Solid bass sounds are essential in music destined for the dance floor. The low end energy from these sounds give tracks weight and body and together with the drums and other rhythm instruments they create rhythmic pulse. Without this foundation, tracks would sound thin and unbalanced. Nobody would dance to such a track.
But how do you create a good, fat sounding bassline? It is easy to include a bass sound in your track. Choose a sample or preset and you’re done. Well, not quite. To create a bass that gives your track plenty of dance floor energy but also plays well on your car stereo, a little more work is usually needed.
Before you start creating your big bas bass sound, you really want a studio-setup with monitors that are capable of reproducing sounds that are in the low frequencies (as low as 40 or 50 Hz). Without it your mix may not translate well to other sound systems. Arguably, the best solution to this is using a dedicated sub woofer. There is of course a price tag attached to this, but it is worth the investment.
Individual synths or samples can sound thin, but by stacking several sounds one can create a whole new and much fuller sound. This technique is known as layering.
This technique can be used to create a good bass sound as well. The key here is to split your bass into the following layers:
High-bass layer (optional)
The range from 20-100 Hz is the sub-bass layer. It covers frequencies that are hardly audible. You actually tend to feel those frequencies more than that you can hear them. The sub-bass gives your track presence and power. It is very important, but it can also occupy a lot of headroom, which means that you risk getting a muddy and distorted sound. Getting this sub-bass right is a bit of an art and it takes practice to find the right balance in precisely your track.
Creating a sub-bass
You can use a sample or synthesize a sub-bass. The latter can be done with a simple sine-wave synth patch played one octave below your tune’s main bass line (using the same pattern). Because the sine-wave is effectively a single frequency, so without any harmonics unlike square or sawtooth waves, there is no need to filter it. Also, avoid any low end stereo width and stick to mono.
Note also that the sound will enhance the bottom of your bass, but not add character as such. For character, you’re using your mid-bass and optionally your high-bass layers (see below).
Make sure to avoid clicks in the sub-bass by setting the appropriate envelope values (not too fast).
In FL Studio you can use the 3xOSC generator and most other DAW’s have similar generators. Only use one oscillator. Detuned multi-oscillator settings will cause the fundamental frequency to fluctuate.
The range from 101 Hz to 250 Hz is the mid-bass layer. These frequencies can definitely be heard so a lot of your bass sound and articulation stems from this range. Pay a lot of attention to the sound of this layer as it translates well to most audio systems as opposed to the sub-bass layer.
EQ it or use a steep high-pass filter to clear the field for the sub-bass sound. The thing is that if your mid-bass and sub-bass occupy the same fundamental frequencies, the combination may have the opposite effect of what you try to achieve and sound less bassy than you intended.
The range from 251 Hz and up is the high-bass layer. You may leave out this layer unless your bass is your hook or main melody. The reason for this is that your high-bass may clash with other mid-range elements such as synths, guitars and vocals.
This layering technique can be used as well to give your kick drum extra power and oomph. Simply place a sine wave under your kick drum.