How to make a punchy bassline
Another question about basslines I’m afraid. With Psytrance almost being defined by the “KbBB” bassline, it seems to be one of the most asked subject for questions. Mine is quite specific.
How do producers get the punchy attack on a bassline? No matter what I try, mine always seem to lack the initial punch of tracks such as Major7 & Vertical Mode – “Majormode” or Helber Gun – “Enlight”. Is it layers? Is it EQ? Is it a specific VST? Is it just down to ADSR envolopes and filters? I’d love to know how to get that sound with either Spire, Sylenth, Hive or Serum.
Hamish, I don’t know for certain how Major7, Vertical Mode, or Helber Gun doing their basslines, but I have a couple of tips that might help.
Before putting a complex chain of compressors, equalizers, and other devices, I suggest checking your sound patch in the first place— oscillator’s phase to be more precise.
Phase can make your signal smooth or crispy, so be sure to set the best starting point position of your oscillator. I could write a lot about it, but in fact, mr. PsiloCybian did an amazing video on the exact same topic. Just watch this video, he nailed it:
On EQ, cut the “mud” area around 300~500 Hz with a Bell filter and gently boost the highs. It would give you extra clarity and some sort of punchiness, too. I’ve written an advice about bassline equalization, be sure to read it as well.
Saturator, Phaser, and various transient shapers are more considerable options for making your bassline more punchy. Keep in mind that these tools can also ruin your sound, so be gentle with its settings, don’t push it too hard. Especially Phaser since it messes up signal phase.
Layering can help you with that. You can make one bassline layer with a High-cut filter to make solid and consistent base, and then add one more bassline, this time with a Low-cut filter and extra processing such as Phaser. This way your low-end spectrum won’t be affected, hence it keeps the bassline pressure while adding punchy mid-highs.
Here’re two basslines for comparison:
The difference is subtle, yet huge. You can download these samples to your computer (right click on the play button → “Download linked file as...”), open it in Ableton, and click on the Solo buttons to make A/B test.
Let me know if it helps.
Fellow producers out there, how would you make your bassline more punchy?
P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.