Music Distribution

Manufacturing: Creating the Good Bass Sound

[Editors Note: This bass production guide was written by our friends over at Point Blank London, and was originally featured on their site. Check it out here for audio samples and more.]

Looking for the right bass patch could be an odious activity. With such a plethora of synths and libraries on the market, flicking via the virtually infinite presets to search out what’s best for you is like discovering a needle in haystack.

Getting one thing that works with any samples or chord progressions you’ve bought, that sits properly together with your kick drum and nonetheless carries sufficient weight to shake these subwoofer cones can appear to be a juggling act.

On this tutorial we’re going to clarify the way to create bass sounds and features with highly effective subs, thick mids and tops that reduce via on any system. Obtain the undertaking used on this tutorial right here.

There are a myriad of dos and don’ts on the market and you’ll spend extra time tweaking than really making music. On this article we’ll take a forensic take a look at the way to construct your basslines from the underside up, from making a penetrating sub bass, layering the mids and tops, getting it to chunk in all the best locations and processing it together with your kick and remainder of the combination.

As a result of low bass frequencies in these audio examples we propose listening via good headphones or studio screens to understand the nuanced programming.

Low-Finish Idea

Relying on which style of music you’re engaged on, the bass would possibly carry out a unique perform; in home and techno, a weightier kick drives the observe alongside, dictating the tempo and really feel. Basslines in these genres would possibly include extra mid-range frequencies to chop via the mixes.

Drum ’n’ bass, dubstep and different bass-heavy music can include way more backside finish and sub frequencies, underpinning your loop. Balancing your kick and bass could be a necessary a part of getting your observe working. With weak foundations, you’re going to wrestle to get the remainder of the combination sitting comfortably.

To know bass correctly, there are just a few key phrases you’ll want to get your head round: amplitude, harmonics and part. Amplitude is solely a time period for quantity, nevertheless it’s to not be confused with decibels (dB). It’s extra akin to relative quantity or energy.

Harmonics are the identify given to all of the frequencies that go into making up a sound. The bottom, loudest observe in your bass sound is the primary harmonic (or elementary). Any frequency above this can usually be a harmonic.

Harmonics are integer multiples of the elemental frequency. If that didn’t imply something don’t fear, the maths is straightforward. Let’s take a look at Stay’s Operator instrument utilizing Osc A. Under is a low A observe (110 Hz) and I’ve adjusted the Waveform Editor, bringing within the subsequent 4 harmonics one by one. They’re the frequencies, 220, 330, 440 and 550Hz.

Simply above Operator we are able to see Voxengo SPAN mapping frequency throughout our X-axis and amplitude throughout our Y-axis: you’ll be able to fairly clearly see every harmonic creeping in relative to the elemental. To the best is an oscilloscope by Laidman & Katsura, this shows time throughout the X-axis and amplitude throughout the Y-axis.

The opposite idea we have to familiarise ourselves with is part. There are primarily two locations we’ll come up towards this, the primary of which is the beginning part of an oscillator. Under we are able to see eight notes with their part free working (the default of most synths) and with their part locked to restart at 0º when a observe is performed:




As you’ll be able to see with out restarting the part, every observe has a unique begin place inside the oscillators cycle, inflicting irregularities in quantity and nasty clicks and pops.

The second occasion of part we’re more likely to come throughout is relationship between the left and proper channel. It’s extremely really helpful to maintain your frequencies beneath about 100Hz in mono: any disparity in stereo spectrum right here could be very noticeable, inflicting phasing points when summed to mono and extra irregularities in quantity.

Making a Sub Mattress

Whereas we would have a tendency to think about basses as one sound we are able to typically separate their spectrums up additional into advanced composites – containing as many as three and even 4 layers – every requiring totally different programming, processing and remedy.

Flexibility with the sub, low-mids and mid vary could be key in getting the correct amount of punch, the bass chopping via the combination and retaining that all-important stereo picture. Let’s begin off with our sub frequencies.

The one approach your bass goes to maneuver air on the dancefloor is getting a great, meaty sub. Making a reliable sub isn’t rocket science, because it requires little or no understanding of synthesis and sound, however making an ideal sub simply takes somewhat extra. Let’s stick with Operator for now.

Osc A defaults to a sine wave, a waveform that comprises solely the primary harmonic. That is good for sub bass because it’s clear and uncluttered. Make sure the part restarts on 0º (0%) and alter the Voices to 1 within the International Shell.

