How to mix 808s

How to Mix 808s: A Guide to Enhancing Impact and Sound Quality

In the world of music production, 808s have become an essential element for creating powerful and impactful tracks. These deep bass sounds can add a new dimension to your music, but mixing them properly is crucial to ensure they sound clean, punchy, and well-balanced within your mix. In this article, we will explore various tips and techniques to help you mix 808s like a pro, improving their overall impact and sound quality. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets how to mix 808s like a pro.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Sample and Note Selection
  3. Levels: Finding the Perfect Balance
  4. Utilizing Envelopes and Lengths
  5. Creating Contrast with Different Sounds
  6. Enhancing 808s with Distortion Plugins
  7. Tuning 808s for Perfect Pitch
  8. Side Chain Compression for a Balanced Mix
  9. The Game-Changing Feature in Ableton 11: Pitch Bending 808s
  10. Conclusion


When it comes to mixing 808s, it’s important to understand that the process involves a combination of artistic decisions and technical skills. The aim is to create a mix that allows the 808 to shine while maintaining a strong balance with other elements in the track. Let’s explore some key techniques that will help you achieve this.

Sample and Note Selection

The first step in mixing 808s is to carefully choose the right sample and note selection. There are various types of 808s available, ranging from long to short, high-pitched to distorted. It’s crucial to consider the emotion and style of your track when selecting the appropriate 808. For instance, if you’re creating a pop beat, you may want to opt for a softer yet impactful 808. By choosing the right sample and note selection, you lay the foundation for a successful mix.

Levels: Finding the Perfect Balance

Getting the levels right is essential for a well-mixed 808. It’s recommended to mix your 808s at a perfect level, ensuring they sit well within your mix without overpowering other elements. Many producers prefer the slight saturation and loudness that comes from pushing the 808s into the red. However, if that doesn’t suit your track, you can always adjust the levels accordingly. Keep in mind that exporting 808 samples in the 32-bit float format allows for greater headroom and the possibility of achieving a louder mix without sacrificing quality.

Utilizing Envelopes and Lengths

To shape your 808s and add more character to your mix, consider utilizing envelopes and lengths. Experiment with the attack, decay, sustain, and release settings to achieve the desired sound. By manipulating these parameters, you can control the attack and release of the 808, making it shorter, longer, or even emphasizing specific parts. Additionally, adjusting the envelope can help you reduce clickiness or create a unique groove. Remember to avoid overlapping base notes by adjusting the voice settings on your sampler.

Creating Contrast with Different Sounds

To make your mix more dynamic and engaging, consider using contrasting sounds. While your track may feature a consistent 808 baseline, incorporating different 808 samples can help differentiate sections such as verses and choruses. By using shorter, staccato 808s in one section and longer-lasting 808s in another, you can create a distinct contrast that adds interest and energy to your mix. This technique enhances the overall structure and impact of your track.

Enhancing 808s with Distortion Plugins

Adding distortion plugins to your 808s can greatly enhance their presence and impact. Distortion introduces saturation and harmonics, making the 808s

more audible and recognizable on smaller speakers or headphones. One popular plugin for this purpose is the saturator, which allows you to add a controlled amount of distortion. By blending the distorted signal with the dry signal, you can strike the right balance and achieve a gnarly, yet controlled, sound. Various third-party plugins, such as Fuzz Plus and the UAD Tube Screamer 808, can also provide excellent results in adding distortion to your 808s.

Tuning 808s for Perfect Pitch

Ensuring your 808s are in tune is crucial for a well-polished mix. You can use a guitar tuner or the built-in tuner in your DAW to accurately pitch your 808s. By aligning the pitch of your 808s with the desired musical key, you create a more harmonically coherent and pleasing sound. This step is especially important when working with melodic 808 patterns or when using pitch bends to add expressive elements to your mix.

Side Chain Compression for a Balanced Mix

To maintain a balanced mix and prevent clashes between the kick and the 808, side chain compression is a powerful tool. By side chaining the 808 to the kick, you create a “pumping” effect where the 808 ducks in volume every time the kick hits. This technique helps ensure that both elements have their space in the mix and don’t compete for dominance. Additionally, using a high-pass filter on the side chain can further reduce any unwanted low-end clashes, allowing the kick to cut through the mix more effectively.


Mixing 808s is an art that requires a delicate balance between creativity and technical proficiency. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can take your 808 mixes to the next level. Remember to carefully select the right sample and note, find the perfect levels, shape the 808s using envelopes, create contrast with different sounds, enhance with distortion plugins, ensure proper tuning, utilize side chain compression, and explore the new pitch bending feature in Ableton 11. With practice and experimentation, you will develop your own unique approach to mixing 808s, creating powerful and impactful mixes that captivate listeners.


Q1: Can I use these tips for mixing other bass elements in my tracks?

Absolutely! While these tips are specifically tailored for mixing 808s, many of the techniques discussed can be applied to other bass elements in your tracks. Experiment and adapt them to suit the specific requirements of your mix.

Q2: Can I mix 808s without using distortion plugins?

Yes, you can achieve great results without using distortion plugins. Distortion is just one tool in the mixing arsenal. Feel free to explore other plugins and techniques such as saturation, harmonic excitement, or layering to enhance your 808s.

Q3: Is it necessary to tune 808s if my track is not in a specific key?

While it may not be necessary to tune your 808s to a specific key if your track is more abstract or experimental, it’s generally recommended to ensure the 808s are in tune with the rest of your musical elements. Tuning adds musical coherence and helps maintain a harmonically pleasing mix.

Q4: Can I use side chain compression on elements other than the kick and 808?

Absolutely! Side chain compression can be used on various elements in your mix to create space and prevent clashes. It’s a versatile technique that can be applied creatively to shape your mix and enhance the overall impact.

Q5: Is Ableton 11 the only DAW that offers the new pitch bending feature for 808s?

Currently, the new pitch bending feature for 808s is exclusive to Ableton 11. However, other DAWs may offer similar or alternative methods for achieving precise pitch bends. Check the documentation or resources provided by your specific DAW to explore the available options.

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