The sound of an 808 bass is really simple to make in Ableton’s Analog synth. Plus we’ll added some extra processing for more interest. At the end of the tutorial you’ll end up with something like this:
808 style basslines usually don’t require fancy programming, so keep the bass hits to one bass note, with a couple jumps here and there. Feel free to be more experimental, but this tutorial is about sound design and not music theory…
Setting Up Analog to Sound Like an 808 Bass
First drag an instance of Analog from Abletons Instrument browser onto your track. Turn off Osc2 and set Osc1 to a simple Sine wave. Instantly we have a deep subby sound, but to make more like an 808, we will adjust the Pitch Envelope. By raising it to somewhere above 60% and lowering the Time value to around 10%, we get more of an attack at the beginning, just like your typcial 808s.
Next we will shape the sound using the built-in Filter. Lower the filter to around 100-15 Hz to only let the low frequencies through – don’t worry we’ll add some top end to cut through the mix in a little bit. Adjust the Decay and Sustain of the filter envelope to shape the tail of the 808 sound a bit.
Moving on to the Amp section of Analog, we again employ the decay and sustain to tweak the sound a bit more.
In the volume section, we just want to make sure the sound is monophonic so you don’t have overlapping bass notes. You can also set the 808 to glide here if you wish. And that’s it for the synthesis part really.
Processing with Pedal
To make your standard 808 more unique or simply cut through the mix better, we can process it with some effects. You can experiment here and find devices and settings that get you the sound that you want. I simply added a Pedal device, which was introduced in Ableton Live 10 to emulate guitar pedals. I chose the OD Overdrive circuit, increased the gain to add more distortion and adjusted the Bass/Mid/Treble frequency as well as the dry/wet control to end with a sound that I like. You can also activate the Sub button to engage a fixed 250Hz low-shelf boost.
That’s all it takes really. The beauty of Ableton Live is that you can group this in an instrument rack and easily map the envelope, glide and distortion settings to 8 separate macro controls – and ready is your go-to 808 bass for almost every occasion!