Phase Restart

Should you’re leaving the sub as the only real layer for the bass half then you’ll be able to nearly depart it untouched. I’ve added in -30dB from Osc B, which is modulating the frequency of Osc A. This provides only a few harmonics into the sound serving to it reduce via a busier combine and on smaller audio system.

Do that by enabling Osc B and turning the Degree as much as -30dB, or wherever you’re feeling the candy spot is. It’s good to examine on a spectral analyser, although, as frequency modulation can typically overpower the elemental frequency in case you add an excessive amount of in.

Osc B launched

By rising the extent of Osc B we are able to create a brighter, sharper tone. You may form the general FM by lowering the maintain of the amplitude envelope of Osc B. With the extent round -13dB, and altering the Coarse tuning to 4 (fourth harmonic), we are able to get an archetypal storage/UK home sound:

Garage Bass

Shaping the Low-Mid Tone

As soon as we’ve bought our foundations laid we have to transfer on to the decrease mid vary, which goes to form the physique of our bass. Click on on the Operator and hit cmd + G (or ctrl + G in case you’re on a PC) to group the Operator into an Instrument Rack. Instrument Racks enable MIDI to be distributed to varied totally different chains of synths and samplers and their mixed indicators to be processed and blended individually.

Click on on the Present/Cover Chain Checklist and rename the Operator “Sub”. It may be muted for now whereas we consider our midrange.

Show Chain List

Ctrl + right-click within the panel the place it says Drop an Instrumental or Pattern Right here, click on Create Chain and identify it “Mids”. We’re in search of a synth that has a few oscillators and, whereas most any subtractive synth will do, I’m choosing Native Devices’ Large. Drag and drop it on to the Mids chain.

Large’s default preset is utilizing Oscillator 1 with a wave that’s harmonically midway between a sq. and a sawtooth. It’s working into filters 1 and a couple of, and Envelope Four is controlling our amplitude. Let’s set about getting it to a spot the place we are able to design our sound.

Transfer the WT-Pos (wavetable place, highlighted in inexperienced) totally clockwise to Squ and set the routing of the oscillator to F1 (yellow). Now click on on the Four Env panel and cut back the Assault to minimal and improve the Degree to most (blue and crimson).

Massive Reset

You may repeat these steps oscillators 2 and three if you need.

Within the Osc panel, click on to Restart through Gate within the Oscillator Phases field. Very like Operator, Large permits us to pick the beginning part of our oscillators every time a brand new observe is obtained. If we have been designing a pad or poly synth patch with unison detune it won’t be essential to take these steps, however for lots of contemporary bass sounds it’s really helpful.

Lastly, within the Voicing tab, change the Voicing from Polyphon to Monorotate and the Set off from At all times to Legato Triller. These steps make sure the bass is monophonic and that envelopes received’t retrigger if two notes overlap.

Subsequent I’m going to allow Osc 2 and cargo a sawtooth in. There are just a few two decisions right here, the Squ-Noticed and Squ-Sw II. Make sure the WT-Pos is in the best place and switch the amplitude as much as simply half approach. This provides us a richer sound that’s dominated by the odd harmonics supplied by the sq. wave – loads of center and prime finish for out filters to chunk on to.

Route Osc 2 to F1 and switch your consideration to the filter part. I’m going so as to add the Lowpass 2 filter – this has a weaker slope than the Lowpass Four giving it a smoother sound – which is able to sound nice afterward down the road after we begin modulating it.

Set the Cutoff to about Eight o’clock and depart the Resonance as is. Earlier than shifting on I’ve added the Ktr (keyboard monitoring) Macro to modulate our filter. This tracks the place of the filter based on the pitch, opening it because the pitch will get increased. Lastly set the >F2 to Collection and the Combine to Mix1.

At this stage you’ll be able to add a 3rd oscillator in tuned up an octave or two if you wish to. This received’t actually add something to the load of the bassline nevertheless it would possibly assist it come throughout on smaller audio system.

As well as you may add some Sine Shaper from the Inserts. Experiment with their place earlier than or after the filter within the Routing panel.


Filter Envelopes for Chunk and Punch

Modulation is available in all sizes and shapes and by far the 2 most typical sources are LFOs and envelopes. Let’s take a look at every in flip, beginning off with LFOs.

LFO stands for low frequency oscillator, and this can be a management worth that falls inside the 0.01 Hz to 20 Hz spectrum. We wouldn’t be capable to hear these waves on their very own, as they’re subsonic, however when utilized to filter cutoff or quantity we are able to hear their impact.

