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Producers' Corner with Diamond Pistols: Making An 808 Bass

About This Column: Producers' Corner with Diamond Pistols is a series that consists of reviews of plugins and other tools in order to help up-and-coming producers improve their skills and workflow.

What up guys, Diamond Pistols here with the newest installment of Producers’ Corner! I’m frequently asked how I get the bass to hit so hard in my tracks, so this week I’ll be going over how I make the 808 bass hits that you hear in a lot of my tunes. While 808s themselves are relatively simple to make, I have somewhat of a unique method of making them that has worked well for me.

Disclaimer: Following this tutorial will not in any way guarantee that Lil B will freestyle over your beat or Kanye will ask you to produce his next album...but it might.

Some people prefer to sample their 808s, and some people prefer to make them in massive, operator, etc. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but I find that using both samples and synthesis yields the best results generally speaking. Lately, I’ve been doing this using a really cool plugin called KICK, which is made by Sonic Academy and Nicky Romero.

So to begin, there are two fundamental parts to making a proper 808: The sub bass, and a kick drum sample to use as the transient.

Once you have selected a nice punchy kick to use as the transient, make sure you cut out the low end using an EQ (my personal choice is FabFilter Pro-Q) so as not to have any phase issues with the sub bass. The amount you cut out will generally depend on the sample you choose but I generally lo-cut everything from around 70 to 100hz and below.

Next, load up the KICK plugin. Try playing around with some of the default noises, some of them are actually pretty decent, especially the Nicky Romero ones. Since I generally layer a kick over the bass, I turn the volume on the “Click” parameter all the way down. The line that you see when the “Pitch” option is selected follows the pitch of the bass. If you click the “Amp” setting, you will see that it does not have the typical 4 attack, decay, sustain, and release parameters that most plugins use, but rather you can draw your own ASDR which can be very helpful. I generally play around with the settings on both the pitch and the amp to see what sounds good. To get you started, here are the settings that I used in my remix of Carnage & Junkie Kid’s ‘Krakatoa’.

After I get a good sounding sub bass, I generally add some saturation (I usually use Waves NLS Buss) and lo-pass everything around 230hz or so. Also, don’t forget to make sure your sub is in mono! After you have a good transient, and a meaty sub, send them to an external track, or group the tracks if you’re using Ableton, add some light compression and EQ if needed.

I hope this helps! Make sure you go get KICK - it’s a pretty cheap but really versatile plug-in, and I find myself using it all the time!

Diamond Pistols: