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How to Use 808’s for Beginners

How to Use 808's for Beginners in FL Studio

An 808 is by far a producer’s most powerful instrument. It’s a hybrid between a kick drum and a bassline combined into one sound (depending on the type of 808 selected), and brings tremendous fullness to a song.

Now, many producers simply follow the trends when it comes to an 808, but if you try to find your own sound as a producer, you will discover that the 808 is one of the most versatile sounds for your drum loops.

P.S. Checkout my SAFE SPOTS Book all about drum loops!


What We Cover in this Article:

  • What is an 808?
  • What’s the Purpose of an 808
  • How to use 808 Drums in FL Studio
  • The Best 808 Samples I’ve Used!
  • Tips for Mixing 808’s and Kick Drums
  • Common Questions (and Answers) About 808’s

What is an 808?

The history of an 808 has changed drastically over the years depending on the genre you are creating. Whether this be dirty south rap beats, modern trap beats, or old school dance beats.. the 808 has had a place in this industry, and it’s important you know how to use an 808 in beatmaking!

Roland TR-808 Drum Machine
An original Roland TR-808 Drum Machine (Image from Wikipedia).

An 808 is a drum sample which combines both a kick drum and a bassline. It’s like a hybrid between a hard hitting drum which has a really prominent bassline. The 808 sound is originally from a Roland TR-808 Drum Machine, which also has many other known sounds like its conga, clap, snare, cymbal, rimshot, closed and open hi-hat, and cowbell sound!

Now, an 808 can actually not have the kick drum aspect, which we producers call the “transient”. This transient is typically what hits you in the chest, and is a quick hit. The bassline is what you FEEL, and it’s longer (sustain), which fills up the track powerfully.

Sometimes an 808 doesn’t always have this transient, which allows producers to add their own kick drum for the transient, but still has the solid bass line of the 808!


What’s the Purpose of an 808

An 808 is to be used as a bass instrument to add fullness to low bass frequencies of a beat. However, because an 808 typically has a kick drum AND bassline built into the sound, an 808 is SUPER versatile for rhythm.

What makes an 808 really special is that it makes your track sound REALLY full. You can easily make a melody with an 808, and have very little melodies from other Virtual Instruments, and still come out with a SUPER FULL sounding beat.

808’s can be clean or heavily distorted.


How to Use 808 Drums in FL Studio

I always tell producers..

Learn Your Sounds Available to You as a Producer.. It’s Like an Electrician and Their Hand-Tools.. Each Tool Is for a Specific Job.. The Same Goes For a Producer’s Sounds!

GratuiTous

If you don’t practice using an 808, you’ll NEVER be versatile as a producer. I don’t care if you just make dance beats, or if you only make rap beats.. an 808 has ALWAYS had a place in almost all genres of music.

There’s no BEST way to use an 808, but a good way to think of an 808 is a kick drum that sounds EXTRA full.

A pro tip I can pass onto you is make sure your 808 is on its own pattern so you can add and remove it through your song’s arrangement. If your bass is ALWAYS playing, it can make for a boring track. The ability to remove your 808 (the bass frequencies) is absolutely essential to bring it back in, and drop in that fullness your listener is waiting for!

In short, use an 808 as a kick drum, but you’ll notice TONs of fullness from its low freqencies!


The Best 808 Samples I’ve Used!

I’ve used quite a few 808’s over the years.. but the biggest thing to understand is WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE with an 808?

Each genre’s use of an 808 is quite different, and so it’s important to know that. (Some genres are heavily distorted, some you want the 808 to pop hard with its bass tail):

Remember, when using a Virtual Instrument for your 808, you will always get the HIGHEST fidelity, as there’s no resampling when you go up and down in pitch.


Tips for Mixing 808’s and Kick Drums

The best way to mix 808’s and kick drums is with sidechain compression.

What this means is when the kick drum plays, it reduces the volume of the 808 quickly to reduce low-frequency clashing!

There’s more advanced forms of sidechain compression like reducing JUST the low-end (not the whole 808), with a multi-band compressor.

You can also do some EQ to the kick drum and 808, but sidechain compression is the easiest (and laziest) way 🙂.


Common Questions (and Answers) About 808’s

What are 808’s in Music:

808’s are a hybrid of a kick drum and bassline in one sound. These originally came from the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine, and they are recorded into high-quality .WAV one-shot drum samples.

What are some Secrets to Using 808s in Beats?

Understanding that you can use ADSR (volume envelope) to manipulate the 808. You also want to make sure you use CUT ITSELF in FL Studio for a clean hit on each note press. You can also use the IN and OUT Knobs to sound design 808s. You can also use Portamento or the Slide note feature in FL Studio to BEND an 808!

What’s The Difference Between an 808 And A Kick (or Bass)

An 808 is from a Roland TR-808.. it’s a digitally processed bass drum which typically has an initial transient (hits you in the chest like a kick drum), but also has a bassline which you FEEL (very low frequencies). A kick drum is often recorded from a real drum kit, or has multiple layers onto the drum when making beats. A kick drum may also be hitting in higher low frequencies (like 60-90Hz), whereas an 808 can be as low as 30Hz!!!

How have 808s evolved over the years?

The original sound of an 808 is hard hitting, but it is a bit bland if not used creatively.. Over the years, 808’s have changed TREMENDOUSLY by sound designers using unique layers and forms of synthesis to still have the hard hitting transient of the 808, but much more distortion and timbre (tonal character) has changed drastically because of these various sound design choices. It’s REALLY taken an 808 to a unique space.. Each genre has used the 808 in a very unique way.. But mainly, it’s various forms of distortion and layers which have made a very unique 808 sound in recent years

How to Make 808’s Stand Out on Cellphone Speakers

The problem with cellphone speakers and 808s is that the cellphone speakers are too small to produce bass frequencies. The answer is to apply distortion onto the 808 to help it be heard on small speakers (a pro tip is using parallel processing to blend in how much distortion you want).


Conclusion.. What are 808s in Music Production

No matter if you make beats in FL Studio, or use another DAW, an 808 s something you MUST learn to make beats.

You will discover how full your beats can sound by using an 808, and even cool techniques like SLIDING your 808!

You can view my FL Studio courses to learn beatmaking with me!

GratuiTous
GratuiTous
GratuiTous (Riley Weller) is a Recognized FL Studio Trainer with over 30 Beatmaking Courses. He writes Beatmaking Books, hosts a free Music Production Podcast, and is always helping his students with private FL Studio Lessons. He also has tons of his own music!

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