808’s are incredible sub sounds that are used heavily in hip hop since the 80s. The whole dirty south and trap genre is based on 808’s, as was Rick Rubin’s style in the 80s (Beasty Boys, LL Cool J etc). 808’s can be used to replace basslines cause no other sound so far can compete with the sub of an 808. No wonder is still so relevant.
808’s can be used to just fill the space on the one. But they got a tone/note to it so you need to tune them to the track. And because of this you can (re)play entire basslines using 808’s. There are several ways to do this.
You can run your 808 thru melodyne to see what note it’s played in. Once you know that you can pitch shift the 808 up and/or down till it’s in tune with the song.
I usually don’t do this in Melodyne self but I rather use the Pitch Shift tool in Pro Tools. I always make sure that “Time Correction” isn’t selected cause it muffles the sound. Also I don’t like to pitch the 808’s too much so when (re)playing/programming basslines I use at least two 808’s; one that’s played in/around “C” and one that’s played in/around “G#” so I never have pitch up/down more than 6 semi steps.
FL Studio is pretty good for tuning 808’s. Real easy to use too.
After you loaded your 808 sample you right click on the wave form and select edit.
Once you’re in edit mode you click on the symbol that appears to be a flag and click on “Detect Pitch Regions“.
Now you exit edit mode and go to “Miscellaneous Functions” . In my example you see that the 808 I’m using is played in the key of C so we right click on “C2”. Now our 808 is in tune with the key of C2 on our MIDI controller so we can actually play the 808 like a melodic instrument on our MIDI controller. If we would have used an 808 that was in the key of let’s say “F” then we would have assigned it to F2 in the miscellaneous functions.
If we want to let our 808s glide like they do a lot in Trap music then we select Porta in the miscellaneous function Polyphony and turn the slide knob way up. Now if you play the 808 on your MIDI controller you will hear it glide up and down.
808’s usually sound great from itself so you don’t have to really do too much to it in the mix. You can compress it if you want the tail of it to go on a little longer. Or you can add an RBass to it if you want some more low end. I like to put a little bit of distortion on 808’s sometimes to make them cut thru the mix some more and then they’re also more audible on smaller speakers that got less to no low end.