A great bass sound is a fundamental part of most styles of electronic music. NI's Massive is a perfect tool to get that epic bass sound that you hear in so many professional tracks today. DJ Rap takes you through her own step by step process to creating bass sounds. She's seen years of success releasing tracks in the Drum & Bass and House music genres. Now for the first time, go behind the scenes to watch her making sounds in her own home studio.
She starts with a simple combination of a sine and a square wave in the first oscillator. Then, she layers two more oscillators on top to add edge to the sound. Next, she adds effects that create more body, space, drive, and distortion. Once effects have been added, Rap sends the oscillators through the filter section to add extra color to the sound. To add a finishing touch, she uses the LFO to create movement and personality in the sound.
To learn more about oscillators, wavetable synthesis, filters, and effects in Native Instrument's Massive, sign up for our next MTC workshop! Intro To Native Instruments Massive!
Getting Deeper With Bass!
MTC offers a few pro tips on making better bass sounds.
1. Start with Intention and A Great Sound!
It helps to know what kind of sound you are looking to use. If you aren’t sure, listen to some of your favorite tracks. What are the qualities of it’s bass sound? Is it aggressive? Is it punchy? Is it the largest part of your mix or less prominent? Or is it more subtle, smooth, or mellow sounding? Is the sound long or short? Is it extremely low pitched or not? Get to know the common sounds most often used within the genre you are working in. This will give you a starting point to build from, but will also give you some perspective on how to break the norm as well.
A good place to start with bass is with a subtractive synth, which has a long history of being a ‘go to’ for bass in electronic music. These synths allow you to create your own sound with oscillators as a sound source. Sound from the oscillators can then be filtered and modulated into a new and interesting sounds. Native Instrument’s Massive is a variation on a subtractive synth and is considered a hybrid synth because of it’s combination of subtractive and wavetable synthesis. Over the past few years, it’s been a major source for powerful and aggressive bass sounds in professional tracks.
To learn more about oscillators, wavetable synthesis, filters, and effects in Native Instrument's Massive, sign up for our next MTC workshop! Intro To Native Instruments Massive with Jon Margulies
2. Layering Bass Sounds
Looking to make fatter sounding bass? Try layering sounds to create one large sound!
Start with a deep sub bass. Then add another higher pitched sound to fill out the sound. You can also add another sound that has a sharper attack at the start of the sound to create additional punch. Another option is to duplicate your bass sound and pitch it up one octave. This can fill out your bass sound when you play them together.
Remember to make sure to EQ the bass sounds out of each other’s way so that each punches through in a separate place on the frequency spectrum.
Most bass lines in electronic music, especially dance tracks, don’t have much dynamic range or variation in volume. An exception may be if you have a live bass part in your track, which would have volume differences throughout that make it sound more human in feel. Compression is normally used on bass to lessen the loudest notes, making each note more equal in loudness. Then, you have room to raise the overall volume, which allows you to push the sound harder and give it extra punch.
For more info on compression, check out our Understanding Compression Workshop
4. Bass VS Kicks
The low end of the majority of electronic music tracks has two essential elements: Bass and kicks! The issue is that they can often be in the same frequency range. How do you make sure they don’t clash, sound muddy, or cancel each other out? The key is to keep them out of each other’s way and create a space for each of them to shine through.
1. When you choose or create kick and bass sounds, make sure they occupy a different frequency range from each other. In other words, they have to live in their own space in the spectrum of sound. If you want more details, we get deeper into this topic in our Ableton Live courses/workshops.
2. The genre you are producing music in is also a factor. In house music, the kick is prominent, more so than in drum & bass where it’s all about that sub. Use your ears to make sure it’s the sound and feel you want. Reference your fav producer and add their track to your arrangement page. This way you can spend time switching between it and your track to see how balanced your mix is in comparison to theirs. Adjust it until you hear clarity in both parts using the EQ to shave out unwanted frequencies.
3. Let one do the job of both! For example, use a subby sounding kick, play it in different
pitches to make a simple melodic line, and get rid of the bassline completely.
For more information on working with bass and kicks, EQing, and frequency ranges, check out our Ableton Live Courses at MTC!
5. EQ Extreme Low End
Use EQ to cut out the extreme low end of your bass. Use a high-pass filter to cut out low frequencies that create rumble and are not useful to your mix. A good place to start may be around 25 to 30 Hz and below. This area of frequencies may vibrate the room so much that it lessens the clarity in your bass sound.
Be careful using effects like reverbs and delays on bass because they can add to the stereo spread and ambience of the sound. You want to make sure your bass lives solidly in the center of your track. Some effects can add muddiness or lessen clarity.
Effects such as chorus, saturation, and distortion can make your bass sound larger and more edgy. Use your ears and start with a very small amount of the effect. Increase the amount slowly and use your ears to determine what sounds the best.
For more information on working with audio effects, check out our Ableton Live Courses at MTC!