Their worth is set by a ‘price’ and their modulation is bi-polar i.e it has a constructive and damaging half to the cycle. LFOs are nice for tempo-synced modulation like dubstep wobbles, filter and frequency modulation in addition to stereo tremolo on pads and rhodes-type devices.

Envelopes alternatively are unipolar and whereas LFOs are free working envelopes are gate triggered. Large comprises 4 envelopes and quantity Four defaults to modulating the amplitude.

Generally there are 4 levels in an envelope: the assault (time in milliseconds it takes to achieve the utmost degree from a MIDI observe on sign); decay (time in ms after the assault has handed to achieve the maintain stage); maintain (worth at which the observe sustains at); and launch (time in ms the sound takes to achieve zero once more after a MIDI observe off is obtained).


I’ve used envelope 1 to regulate a number of parameters in our mid-layer. Right here, I’ve used the shortest assault accessible and dropped the extent (Large’s terminology for maintain) and set the decay parameter to a worth of 11 o’clock. The decay time would possibly differ drastically relying in your tempo, the place at increased bpms you may want a shorter decay time and at slower tempos you may get away with letting the envelope’s modulation breath somewhat extra.

Decay envelope

We will add this envelope to as many various parameters as we like. Firstly let’s add it to our filter (which, in case you bear in mind, already has some modulation from the keyboard monitoring). Setting the quantity of modulation is essential to controlling the harmonics that come via and subsequently units the tone of your transient. Having extra modulation means the preliminary hit is brighter, and fewer, duller.

I’m additionally including the identical modulation to the Drive circuits on the 2 Inserts, for which I’ve used Parabolic and Sine Shapers. These add harmonics into the sign by folding over the higher parts of a waveform. One in all these is positioned earlier than the filter and one after.

Lastly I’ve used Large’s highly effective Modulation Oscillator tuned up 19 semitones (one octave plus an ideal fifth above the MIDI enter) and set to Part modulate Osc 2. Sonically part modulation is similar to frequency modulation, and once more provides a pleasant blast of advanced excessive frequencies to our transient.

envelope mod

Macro Managing

We wish this bass to be as versatile as attainable so I’m going to arrange some Macros inside Stay’s Instrument Rack to regulate our mids. Click on on the Unfold Machine Parameters after which click on Configure.



Now, something you contact in Large will populate this record. I’m going so as to add the filter cutoff, the drive and dry/moist from each inserts, the part from our modulation oscillator and the extent from envelope 1. Should you’ve executed that accurately it ought to appear to be this:

Config 2

Unclick the Configure button and assign these to Macros. I’m going to offer the filter cutoff it’s personal Macro named “Cutoff” and the dry/moist and drives of each inserts can be mapped to Macro 2, “Drive”.

The envelope degree can be mapped to Macro 3, named “Env Mod” (as a result of cleverly lowering the Marco to Zero will take away all the envelope modulation), and lastly the part can be mapped to Macro Four named, “FM”.

colour code

As soon as they’re named and colour-coded, click on Map and punctiliously set the ranges for every parameter. It’s good to have a MIDI loop working within the background while you do that. You wish to set a minimal and most which might be musical however enable some house for attention-grabbing automation afterward down the road.


Prime Layer

Now we’ve put the work into our mid-range let’s consider the highest layer. I’m going to duplicate my occasion of Large for mids by clicking on the chain and hitting cmd + d (or ctrl + d for a PC). Rename this new chain “Prime” and solo it.

Other than the patch being duplicated you’ll discover all of our laborious work that’s gone into tweaking the Macros has been retained. Let’s edit this patch to get a extra appropriate prime finish. Firstly I’m going to disable the Oscillator Phases to Restart through Gate. I’m going to experiment with Unison Detune on this patch. Restarting the oscillator’s phases can typically create a nasty flanging sound when mixed with unison detune.

I’m setting each oscillators to sawtooths now, matching their amplitudes and detuning them ever so barely. The broader the detune quantity, the quicker beating we get. Beating is a fluctuation we hear when two oscillators are enjoying the identical observe however out of tune (you hear an analogous impact when tuning two adjoining strings on a guitar collectively).

I’ve opted for +/- 20 cents. Subsequent add in Osc Three deciding on the Scrim (Screamer) wavetable. Use envelope 1 to modulate the wavetable readout. I’ve gone for a variety of 10 o’clock-5 o’clock.

