Get your 808 Bass Drums to hit hard using Dynamic Equalisation

Give your 808s bounce and colour using this surefire technique!

Beat Construction


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In the world of kick drums nothing is more famous than the legendary Roland TR 808 kick drum and explaining how to manipulate it would take a book………and it just so happens that I wrote an entire book on the subject of Low End. However, in this tutorial we are only concerned with getting the 808 bass drum to cut through a busy mix and the best process I can think of for controlling the dynamics of this classic sound is dynamic equalisation.

Up until recently we used to use compression to compress and equalisation to equalise. Today we use a combination of the two in a single processor and that processor is called a Dynamic Equaliser albeit with a difference. Most will state that a multiband compressor is much like a dynamic equaliser but there is a difference in that the crossovers in a traditional multiband compressor have fixed slopes whereas the dynamic equaliser has variable slopes. That has since changed with some multiband compressors offering variable slopes.

Multiband Compressor

A multiband compressor is a compressor that splits its entire frequency range into smaller bands that can then be compressed individually. Multiband compressors are particularly useful when the audio being treated has a wide variety of frequencies. The crossover in the image below has fixed slopes.

And now we have variable slopes.

Dynamic eq

A dynamic equaliser applies the gain change directly to the gain parameters of a multiband parametric equaliser. As with most dynamics processors, the the threshold determines at which point gain changes take place. You have control over the bandwidth denoted by the Q value and, much like a compressor, the response is controlled with attack and release functions.

Now that we understand what a dynamic equaliser is we can start by using a combination of compression and expansion to shape the 808 bass drum.

In the video I trigger a drum beat using the famous TR 808 bass drum and manipulate it using a dynamic equaliser. I explain the workings of a dynamic equaliser and how best to use it for shaping sounds. I explain each and every step in detail using the wonderful FabFilter Q3 dynamic equaliser.

Plugins used in this video:

D16 Nepheton

FabFilter Pro Q3

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Dynamic EQ
  • Threshold
  • Q Bandwidth
  • Compression and Expansion
  • Filtering
  • 808 Bass Drum
  • Resonance
  • Bounce
  • Colour versus Transparency
  • Tips and Tricks