How To Mix Kick and 808
One of the most challenging aspects of mixing is getting sounds to compliment each other. This is especially true if you aren’t experienced in mixing audio.
One of the most common questions we get asked here at FL Tips is how to get 808s to sit better with kick drums. One of the biggest signs of an amateur mix is low-end that is muddy, out of control, or lacking clarity. The last thing you want is an 808 and kick drum that are clashing or drowning each other out.
There are many solutions to remedying this problem, and in this little guide, we’ll go through some of our favorites!
Find The Right Samples
While it might seem pretty obvious, this is one thing that many producers get wrong.
It’s so important to get sounds that fit together from the beginning. As a general rule, if it doesn’t sound good before you mix it, then it probably won’t sound very good after you mix it either!
The question becomes,
How do you know if you’re choosing the right sounds?
In our opinion, if you have a clear, punchy low-end without any manipulation, you’re probably on the right path!
The only thing you should really have to do to get punch out of your kick drum and 808 is balance them in volume! The only thing you should have to do after you balance the volume is enhance them with mixing tools, not fix them.
Get Rid Of Phase Issues
So many producers rarely think of phase and how big of a factor it plays in mixing and getting elements to sound right together.
The thing is, phase is an incredibly important factor, especially when it comes to your low-end. Nothing can destroy a mix quite like phase cancellation, which occurs when two similar sounds that share the same frequency range have waveforms moving in opposite directions. Phase cancellation reduces the low-end and reduces the overall perceived volume of the tracks involved.
Let’s say you have a kick and an 808 that sound awesome when you isolate them. However, the minute you put them together, your low-end seemingly disappears. It’s probably due to phase cancellation, which makes your track sound flat and lifeless.
There are a few things you can try and do in this instance.
First, you can use the Fruity Stereo Shaper to flip the phase of one of your tracks and see if it brings back clarity and low-end. (Simply choose a preset Phase Invert or invert your sample inside of Sampler itself)
If that doesn’t work, you can zoom into the waveforms and nudge the kick or 808 forward or backward to line the waveforms up.
Balance Your Levels
One major mistake amateur producers often make is jumping into EQ too soon before setting the volume levels.
People often try and make both the kick and 808 extremely loud. However, if you spend time listening to professional mixes with these elements, such as those by Migos or Drake, you’ll notice that neither of these elements is hitting as hard as you imagine.
When setting your levels, consider which of these instruments is most important. You’ll want to have one instrument that is louder than the other.
For example, let’s say you have a tight and punchy kick drum and a subby, low-end heavy 808 sample. In this example, you’d want the kick to be louder with the 808 tucked just underneath so you can feel it more than hear it.
Remember, you can always boost the mid-range a bit later on your 808 track if you want the perceived volume to be higher.
Cut Frequencies To Create Pockets
808s and kick drums share fundamental frequencies. By cutting some of these frequencies to create pockets for each of these instruments to reside in, you can give each element some breathing room.
For example, let’s say the 808 you are using consists of mostly sub frequencies. In knowing that, you may choose to focus its energy on the 60Hz region. Comparatively, you may see that the fundamental of your kick drum sits somewhere around 110Hz.
With this information in mind, you can make strategic cuts to allow both of these elements to sit well with one another.
You might choose to notch out a few dB of 110Hz on the 808 so the space has a bit more kick. On the other hand, you might also choose to notch out a bit of 60Hz on the EQ for the kick drum to make room for the 808. You could also choose to use a shelving EQ on the kick drum as well, which can allow the 808 to dominate the low-end.
One of the best practices for mixing kicks and 808s is cutting frequencies instead of boosting. Cutting is great for creating space in a mix without adding potential phase issues or congesting the mix.
Using Sidechain Compression on the 808
EQ is an excellent tool for creating clarity and separation in your mix, especially with low-end instruments. However, EQ is not always the best choice. The reason for this is that any move you make with EQ will impact your sound consistently throughout the track.
In many cases, chord or key changes will occur in a song, changing the fundamental of the low-end sound you’re working on, such as the 808. EQing these sounds out can result in losing non-problematic frequencies when you need them most.
In these types of situations, we often find it helpful to use sidechain compression instead.
To use sidechain compression, you can put it on the 808 and engage it to the sidechain that is triggered by the kick. This way, each time the kick hits, the compressor will reduce the sound of the 808 in volume. However, when the kick is not playing, the 808 will retain its natural volume.
When used correctly, sidechain compression can help a kick cut through an 808 with clarity without feeling detrimental to the 808.
The idea here is to make the sound quick and transparent. You’ll often want to use a fast attack and a fast release on the sidechain compressor so your kick drum can punch through without clamping down on the 808.
For ultimate control, check our Free Multiband Sidechain Compressor Patcher Preset from Lite Version of our Patcher Lords Pack - that way you can perfectly sidechain just low frequencies of your kick to your 808 bass, in a matter of click! This approach is not only precise but offers a great easy alternative that won’t impact the mids or highs in your 808.
Shape The Transients Of Each Sound
Transient shaping is one of the easiest ways to get a kick and an 808 to sit well together.
If we think about this from a logical standpoint, it’s quite simple.
Most kick drums have a clear and defined transient. The initial attack of the kick drum will likely be the loudest point and the sustain will typically be quite minimal with a quick fade out. An 808 is very similar in that it has a quick attack, though the sustain is often much longer, ringing out and creating a sound that is more tonal in nature.
To help these sounds fit better together, we can use a tool like Fl Studio’s Transient Processor to manipulate the transients on these instruments.
For example, you might reduce the attack on your 808 so that the kick can punch through without running into the attack of the 808. This method is very similar to sidechain compression, though, with transient shaping, you get a bit more control.
You might also consider reducing the sustain of your kick so that the 808 takes over the sustained portion of the sound. In essence, these elements should feel like a single sound rather than two different elements happening at the same time.
Did I mention that we have a Transient Processor Patcher Preset in our Patcher Lords pack already? Yeah, there is a ton of Utility patches that you’re gonna love!
Parallel Process In A Single Sub-Group
We often like to process our kicks and 808s together before they hit the master.
On this bus, you can use a number of tools to accentuate your kick and 808, such as compression or saturation.
What’s really important is that you don’t overdo it with your processing. Keeping these sounds dynamic will make for a more exciting mix. We often like to add a slight bit of compression to glue the sounds together and add a slight bit of harmonic distortion with tape saturation to enhance synergy and presence.You will find OneKnob Parallel Compressor Patcher Preset in our Patcher Lords packs. Plus 30 other presets that are going to save a ton of time!
Should My Kick Be Louder Than My 808?
We often like having our kicks louder than our 808s, as comparatively, kicks tend to have less sub information than 808s. By lowering the levels of your 808, you can give yourself a bit more headroom in your mix.
We highly recommend referencing professional mixes when trying to determine what level to set your kicks and 808s. They are usually much quieter than you’d think.
What dB Should Kick Be At?
While setting the levels in your track is relevant to the particular song and genre, it is often the case in modern electronic music that the kick drum is the loudest element. To give yourself enough headroom in your mix, it’s a good idea to set the kick drum at around -18dB or so.
By doing so, you should have plenty of headroom to set the levels of the rest of your instruments in relation to the kick without going into the red.
While there are certainly many strategies for mixing kicks and 808s, we only wanted to present you with a few simple strategies so as not to overwhelm you! Of course, if you want to dive in deeper and find new strategies to push your low-end mixing to the next level, make sure to check out our wide variety of music production courses, all geared to working in FL Studio!