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:

27a

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:

28a

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.

29a

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.

30a

Once you have all the basic elements, try routing them all through a mix bus and applying some overall compression. Here’s how it looks in Cubase, processed with UAD’s emulation of the 1176:

31a

The group compression helps glue everything together, making levelling of the final bass sound far easier.

Author Bruce Aisher
21st May, 2013

Comments

  • Nice article guys! I’m lovin Attack Magazine, in my opinion it’s the best website about electronic music 😉 thanks a lot! Cheers from Brazil

    Report
  • I am really really enjoying the work you are doing with your articles!
    Keep up the good work.

    Report
  • I love these articles! I noticed that this lesson said it would teach us to make better basslines, but even though in the first page it saya that melody is one of the main things that needs to be considered; but there arent any specific tips in this article about choosing bassline notes! 🙂

    I love you guys, can ya break that part down some more? Or do you just do the melody by ear?

    Report
  • ^ BIlly, I don’t want to be annoying but this article is one of the most complete I’ve ever seen on the internet. It’s kinda ungrateful to ask EVEN more about it… seriously :/

    Report
  • @Billy, @Claudio…

    No problems at all with the request…

    It’s true that, of course, the melody plays a (the?) fundamental part in a successful bassline. This piece wasn’t about programming – but I certainly suggest reading the various Passing Notes pieces (http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/passing-notes/) which are designed to give a good grounding in music theory, including the disco basslines piece (http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/passing-notes/passing-notes-disco-house-basslines/) which has a lot of insights – even if you hate disco!

    And, as ever, keep watching this space!

    Dave@Attack

    Report
  • Really helpful stuff, muchas gracias amigos!

    Report
  • holycow. its difficult
    on one dark-hand side i hope this page stays my my my own sweet little secret…. anyhow thanks for ur great work!!!

    Report
  • This is a great article, thanks! However, the bass player plugin shows that there is no substitute for a real practiced human! Or a sample of one: but then of course you have to spend three months slicing and dicing ala Justice to keep the lawyers off your tail!

    Report
  • hi, I own the tal u no lx but i cant find the mrs digit preset, does it come with it or is named something else?

    Thanks!

    Report
  • Luke – well spotted. We’re pretty sure the Mrs Digit patch is a Mr Fingers-inspired bass sound the writer created for the audio example. U-NO-LX is so simple that you should be able to copy the patch from the screengrab (although we had to increase the filter cutoff slightly to get the same sound).

    If you’re looking for an even more accurate version of the classic Larry Heard sound, try the sub-oscillator on its own. Or you could use the pulse oscillator and set the pulse width manually to get a variety of slightly fuller or hollower sounds.

    U-NO-LX is excellent for those 80s analogue bass sounds. We’re big fans.

    http://www.attackmagazine.com/reviews/gear-software/tal-u-no-lx/

    Report
  • Attack WE LOVE YOU.

    Report
  • Thanks so much for this. Learning so much through your tutorials.

    Report
  • very hot magazine! keep it coming

    Report
  • this tutorial came in very handy for me, thank you attack people..very well written and it reminded me of some stuff i (probably) already had forgotten to consider again. big ups from vienna

    Report
  • attack magazine thank you very much. very useful article .

    Report
  • Awesome article. Thanks

    Report
  • Another incredible article. Informative and clearly explained.

    Attack is rapidly becoming my number one resource for production tips.

    Report
  • Just got wind of this site. I will definitely be here more than ever. Really enlightening

    Report
  • Just found this magazine, excellent well written articles. This one was excellent and covered lots of stuff. Ill be trying that notch on my bass eq real soon. Keep it up guys, great stuff

    Report
  • If you’re using reverb on your bass, put the EQ before the reverb. It won’t matter so much for bass as for other instruments, but it will sound somewhat unnatural to have the reverb filtered.

    Report
  • How have I missed this article? Great read as ever guys and very informative!

    Report
  • great article but please for the love of god fix or change the sound player, its freezes after 2 seconds and never starts playing again, i have to refresh couple of times to even hear the whole soundclip

    Report
  • I am new to this site and I must say the few articles I’ve read are quite good.
    keep up the good work

    Report
  • The best articles I’ve read in my life. Great work guys. Keep it up!

    Report
  • Awesome tips—could u possibly provide the readers with a PDF version of the articles?

    Report
  • amazing stuff guys……..really great content!

    Report
  • Does this work on 808 bass?

    Report
  • THIS IS SHIT

    Report
  • Thanks for all of your excellent tutorials

    Report
  • Nice article. I have just released a free youtube series on how to write bass lines too. Check it out!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHIHncaNaDw

    Report
  • Any other software alternatives for the VOG plug-in you mentioned for boosting low-end?

    Boz ‘Bark Of Dog’ resonant filter?

    Tone2 Bifilter?

    Any EQ like the Logic EQ or Pro-Q with a resonant low-shelf?

    Report
  • oh, and great article btw. Attack Mag is fast becoming my favourite site for these tips and walkthroughs!

    Report
  • Thanks! Best tutorial

    Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You currently have an ad blocker installed

Attack Magazine is funded by advertising revenue. To help support our original content, please consider whitelisting Attack in your ad blocker software.

Find out how

x

A WEEKLY SELECTION OF OUR BEST ARTICLES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX