Booooooom: On Nailing the 808 Kick

a picture of a roland tr 808 drumcomputer

Here’s a fun fact: of all the records that are in today’s Billboard Hot 100, roughly 20 % of those tracks were built on top of an 808 kick – see the 808 kick Spotify playlist I made below. Though it’s specific to certain genres, that’s a solid foundation – considered the fact that The Roland TR-808 drumcomputer was introduced in 1980.

However simple that sound may be from a technical standpoint (it’s basically a sine wave) it’s probably one of the hardest sounds to get right. No way it’s going to blend in straight out of the box. After more than three decades, nailing the sound of the 808 kick has been raised to an art form. Cue this article on The Pro Audio Files website: How to Make 808s Kick HARD.

This is a nice write-up by Matthew Weiss about what processing techniques he uses to blend the 808 into a mix. Saturation, Bit-Crushing, Distortion, Multi Band Compression, Layering and Enhancers – all techniques are briefly discussed, with downloadable audio examples (mono, 24-bit WAV) as a bonus.


Playlist: 808 Kicks on Billboard

As I mentioned above, this playlist contains songs from the current Billboard Hot 100 that feature an 808 kick. I’ve made it collaborative, so add to it if you’ve got Spotify – as long as the tracks you’re adding actually ever made it to that particular Billboard chart. Let’s make it extensive!

Have fun.

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