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Alastor's Original & Advanced Bassline Tips
PostPosted: 21 April 2010 - 08:15:05 (385)  Reply with quote
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Alastor's Original & Advanced Bassline Tips

NOTE: YouTube's output is garbage quality, please keep that in mind!

Before reading on, here are two examples of the types of basses I am talking about.

Youtube link

Youtube link

There are two important ways that big-time DJ's and/or world-renowned
EDM producers can come to a conclusion about a track's overall
production quality right off that bat --that is, within the first few
bars or web seconds.

1. The quality, originality, and structure of the kick drum.
2. The quality, creativity and character of the bass and bassline.

While the former has been covered here and on many other websites in
depth -- and so has the latter, come to think of it -- I thought I'd
take a stab at explaining how I come about my own basses and basslines.

To start off, I thought I'd clear a common misconception that newcomer
and (some) professional producers share alike: a bass (as in patch or
preset) and a bassline are two different concepts.

A bass is a patch or preset -- original or factory idea that is only a
sound, not a sequenced sound or a sound transcribed as a rhythm. A
bassline is a bass sound played sequenced or patterned through time;
that is, creating a rhythm out of your bass sound by playing it out.
With this in mind, that leaves us two ways that we can become creative:

1. The characteristic traits of the actual bass sound, as in it's
richness in harmony, brightness, softness, aggressiveness, rudeness,
2. The rhythm, automation, modulation, pattern, and sequence of the
playing bass patch through time.

There is a third dimension and that is effects, but I'd like to focus
on just these two qualities first.

Without trying to squeeze the juice out of this orange in one entry,
I'd like to keep this first post as "short" as I can and run it as
something that I'd like to come back to on a frequented basis. So
without delving into specifics, I'll leave you guys with some
introductory (general) tips to help unleash creativity or perhaps
(hopefully) inspire you to try something different from what you've
been accustomed to.

1. When recording MIDI, don't quantize or time-edit your recording
into place by moving and adjusting notes to snap to grid lines.
Playback what you've played, you'll find that being "organic" and
eluding anticipation or expectation can spice up your basslines.
2. Many people are accustomed to layering there basslines in hopes of
stirring up a thicker, more "original" bass. While this is awesome,
don't rely on it. Trying getting your bass patches to sound the way
you want them to without having to be dependent upon additional layers
of bass patches. This will result in a more unified, crisp, lean and
married image of a bass sound. Half the time people are not sure of
how to lace layers together by using compressors and end up creating a
muddy, frequency-troubled sound that either eats up the kick or
distorts the overall production.
3. Set yourself free with automation. In making original basslines,
automation goes a super long way. Automate whatever tickles
your brain. I find myself automating ARP mode on/off, ARP length, AMP
sustain -- even distortion bit rate and compression settings! It's
okay to go overboard, one of the best ways we learn is by overdoing
things. The hardest part is trimming on that, and that's a whole
lesson in and of itself.

Here is an example of automation within a single bassline:

4. Understand the role that bass pattern and rhythm share with song
tempo. For beginners, how much room you have for automating and
diversifying bassline direction goes hand-in-hand with tempo-watching.
A track that runs at 138 BPM isn't going to have as much space for
free-roaming as a 130 or 132 BPM track.
5. Understand the prioritization of bass patch and bassline by
learning how tempo plays a role in it. As mentioned in the previous
tip, a slower-paced track can easily put the spotlight on your bass
patch and/or bassline by allotting it more attention through hang-time
-- that is, the amount of time the bass is played and heard within a
single bar!
6. Picture this, it actual helped me a lot: imagine you are building a
house, a mansion, rather, for a very fortunate family. Let's think of
a struck kick drum as a pillar. Let the quality of the kick drum draw
an image of that pillar. How would you decorate that pillar? What
materials would you use? How and what you decorate the pillar (kick
drum) is the bass! Because most of us start our tracks off by designing
a kick drum (and let's say it is that way for the purpose of this
argument), it is important to wrap the bass around the kick in a way
that marries the two. The length, punch, amplitude, character (soft,
hard) and tempo of the kick drum should have a say in directing the
sound of the bass and the type of bassline that will correspond to it.

25.04.2010 Update

I want to start off today's update with a clip of the Cotton Bug Bass in solo form, rather than mixed with drums & percussion in the first video link. This way you can really hear how versatile this bass is on its own:

Youtube link

OK, so let's talk about making your basses 'talk.'

