8. Adding Effects

As a rule of thumb, effects should be your last port of call in the world of bass. If in doubt, avoid them entirely!

Basic processors like compressors, filters, distortion (including bit-crushing) and tape saturation have their place, but things start to get much more difficult to manage as soon as you introduce anything which affects the stereo image or introduces any kind of ambience.

Let’s look at the usual suspects one by one.

Chorus

A number of 80s hardware synths included built-in chorus effects to beef up their sound. A classic example of this effect in action is the bouncing Juno bassline of Mr Fingers’ 1986 Chicago house classic ‘Can You Feel It’ (we discussed the bassline itself in a previous Passing Notes feature).

TAL’s U-NO-LX plugin offers a virtual recreation of the synth used by Larry Heard on that legendary bassline, including the two-stage stereo chorus option:

32A

The problem with chorus is that it’s designed to thicken a sound (hence why Roland added it to the single-oscillator Juno series), but can easily make a sound indistinct and unfocussed – not an issue when creating ethereal pads but potentially a major problem for bass sounds. The conversion of a mono signal to stereo can also be a problem; low frequencies should generally be kept in mono and panned centrally.

Delay

Simple, single-note basslines can sometimes benefit from some delay to add interest. Rolling off the low end of the delay return can help to avoid cluttering the mix.

A tempo-synced delay time is usually essential here to keep timing tight. The effect is much more likely to work nicely on simple, tightly quantised bass parts.

Reverb

Reverb can be very problematic on low frequencies and is best avoided unless you’re very clear about the sound you’re trying to achieve.

If you do add reverb, keep it short. As with delay, removing some of the lower frequencies is the best way to avoid a muddy mix. If your reverb plugin doesn’t offer enough control, route the bass channel to the reverb on an effect send, set the reverb’s output to 100% wet and add an EQ plugin straight after it on the channel strip to shape the sound of the wet signal.

Making effects work on bass

For layered basslines, you could try applying effects only to the higher frequency layered elements. Here we’ve applied reverb to the layer on the higher octave only, leaving the lower octave untouched:

Chorus and other stereo effects can sometimes smear the low frequency stereo image and give the bass less impact, so tread very carefully. A stereo management processor, which mixes everything below a specific frequency to mono, can help avoid some of these problems.

The iZotope Ozone 5 Imager plugin offers this feature (as well as stereo widening):

36a

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

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

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  • 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?

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  • ^ 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 :/

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  • @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

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  • Really helpful stuff, muchas gracias amigos!

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  • 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!!!

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  • 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!

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  • 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!

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  • 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/

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  • Attack WE LOVE YOU.

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

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  • very hot magazine! keep it coming

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  • 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

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

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  • Awesome article. Thanks

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  • Another incredible article. Informative and clearly explained.

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

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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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

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  • 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

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

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

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

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

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  • Does this work on 808 bass?

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  • THIS IS SHIT

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  • Thanks for all of your excellent tutorials

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  • 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

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  • 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?

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

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  • Thanks! Best tutorial

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