Mixing 808 with EQ, Sidechain Compression, VTM and MaxxBass

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A tutorial on mixing 808s with a layered kick drum using EQ, FabFilter Pro-MB multiband compressor, MaxxBass and Slate Virtual Tape Machine.


Hey, folks! Matthew Weiss here — www.mixingedm.com, also mixinghiphop.com.

I wanted to give you guys some insight on to how I would treat the 808 from a master track producer. In this case, Sonny Digital. I’m going to give you a little bit of insight into the actual process.

Here is the record untreated, and then I will play it treated and explain to you why and how I did what I did.

[song before 808 processing]

[song after 808 processing]

Okay. So, first of all, the kick and 808 combination sounds good without any processing, and that’s important, because we don’t want to ever really rely on the mix for something to sound good. The mix should get something that sounds good, to great. Not get something that sounds okay to good.

Anyway, so Sonny’s sound selection is very good. Now, I wanted to take it a little bit further, so the thing that I thought was lacking a little bit with the 808 was the actual tone of it. The sort of texture and notation that gave us the melody and presence of the 808.

[808 plays]

So, here’s what I ended up doing. My first move was basically just to pull up some of the mid-range on the 808. It’s pretty basic. If you hear the 808, you can tell that there is a little bit of overdrive in it naturally, and I’m simply exaggerating that, and I’m doing it with a pretty healthy boost here. About 4.5dB at around 600Hz. Nothing crazy about that though, really.

The next move is where it gets a little bit strange. Here’s this.


This is a multi-band compressor, and it’s keyed to the kick drum, meaning when the kick hits, this big boost that I’ve got going on here ducks out.


Why am I doing that? Well, that tonality range is kind of where the kick is living, so if I take the ratio and I turn it down 1:1 here…


So, if I don’t engage this compression, and I pull up that frequency range, the 808 becomes really aggressive, and it starts to kind of muddle with the kick drum just a little bit, and in certain contexts, actually, this wouldn’t bother me. If this was a more aggressive record, I would be okay with it, but because it sort of has this smoother kind of R&Bish feel, I don’t want there to be too much clashing, I don’t want there to be too much aggression, so this is a good way to kind of get the best of both worlds.I’ll turn the ratio back up.

[808 plays]

Now, the kick is really clear, but you’re still getting a good amount of tone from the 808. So, that’s a pretty important part of this process. The very last step is this MaxxBass.

MaxxBass is really cool. It’s kind of like R-Bass. It’s basically the same system, except for that there’s a little bit more control over what you can do. So, one of the things that I really like is this dynamics section, because MaxxBass is generating a subharmonic, as well as a super-harmonic to give the impression of more bass, as well as more weight, but you can manipulate the shape of that harmonic by compressing it, and for certain things like making an 808 really rumble-y, that can be really cool.

So here’s an exaggerated version of that, before and after.


So, you feel that speaker excursion, you feel that weight added. Now, I’m doing it much more subtly than that. It sounds like this.


So, you more feel it than hear it, but that little subtle difference, I feel does enhance it quite a bit.

And the last thing that I’m doing is using this tape saturation on both the kick and the bass, because it sort of creates this slightly homogenized tone over the whole thing.

[808 and layered kick drum, before and after saturation]

So, it has this nice way of sort of rounding everything out and making it a little bit goofier, as I was saying in the beginning, and I think for the record, it works very well. If I wanted something that was a little punchier and a little more focused, I’d leave it off, but again, a lot of these decisions are contextual.

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