How to create punchy hip-hop 808 bass

Replicate a classic thumping bass sound

808-style hip-hop bass is classic patch that's effective for giving tracks a low-end punch, and is a relatively simple sound to recreate.

In the video above and the step-by-step below, we show you how to replicate this sound using plug-in synths and effects.

For more bass synthesis tips and tutorials check out the January issue of Computer Music (issue 186.)


Step 1: We'll be using Cubase's Retrologue to make a classic 808-style bass, so get a suitable bass pattern down and set Osc 1's waveform to a sine wave. Set the voicing to Mono, as polyphony is not very useful for bass patches. The key to this patch is using envelopes to modulate the pitch and amplitude.

Step 2: Set the filter envelope as a modulation source for the patch's pitch and set the amount to a high value like +34. Now set the filter envelope's Decay to 44ms and its Sustain to 0. This gives the bass the gentle mid-range 'thump' of a transient that isn't too bold and upfront.

Step 3: To complete the effect, set the Amp Sustain to 0 and the Decay to 1s for that 808 kick feel. For some extra character, we've saturated ours with PSP MixSaturator using Valve2 saturation with the input cranked to the max. Experiment with different saturation types and pitch modulation amounts to change the texture and feel of the bass.

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