Knowing what you want out of your low-end monsters is essential to the
first-half of bringing them to life. There are some people that set
out by just going with the flow, that is -- tweaking, turning and
jerking knobs until they hear characteristics they find suitable. This
is totally cool -- as a matter of fact, more than half of my recipes
have been born due to this practice -- but where it can become a
problem is when you've already started working on a track. What do I
mean by this? Well, look at it this way; perhaps whilst fooling around
with your keyboard one day you conjure up a synth line or piano riff
you'd really like to base a track around. Perhaps you even goes as far
as creating the perfect kick and some percussion you'd definitely want
to use in this track. In doing so, you've already confined yourself to
some limits. This is particularly normal, as in music production
however many elements you apply to your canvas, the more restrictions
you are equally inducing (i.e. if you apply a tempo of 128 BPM you are
generally limiting yourself from putting out 5AM epic uplifter. In
the same way, adding so many different elements to your track before
negotiating on your bass can limit the type of energy, characteristic
or presence it can have. Why is this at all relevant? For starters,
this can help you understand marriage between the sounds of your
tracks. Many misinformed producers out there, both bedroom and
professional alike, tend to blend sounds that are light and "happy" in
nature with others that are dark, melancholic or "sad." This is
sometimes well done -- by people who know what they're doing -- but
for all intents and purposes, this guide is for those of you that
need, well some kind of guide!

The main problems many beginning and intermediate-level producers face
when they post on forums or threads alike is that they are often told,
"there's no set rule," or that they should do "whatever sounds best to
you and your ear." In retrospect this is 100% true. But when you begin
to dissect the meaning of that and what could result, you find so many
wronging right from the start. For someone who is just beginning,
that can mean just about anything! In fact, that encouragement leads
the asker to believe that whatever choices he/she makes throughout the
production process is entirely subjective -- no right or wrong answer!
But as all first-times go, they should be approached at in a
mechanical, mathematical stance. It is important to really understand
that knowledge comes first, creativity comes later. I scoff at people
who flame others because they ask, "how can I re-create that famous
whining lead in The Thrillseekers' remix of "The Morning After," by 8
Wonders? Attempting to recreate what we see or hear is an extremely
important aspect of learning in our daily lives. That's how we even
began learning to speak and communicate when we were just toddlers.

(Nord Lead 3, for that Steve Helstrip lead, by the way!).

Now, without turning this guide into Fis's 'philosophical hour,' I'd
like to complete the full circle on my little rant about how every
element added further narrows/limits your next; If we create a kick
(usually the first thing producers create on their canvas) that is
very minimal sounding, whatever bass we create afterward is going to
have it's characteristics limited or narrowed by those of the kick!
Simply put, a minimal Richie Hawtin kick is not going to mesh with a
Selu Vibra bass! A good producer knows that -- not just basses but all
elements of a track -- conform to the kick in the end. The kick is
like the crust, or dough, rather, of the pizza. If every next element
of your track can match the energy, clarity, and above
all, characteristic of the previous element, you are on your
way to producing a track that is harmonically and mechanically
unified. In other words, marriage! Just a few examples of some tracks
that have excellent marriage of sounds are Ferry Corsten's "Made Of
Love," Nic Chagall's "This Moment, and The Thrillseekers' "The Last
Time." Notice that within these tracks the bass sound and bassline fit
their places perfectly. Notice also how in these tracks, as well as
your own, the bass should set the tone and/or energy of the track. I
remember wanting to start my own rock band as a child with me at
vocals and lead guitar; just a 15-year old then, we needed a bass
player and, because we had trouble finding one, we thought we can make
do without one! It wasn't until shortly after that an older cousin of
mine who was musically established said to me, "Fis...the bass guitar
actually drives the track." I never understood what he meant
until I started producing electronic music just shortly afterward.
It's true, I realized; often times the bass can set the tone of your
track even more so than the kick.

The following YouTube clip is a quick demo I was working on back in
2008 when Ferry Corsten's Twice In A Blue Moon album was just
surfacing. I had decided to make a remix of the title track "Twice In
A Blue Moon" with a bit of a pumpy dance floor-feel. This style of
bassline has a bit of a pop mixed with tribal house feel to it but
nonetheless very thumping. Don't mind the production quality, like I
said, just a quick demo.

Youtube link

Here are some tips that I offer to you based upon this demo:

