7. Layering Bass Sounds
While subtly tweaking a bass sound for maximum effect is important, there are times when a different approach may be needed. Layering of individual bass elements to make something bigger and better can pay dividends if you approach it the right way, but care has to be taken to to avoid a few common pitfalls.
The first rule to bear in mind is that trying to build up a fat bassline by layering parts which occupy the same frequency band rarely works. Phase cancellation means that the whole is usually less than the sum of its parts. Instead, the best approach is to layer different frequency bands, thinking in terms of the sub-bass, the bass and the higher frequency presence.
Let’s start with this simple bass sound in Korg’s PolySix plugin:
The sound is quite rounded and lacks both low-end and higher harmonics. We’ll start by adding a second sound source an octave lower (much like the sub-oscillator in tip number 6) using Spectrasonics Trilian:
Next, we can add another layer in the same octave as the original, but this time something more punchy and harmonically rich to emphasise the attack transient. Be careful with the level of this part – we still want the character of the original bass to come through, and if we make this part too loud we could easily overwhelm it.
Now it’s time for something an octave higher. We’ll make this short and punchy. The idea here is to add some extra definition and character. In fact, you could also add a detuned version of the same sound and then pan the two left and right to add extra stereo detail. You could even roll off some of the low frequencies from this, letting it stand apart from the bass itself so it only sits up in the higher midrange.
The group compression helps glue everything together, making levelling of the final bass sound far easier.