Lastly for our oscillators, add within the Noise oscillator with envelope 1 controlling the amplitude. We wish a blast of noise on the transient of the sound however having an excessive amount of noise within the maintain stage will shortly muddy the sound up. I’ve chosen the Tape Hiss possibility right here.


Let’s flip our consideration to the filter. I’ve left the settings intact however modified the algorithm to Bandpass. This works by isolating a band of frequencies, leaving us with a extra aggressive however thinner sound excellent for our prime layer. Set the Bandwidth and Resonance to about 9 o’clock.
Within the voicing tab change the variety of Unison Voices from 1 to Four and allow the Pitch Cutoff and Pan Place, adjusting their values to style. Pitch Cutoff will add some detuning to every voice and Pan Place will unfold these across the stereo spectrum. Now our layer is beginning to sound the half.



There’s not way more to do however flip our consideration to the FX tab. I’m including in a Basic Tube and Dimension Expander whereas shelving off some backside finish within the EQ tab. Hold a detailed eye on the Grasp as all of those distortions and unison results can simply clip the sound unpleasantly.

Processing Layers Collectively

Now we’ve got our three layers in place, we want to consider separating them so there’s as little overlap as essential and every half occupies its personal house within the frequency and stereo spectrum. As our sub is okay let’s begin with the mid layer. Solo it and add Stay’s EQ Eight.

I’ve high-pass filtered it pretty abruptly at 80Hz utilizing the 48dB/Oct slope: this stops it interfering with our sub. I’m additionally going so as to add some compression to even out the extent somewhat extra and a few limiting to intentionally clip the layer. You may add extra distortions and modulations right here however I’m going to order them for our prime layer.

Solo the highest and add an EQ Eight. Add Stay’s Pitch plug-in from the MIDI Results tab and tune it up an octave. This may transpose any incoming MIDI up an octave mechanically – an ideal time-saving system! I’m once more going to high-pass the sound, this time utilizing the usual 12dB/Oct slope and high-passing at 180Hz.

I’ve additionally added Stay’s Auto Filter (including some additional low-pass filter envelope modulation), the Easy Delay (utilizing quick unsynced values of 30 and 80ms), some Reverb, Compression and Limiting. Right here’s the highest layer by itself now.

FX 1

Lastly I’m going to map the degrees of every chain to a Macro, permitting me simpler management over every layer, and the dry/moist of the highest layer’s FX to my final remaining Macro.

MAcros final

Multi-Band and Parallel Processing

Now our synth is balanced internally we are able to take into consideration processing it as an entire. The best way Ableton nests Instrument Racks is intelligent nevertheless it means to be able to include any results we now apply with our three current layers we’ll have to re-group (cmd + G / ctrl + G) our present three layers into one other Instrument Rack. Alternatively add an Audio Results Rack after.

Whereas we are able to use filters or EQ to separate frequency bands, it’s safer to make use of Stay’s Multiband Dynamics because the bands are part coherent and can minimise the quantity og delay to any a part of the spectrum. I’ve added three chains, every with a Multiband Dynamics, every soloing one of many Low, Medium and Excessive bands. Make sure you label your chains for ease of use at a later date.

Now we are able to course of these bands individually and regulate their crossover in case you select. STart by including a Utility to the Low chain and lowering the width to 0%. It’s really helpful to maintain your backside finish in mono for practically all functions and this plug-in can be sure that. I’ve additionally added Stay’s Compressor with a sluggish assault and launch with excessive ratio to tame the dynamic vary a bit.

Mutliband 1

On the Mids chain I’ve adjusted the excessive crossover band to 1.5 kHz to slender this vary somewhat. Including one other Utility I’ve saved the Width at 60% and added some extra compression with a a lot quicker assault and launch to match the fast envelope modulation of this band.

Lastly within the Excessive band I’ve adjusted the Width of a Utility to 120% to unfold the sound somewhat and added some mild low-pass filtering round 8.5 kHz. After the Audio Results Rack you’ll be able to add in any additional EQ you may want (to steadiness the patch particularly together with your observe), any compression, limiting and sidechain compression.

The patch is designed to be a jack of all trades and would require some tweaking of the Large devices and processing to get it to sit down good, so be liberal with changes. Hopefully this acts as a springboard to encourage you to create your individual bass sounds too. Obtain the undertaking used on this tutorial right here.


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