1. Notice throughout the clip that the bass has a more "in-your-face"
factor than at other times. Why is that? Simple, the bass is in full
stereo! Gasp! Did I just say the bass is in stereo? Yes, I'll
say it again: forget about people always telling you to keep your
basses mono -- the pros don't always abide by this rule. In fact,
sometimes they'll keep just the sub-bass in mono and layer a deep synth
line in full stereo right on top of it! The coolest thing you can do,
as I do in this clip, is automate stereo spread. This can prove to be
a very effective maneuver especially fora particular style of pumping
house music where the bass is often the center of attention. Bringing
the bass to your attention in this mode gives the overall bassline a
fluctuating feel -- kind of like the economy.
2. Notice how the amount of elements playing at any one time or
segment also has a say in how the bassline interacts with them.
Right when the bass comes in there isn't much going on with the drums,
therefore the bassline has a "gated" like feeling about it. As soon as
more percussion is introduced to the drums, there is more tension and
energy added to the song. To compensate for that, the rhythm of the
bassline changes as well and even yet again at the end of the
clip once the drums are killed. Practice interacting your bassline
with various segments using the tension of the elements surrounding it
as a guideline. Picture it this way: if your speeding down the
highway, and all of a sudden traffic cones begin appearing everywhere
randomly, you're going to have to swerve left and right and get
creative to get around them right? Well, in that sense, the bass is
like your car! Get creative!
3. A lot of people think (even a huge trance producer whose name I
won't mention) that your bass should always be played on low keys --
always. But here is a pretty cool tip you can use to break yourself
free from that: before the 8th or 16th (bars) are up, you can play
your bass about 2- or 3-octaves higher as a fill-in/filler. I realized
I did this in the above clip which I made half-halfheartedly back in 2008
but you still get the idea. I definitely do this a lot now.
4. You'll notice more and more -- especially if you're like me -- that
you can use fillers to really get creative. One suggestion
might be to shot the release of the ADSR all the way up
and drop all the percussive/kick drum at that point. It creates great
energy before an 8- or 16-bar segment comes to an end. If you can
learn to do this with the right type of bass sound whilst
boosting cutoff, you're creating tension, my friend.

The following bass demo is called the Possessive Woman. It was originally the bass I was going to use to remix one of Ferry Corsten's older tracks (that I still haven't thrown away, I might add). Anyways, in this clip I have left the bass louder than it should be. I wanted to show you how the bassline interacts with other elements that are going on. Even though this bass is loud and "in-your-face," it doesn't kill out the kick. I hope to update this post explaining the use of delay on your basslines and how it can benefit and/or hurt your production within the next few days...

Youtube link

I hope this has helped so far, I look forward to posting more
information (all provided by my understanding) and examples of my own
bass patches and basslines in the coming days! Later!

- Fis

Last edited by Djalastor on 26 April 2010 - 20:53:31 (912); edited 6 times in total
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PostPosted: 21 April 2010 - 12:02:56 (543)  Reply with quote
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ok you've layed down the building blocks of this tutorial. Lets see what comes of it..

Sorry could'nt resist. Liking it so far.

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PostPosted: 21 April 2010 - 14:27:12 (643)  Reply with quote
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thanks for the tutorial mate!

looking forward to your next ones wink

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SecondHand is all out for the is
PostPosted: 21 April 2010 - 15:06:08 (670)  Reply with quote
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good stuff. happy Like to learn as much as possible
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Frankiee can't you see you single minded trance people are the apartheid of EDM?
PostPosted: 21 April 2010 - 15:54:02 (704)  Reply with quote
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Glad you guys are liking it so far. Sorry about the text formatting, I wrote it on my iPhone! Hope to correct that today!
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PostPosted: 24 April 2010 - 19:34:27 (857)  Reply with quote
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PostPosted: 24 April 2010 - 22:40:19 (986)  Reply with quote
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Awesome samples, and good intro, I like where its going.
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PostPosted: 24 April 2010 - 23:09:12 (006)  Reply with quote
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Raveren wrote:
Awesome samples, and good intro, I like where its going.

Yes. Why don't you give us an example of some of the things you automate on a loop that we could try on our own.

Also I really like the analogy or metaphor, whichever one it may be.
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PostPosted: 25 April 2010 - 17:13:45 (759)  Reply with quote
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The posted baselines are really awesome! Thanks for your valueable tips and I'm inpatiently looking forward to your next tutorials!
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PostPosted: 26 April 2010 - 21:19:47 (930)  Reply with quote
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Timotej is from HRVATSKA
PostPosted: 26 April 2010 - 22:16:19 (969)  Reply with quote
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Sticky happy
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PostPosted: 18 May 2010 - 10:21:46 (473)  Reply with quote
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new tutorials still coming up ? left

"Cymbal crashes … way of the past, forget’em guys… it’s all about gated white noise swooshes" - Arnej

"Ohhh yeah, breakdown … at 3 minutes and 10 seconds" - Arnej
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PostPosted: 19 May 2010 - 05:37:37 (276)  Reply with quote
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new tutorials please...............
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PostPosted: 19 May 2010 - 06:16:12 (302)  Reply with quote
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Hey guys! thanks for being patient with me; I will have new tutorials and new sounds up and running this week! I have been finishing up with some college papers and should be finishing up university tomorrow (God willing)! Wish me luck!

p.s., have some great new bass sounds tunage
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PostPosted: 06 June 2010 - 16:15:38 (719)  Reply with quote
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Great post, but I think the hardest part about making a bassline is the programming of the sound itself.
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