Tuning 808 Kicks

Why this is absolutely essential and how you can do it yourself.

What do the songs below have in common? All-time hip hop classics? Perhaps… But I do think that all these beats bang quite hard through my speakers. Why is that? Because in both songs the 808 kick samples are tuned to the key of the beat! And that makes a huge difference for the impact and power of your beat!

That’s why in this Quick Tip, you will learn how to tune 808 kick drums yourself; the hard way and the easy way!

Tuning your drum sounds can have a great impact on your beats and I therefore strongly encourage you to experiment with it. But as long as you start with high-quality drum samples, tuning your drum sounds is definitely not essential for creating a pounding beat. However, there is one vital exception: 808 kicks.

808 kicks are basically bass instruments

This is because 808 kicks are basically bass instruments, usually with a distinct tone or pitch. So, when you put an untuned 808 kick in your beat, it is basically as if you let your bass guitar play random notes. And that’s definitely not what you want.

Hence, my advise is always tune your 808 kicks to the best of your ability!

Technique #1:
Tuning 'each' 808 kick

But of course, the question is: how?

1. The first step is to determine which tones you need. For example, if you are working on a beat consisting of the chords G minor, F minor, and C minor, you know that you will need an 808 kick in the tones of G, F, and C.

2. Then you take the 808 kick drum sample that you want to use, copy it three times and tune one to G, one to F, and one to C.

The obvious disadvantage of this method is that it is difficult and time-consuming; you have to ‘create’ new 808 kicks for nearly every beat!

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Check out the: Line of Legends premium drum package.

808 kick drum sample

Roland TR-808 - The original source of the 808 drums

Technique #2:
Tuning 'only one' 808 kick

1. Start with finding the perfect 808 kick for your beat. Load the 808 sample you want to use and take some time to pitch it perfectly to C5. Maybe ask someone to help to tune your favorite 808 kicks perfectly to C5.

2. Find out how you can use the 'keygroup' function in your DAW or drum computer. What a keygroup does is it takes 1 sample and makes duplicates of it, stretched out across all the keys of the piano, in the correct corresponding pitches. This will basically turn every 808 kick sound into a tuned bass instrument and will save you loads of time pitching 808 kick samples separately every time!

Now when creating a beat, you can simply load the keygroup and play the 808 kick drum sound on the same notes as your chords or melody. This will increase the impact of your beats immensely.

Don’t have any good 808 kicks to experiment with? Download my Free Drum Kit!