How to make a big bass

For bass sounds there are two options i use nowadays. One is to use a vsti such as Trillian or Massive, and the other is using samples or loops.

Loops are self explanatory and there are some amazing packs you can find full of cool stuff to cut up and make your own.

Trillian is amazing for live bass and synth bass, and Massive is superb for filthy bass literally right out the box. Both compromise of two oscillators & incredibly flexible routing (i.e where you send the audio signal) options, which provide perfect starting points to creating your own sounds, and an in depth level of control over the huge amount of presets they have. (Obviously they can do a whole lot more, but these are the two main reasons i use them)

For live bass i’ve not heard anything as good as Trillian, which accurately replicates playing all manner of live basses, with the various nuances of playing a a real bass. They also do synth bass incredibly well as does massive, and its pretty easy to find the sound you’re after or create it from scratch. If you want to create it from scratch then here’s pretty useful tutorial from squidoo – or check out the or the one from Diigo Stacco on the how to make a synth from scratch.

Once you’ve created the sound you want, we then want to make a bassline, which we can either play in manually and / or (in the instance of synth bass) use 3 main parameters LFO, Filter, and Envelopes to make it really move.

If you’ve never heard of these parameters then a way to liken them to sound would be that the Lfo sounds like wom wom, the filter growls or does that dj effect thing, and the envelope is on off. Obviously really over-simplified, but if you never used them that might hopefully give a good ball park idea.

The cool thing about synths like the ones i mentioned are that you can route these (and all the other) controls to various parameters.

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E.g say i have a straight bass sound i like and i want to give it some rhythm. I could record it in as audio and chop it up or I could route the amplitude/volume to an envelope, and literally draw in what i want the bass to do. This sounds complicated but its pretty much right click on the control you want to route and select what you want it to be controlled by.

Similarly i could route the filter cut off to an lfo in order to get a wum wum sound with a growl at the end of each wum. The growl is basically turning the filter cut off up, so controlling it by the rhythm of the low frequency oscillator kind of automates the process that you could record manually. As the name suggests an lfo is another oscillator, but this one doesn’t produce sound like the two main ones. This one just produces the shape of the sound, so for example you could select a sine wav shape and set the rate to 1 bar, and this would make a smooth up and down motion over the time of one bar for instance. If you think of the filter cut off being controlled by this lfo, thenĀ  filter would be opening and closing over one bar. You can always sync the lfo speed to various time intervals, which locks to the tempo of the track. For an audible reference its easiest to think of as that dubstep wum wum wuwuwuwuwu wum wum etc, which is the LFO playing at different speeds.

So if that made some sense then you can hopefully now see how you can take a bass sound and add movement to it. I mention it as i never knew how it was done when i started, but now feel i have a much better control over making the bass do what i want. If it didnt make sense then check out this video tutorial from High Rankin below, and also the Sub focus, Ctrl Z, or Reso masterclass videos, where they demystify how they create their phat complex basslines in Massive.