Monday, January 12, 2009

Reason: Making Bowel Shaking Bass Lines With An 808 Bass Drum in Propelerheads Reason

Who doesn't love that bowel shaking tone of the classic sub bass kick sound of the Roland TR 808. If you don't love it I would most assuredly place you in a category with other certifiable nut cases. But I digress for I am not here to diagnose you according to your musical taste right now.

I am here to inform you, inspire you and perhaps broaden your mind.

Today we are going to talk about the amazing tonality of the 808 Bass Drum, i.e. BD0010, and its incredible versatility in conjunction with the Redrum in Reason.But first let's get a little history under our belts regarding this instrument and its tone shall we? We are going to go to our best friend for information on the web, Wikipedia that is, for some info.


Wikipedia TR-808

Popular Media

In the mid-to-late 1980s, years after the TR-808 was discontinued, its sound again became popular, in part due to its kick drum sound, which could produce a very deep sub-bass. By the end of the 1980s, the TR-808 was popular within electronic music and hip-hop genres. As with many analogue electronic musical instruments, a great deal of effort has been put into sampling the sounds of the TR-808 for use in modern devices; however, due to the nature of analog circuitry, the result is often considered unsatisfactory and can sound unduly static and digital. Demand for the real 808 sound is so great that street prices for a used TR-808 are actually higher than the cost of a new TR-808 was upon its initial release in 1980.
The sounds of the TR-808 were and still are very often used in drum and bass, hip-hop, R&B, house, electro and many forms of electronic dance music, albeit often unrecognizable after extensive processing. One method is to lower the pitch of the kick drum to near sub-harmonic levels.
The popularity of the TR-808 has led to many artists referring to the machine in their lyrics,[1] and the group 808 State even named itself after the venerable machine, although Graham Massey recently admitted that up until the late 1980s he and the other members of 808 State thought the Roland TR-808 was "severely uncool."
On 8th August 2008 (08.08.08) a party was held in London to celebrate the TR-808. It featured 808 State, Arthur Baker, DMX Krew and I-f, artists associated with the machine. The party was organised by the electro label Citinite.
Kanye West's fourth studio album entitled 808s & Heartbreak apparently refers to the TR-808 in the album title because Kanye insisted that every track use TR-808 generated drum beats for a more 'tribal drum' feel and to get away from 'typical Hip-hop beats'.


The popularity of the TR-808 is such that many companies have seen fit to cater to a significant market of musicians who want the sound of the TR-808 but are not able to pay for one. This has led to a rise in clones—devices designed to emulate the TR-808 for a much cheaper price.
Popular clones include the following:
  • Audiobits 8-Tron VSTi
  • Elektron MachineDrum SPS-1 - the TRX machine synthesis algorithms are directly inspired by the Roland TR series
  • Jomox AirBase 99 and XBase 09 - emulates the Roland CR-78, TR-808, and TR-909
  • Novation DrumStation - an analogue emulation drum module that imitates the waveforms created by the original TR-808 and TR-909
  • Propellerhead Software ReBirth RB-338 - one of the first software synthesizers that included accurate emulations of the Roland TB-303, TR-909, and TR-808.
  • Native Instruments Battery 3 drum sampling software (the kit is named "Ate Oh Wait Kit.") Another copy of this sample is included in Kontakt 3 as the "808 Kit."
  • The Zoom company's MRT-3B drum machine also features many 808-style sounds.
  • D16 Group's Nepheton - A VST instrument that emulates the TR-808. The D16 team indicated they carefully studied each waveform coming out of the 808's transistors and made its software emulate it.
  •'s ADM DrumMachine - A VST instrument carefully modeled after the classics' analog circuits.

Below I have compiled a list of notable artists that have been associated with using this indubitably majestic tone.
  • Aphex Twin
  • Beastie Boys
  • Daft Punk
  • Dan the Automator
  • Dr. Dre
  • DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill
  • Eric B & Rakim
  • Kanye West
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Public Enemy
  • The Chemical Brothers
  • Timbaland
A Few Examples:

SeeqPod - Playable Search

The Lesson:

First, we will need a couple things:

1) Propellerheads Reason (any version will do)

2) Roland TR - 808 BD0010 sound

If you do not have this in your sound library you can get it here:

Played 1368 times

Made with the Splice online sequencer.

Do not fret this is a very safe site.

Remember to store it with the rest of your sound library for Reason so you can reuse it in the future.

Now that you have your necessary tools we can begin.

1. Open Reason

2. All you will need is the Redrum drum machine for this exercise, so just create a mixing board and Redrum

3. Open up the file browser on channel one of your Redrum and find the 808 BD0010 sound and load it.

Do the same with channels two through four on the Redrum

5. Now for sake of realism and variety throw your pans off center. It doesn't matter where they are just as long as they are not set to zero.

6. Now to give our drums some melodic tones

I have figured out the tones so we can now use an 808 kick for a bassline

Pitch Number:

Negative Pitches
Positive Pitches
0: G (a little sharp)
0: G (a little sharp)
-6: F#
+4: G#
-12: F
+10: A
-18: E
+20: B
-22: Eb
+24: C
-28: D
+30: C#
-34: C#
+36: D
-38: C
+40: Eb
-44: B
+46: E
-50: Bb
+52: F
-58: A
+56: F#
-60: G#
+63: G
-64: G (a little sharp)

7. Tuning our drums

Now that we have figured out the possible tones lets choose some notes to use.

Drum 1: Leave Pitch at
0, for G

Drum 2: Tune Pitch to - 12, for F

Drum 3: Tune Pitch to + 10, for A

Drum 4: Tune Pitch to +24, for C

8. Writing a bass line

1. Pattern for Drum 1: G

Steps 1 - 16

- Illuminate steps 1 & 5

Steps 17 -32
- Illuminate step 9

2. Pattern for Drum 2: F

Steps 1 - 16

- Illuminate steps 7 & 9

3. Pattern for Drum 3: A

Steps 1 - 16

- Illuminate step 13

4. Pattern for Drum 4: C

Steps 17 - 32

- Illuminate steps 1 & 5

Now you should have an idea as to how to make a bassline using an 808 kick drum sound. I hope that this was useful to you and that you pursue your musical endeavors with much joy and passion. Enjoy.

~ Ky

1 comment:

  1. Can You Send Me That Wav File. i Couldnt Find it online at all.