).
This means that either lower the volume of the 808 or the other kick, so as to not send your bass into overdrive. If that were to happen, then it would have to be compressed in the mix, and that changes the entire spectrum of your beat’s sound.