How to Create 808 Basslines

Music is one of the most versatile forms of art that exist today. Artists are known for making beats from scratch, or taking something old and making it their own. Hip hop specifically is known for mixing the old with the new and creating something unique. Now, everybody likes a good bass drop. Everybody likes to turn down the treble and crank up something they can feel in their bones. 808 Bass lines, particularly in hip hop, are made for that moment in time. Writers work for days, weeks, honestly even months to create the perfect bass line for their music. Experienced producers will tell you, creating an 808 bass lines is no easy feat, and there is much for new producers to learn to master these beats themselves.

That’s what I am here for. So, let’s get into it.

There are two crucial pieces to creating and 808 bass line: influence and technique.

Let’s start with influence.

Influence is where an artist draws his inspiration from. It’s something that can’t be taught to an artist but has to be found by the artist. There are hundreds of inspirational and influential hip-hop artists going decades back, but there are a few that every hip hop artist needs to know before creating their unique bass lines.

  1. Big L; the artist known for introducing horrorcore into hip hop, showing people what growing up along the streets of New York was really like. Big L gave people a dose of reality, both in his music videos and his music itself, often using simple, low tone bass lines as the lead. Although criticized for his misuse of the English language, Big L made a name for himself by using the tone of his music to make people feel what he wanted them to.
  2. Kanye West; say what you want about the man, but he is iconic in hip hop. Kanye is known for his earlier works in the industry, including College Dropout and Late Registration, both of which he earned immense praise for. Critics applauded him for his ability to perfectly combine an edgy tone with a smooth bass line that remains consistent in his work. Take a listen to Hell of a Life and keep his 808 loops in mind next time you’re working on a piece of your own.
  3. Madvilliany; a collaboration between MC MF DOOM and producer Madlib. Madvilliany was one of the original teams to incorporate jazz into their hip hop roots. The pieces from this collab are known for their psychedelic bass lines that seamlessly flow in and out of the foreground.
  4. Young M.C; the well-known artist who got his fame from his original “Bust a move.” Young M.C. practically embodies 90’s hip-hop with his boom-bap drum sets and flowy lyrics. Bust a move is by far his most popular piece, which is thanks in part to his bass lines that combine simplicity with funk bass lines of the 60’s and even throws in a little old school R&B. If you haven’t heard this piece yet, make it a priority.

Other popular hip hop originals include Tupac, Jay-Z, and Notorious B.I.G. If you haven’t listened to their music yet, make it a priority before creating your bass lines. You have to find where your niche lies and take your work in that direction, or combine multiple niches and create our own niche. You just can’t do any of it without some inspiration and without knowing who started hip-hop in the first place.

Moving on to technique.

There are a few ways to go about creating your own unique 808 bass lines, but for the sake of time, I am going to explain the most popular way to you.

The first thing you are going to do when creating a sample based beat is to take your own bass line and overlap it with the lowest bass note you hear in the sample you are working with. From there you are going to want to add in some kick drum. This can be done by adding in sample kick drum beats from a mix or, if you have a drum machine, creating your own drum beat and playing it back over your lowest bass note/sample bass line combo.

A good drum machine to use for this would be the Maschine, MV8000. If you do not have a drum machine or prefer to spend your time customizing elsewhere, you could always use a keyboard to get a similar effect.

The key to creating a high-quality 808 bass line is actually going back to music 101 and learning your scales.

YouTube, of course, can help you with that, but if you already know your basic scales (major, minor, sharp, flat, etc.) then choose a scale that suits the bass line you are working on and use the notes in that scale for your piece. This will insure your piece sounds like it goes together without you having to play trial and error with every note in the book.

Quality 808 Samples

Another inmportant thing to mention is that you are going to need to get your hands on some high quality 808 samples.  If you want the speakers to not only shake but you want it to cut through the speakers – Don’t skip this part!  I’ve been making beats for years and can honestly say that besides mixing, the quality of my sounds made the biggest improvement on how my beats sounded.  If you want high quality 808 bass samples I recommend checking out Modern Samples – Analog 808s.

Conclusion

Before going ahead with all of your bass line ideas, take some time to learn about who came before you and saw who you resonate with the most. Learn from them. Then take some time to practice basic technique by learning your scales and creating sample bass lines that maybe one day you can use in an original piece. The technique is both about skill and personal preference. Not every hip-hop artist has the same technique, but their foundations are primarily the same. Get your basics down, add your own flare, and who knows, maybe you will be the next Tupac.