The Roland TR 808 Kick Drum
The Roland TR 808 drum has been a staple of hip-hop production for decades, but many project-studio musicians still struggle to achieve a great 808 sound in their own mixes. So here are some sonic tips to help you get the best out of your 808 samples.
The most important thing to realize about the 808 is that its powerful low-frequency pitched fundamental is not only its most celebrated asset, but also its biggest liability. Yes, it'll blow the subwoofers out of people's cars, but that low end simply won't translate on the small speakers and earbuds of most mainstream listeners, because there's scant frequency energy above it. This is why many mix engineers end up deliberately distorting the 808 to generate additional upper-spectrum harmonics. "The biggest misconception about 808s is that they're all bass," comments Jay-Z's long-time studio collaborator Young Guru, for instance.