How To Get That Crazy Electro House Bass Sound

Bigger is better when it comes to Electro House bass sounds. Learn to how to program one from scratch in Ableton Live with this tutorial.

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.

21 thoughts on “How To Get That Crazy Electro House Bass Sound”

  1. Thank you but I have a prob. I just cant find Big Nasty Lead do you have to download it somewhere?

  2. Thanks so much, truly awesome and comprehensive tutorial!


  3. Im going thru this article like 10th time to understand HOW THE HECK U DID THAT AWESOME BASS SOUND.
    Cheers man – please make more tutorials like these !!!

  4. What sort of drum beat do you have going on here?
    Plus where can I find part 2 of this tutorial?

  5. Oh man oh man. thank you so much, continue with your blessed gifts oh master, we are here to recieve your wisdom.

  6. thanks for tutorial, very useful. one thing i would mention though is that when using the ableton side chain compressor switch the model to FF1.

  7. thanks for tutorial, very useful. one thing i would mention though is that when using the ableton side chain compressor switch the model to FF1. FF1 is much better as you don’t get the clicking sound fwhen the compressor is triggered as you do with FF2.

  8. I can’t find “Rhythmic- Big Nasty Lead.” Can you show file location or link?

  9. i feel like i owe you about $13,500 for the information contained on this page. nothing short of brilliance! unfortunately i dont have that to give you yet, but this time next year…

    seriously, thank you very much, i enjoy all your articles and the knowledge you share 🙂

  10. I am really impressed, however I agree with Adam. How do you know how to do this? Is there some kind of monastery where people like you have been to learn about oscillators and detuning?

  11. Thank you so much – I’ve been struggling with that for weeks! Please do more of these!!!!!!!!

  12. Thank you! I’m an old school composer, new to synthesis, and this has really helped. I took time building the stack then muting and adding each oscillator systematically to hear the differences and effects of the tuning and wave types to the whole sound and you’ve really opened up a lot of knowledge for me. Thanks again.

  13. i just made a mess in y pants ….. wicked tutorial …. thanks man

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