Photo credit: Rodrigo Senna
You know…the one that sounds like an elephant with auto-tune is charging after you.
Electro house bass sounds consist of stacks of synthesizers. They’re big and they will hit you right in the gut. Oh, and did I mention they’re really fun to program?
For this tutorial we’ll be using Ableton Live’s Instrument Rack (for stacking our synths), some creative automation and some sidechain compression.
It Will All Make Synths
Set Ableton’s Global tempo to 128 BPM to follow along with this exercise.
Also, and be sure to put Ableton’s Limiter on your master channel to keep from clipping.
1.) Start off by creating a MIDI track and double clicking the first empty clip slot to create a 1 bar clip.
2.) We’ll Start off by programming an ultra simple 1 bar sequence into Ableton’s piano roll window. Here is what I have come up with:
3.) Drop an Instrument Rack onto the track.
4.) Drop a copy of Ableton’s Analog into Instrument Rack’s chain view. The icon for chain view is on the left of Instrument Rack and looks like this:
5.) Enter the Amp1 section of the Analog and bring the sustain up to 1.0 and the release all the way down to 5ms. The graphical ADSR looks like this.
6.) Activate Analog’s Osc2.
7.) Back over to Instrument Rack’s chain view, click the first chain (it should be titled “Analog”) and do a Ctrl+Drag to copy out 3 more copies of it.
8.) Pan out each of our Analogs left and right. Your chain section should now look like this:
9.) Here are the settings for each Analog in our chain:
First Analog: drop the octave of Osc2 to -1 and detune it by -0.02 (input this by clicking the 0.00 under the detune knob and typing -0.02 in with your keyboard.)
Second Analog: change Osc1 to a sine wave and Osc2 to a rectangle wave. Drop the octave of both Osc1 and Osc2 to -1. Detune Osc1 by 0.03.
Third Analog: change Osc1 to a sine wave, drop the octave to -2 and detune it by 0.03. Change Osc2 to a rectangle wave, drop its octave to -1 and detune it by -0.03.
Fourth Analog: drop the octave of Osc1 to -1 and detune it by -0.06. Change Osc2 to a rectangle wave and and drop its octave to -1.
10.) Hit Shift+Tab to go back to the piano roll window, and under the “Clip” section, click the “E” icon to enter our clip’s envelope view.
11.) Under the “Envelopes” section, make sure the two pull down menus are set to “MIDI Ctrl” and “Pitch Bend”.
12.) Copy out this pitch bend automation to help create the bouncy melody of this bass line. Simply double click the red dot to add a breakpoint.
13.) Shift+Tab back to Track View Selector mode and drop a copy of Operator into the chain list.
14.) Click on the Operator’s “Hot Swap Mode” button. Navigate to the preset titled “Synth Rhythmic” and load the preset “Rhythmic-Big Nasty Lead”.
15.) Drop a copy of Ableton’s Reverb onto the newly created Operator. Adjust the decay time to taste.
The next couple of steps are for optional sidechain compression.
If you’re unsure on how to program a drum part for this type of music, check out my video tutorials on writing the basis of an Electro House track.
Also, here is a helpful video explaining the fundamentals of sidechain compression in Ableton Live:
16.) Drop a compressor onto the entire bass track.
17.) Collapse chain view in the Instrument Rack to get a better view of the compressor.
18.) On the top left of the Compressor unit (where it says “Compressor”) click the downward pointing arrow to open compressors side-chain settings.
19.) You’re going to need some sort of drum part programmed out for this step (usually it’s a kick on every beat, with a snare/clap on the 2 and 4, again refer to the video on writing the basis of an Electro House track for a better example).
20.) Click the sidechain button to enable it.
On the first pull down menu select the the “Drum Rack” (in my case) as the “Audio From”, and the actual kick drum from the second pull down menu. Experiment with these settings, some sources sound better than others.
Here are my sidechain compression settings.
And here is the final example of this ridiculously over the top bass sound. Enjoy!
Go Big, Or Go Home
As you can see the typical Electro House bass sound is big, over the top, and unrelenting.
Stacking synths, sidechaining and oversimplified melodies are the means to keeping the bass excessive.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, and there will be a part 2 which will go into more of a wobble-bass-sound through LFO syncs.