Producing Epic Basslines For Pop and R&B in 2018

May 13, 2018 by

Assuming you manage to pull off the rest of the elements in your production, you only need a mind-blowing bassline to finish off your awesome song. You're probably not going to leave it to the very end but let's just pretend that you did.

As you already or probably should know, there are no rules in music production (except for the rule about there being no rules) but in pop and R&B you're likely to use one of four kinds of bass:

  1. 808's - The characteristic low-end booming that's kept trap fans happy for as long as anyone can remember. The Internet is awash with free 808 samples that sound great, just load an 808 into any sampler you like, set the right key (you can find samples that have the keys labelled), and enjoy! For extra fun try the glide and portamento settings.
  2. Sawtooth Bass - Moody, dark sounding R&B bass anyone? You can go right ahead and grab a preset if you want. If you want to do it yourself, open up your favourite synth and dial up two sawtooth waveforms. Set one to an octave higher and try detuning both a little, perfectly tuned synths tend to sound a little boring. Now activate the low pass filter (go easy on the resonance, it might be fine without any tweaks at all) and pull it back until it sounds dark enough for your taste. That's a starting point, you can experiment with all sorts of other settings!
  3. Bass Pluck - Sounds like it's time to take this audio party to the club! Again, feel free to get a preset. If you're making your pluck from scratch, try going through different waveforms to see what sticks. Have two (or more) waveforms in different octaves and attach an envelope to the low pass filter. Your envelope should have a short attack and decay and it will 'open up' your filter. That's the idea of it, go make a mess in the kitchen while you cook up a bass synth!
  4. Bass Guitar - How do you get bass guitar in your song? Simple, play one or hire someone else to. If that isn't an option you can also try using a sample library. Don't worry, these days the samples sound pretty amazing!

Tips for using bass in your music:

  • Try using different types of bass in different parts of the song, you could have a vengeful sawtooth bass rumbling through the verses ready to erupt into 808 glory at the turn of the chorus (there's no need to come up with a melodramatic description though).
  •  Mutes are cool for some reason. Have you ever listened to a rap song with parts that have the beat suddenly cutting out while the rapper finishes the line? That never gets old.
  • Saturate and compress with caution, pizza for lunch sounds good but you wouldn't want thirty boxes of it! Sometimes just the most subtle of settings can get you in the right place.
  • Make way with some high pass filters on the non-bass elements. It's not advisable to do this for everything but you might have a pad fighting your bass for low-end attention for example and a simple high pass filter can get rid of the excess clutter.
  • Your studio is a chemistry lab (sort of) and you should always experiment! One day YouTube producers could be recreating your techniques in tutorials for their fans.
  • Above all, if the bass gives you an awesome feeling it will probably do the same for someone else.

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