Bassline Tutorial Day 1: Making + EQing a Bassline Beat [7 Day Song]
Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband.com, and welcome to my seven day song tutorial on Bassline, where I’ll be taking you through the process of making a Bassline song from scratch over – pause for dramatic effect – 7 days.
At the end, I’ll post the finished song and you guys can post your completed songs as video responses.
I’ll go through things like Making the Beat, Several different bass synths of varying dirtiness, pizzicato strings, pads and delayed piano, a bit on vocals and arrangement of a conventional Bassline song and mixing and mastering.
This is the 6th 7 day song, so be sure to check out the other ones too! And also, I encourage you to post your tracks on the boyinaband.com forum and share your music, make some friends and learn more about production!
In Day 1 I’ll be teaching you how to make a pacey Bassline beat with techniques like using ReGroove to add swing, layering, EQing and tape compression to build a danceable basis to your track.
Okay! Let’s begin.
We’ll start by setting the tempo to 135bpm – Bassline is generally between 135 and 140bpm so Bassline DJs don’t have too much trouble mixing it together!
Create a Mastering suite, a Mixer 14:2 and a combinator for our first drum loop. Name the combinator “Da Drums” – we need to get into the spirit of bassline early on, and grammatical correctness doesn’t feature heavily in bassline music.
Inside the combinator, create a scream 4 instance (bypass it for now – we’ll deal with it later…), a line 6:2 mixer and an instance of ReDrum.
Now, I’m going to load up a drum kit I’ve made earlier – if you don’t know how to put samples into reason, check out my tutorial on how to do so.
Okay, so in this kit I’ve got two kick drums, 4 snares and two hi hats. These are all samples from the Primeloops.com “Bassline 4×4 UK Garage” sample pack, which is unsurprisingly great for bassline music.
The two kick drums I’ll be mixing together – I’ve got one with a decent low end and another that has a nice click to it. To emphasize the click, we’re going to take the pitch and tone up to full. Pitch is pretty self explanitory, but tone is basically a brightness setting – here it’s making it more trebley and brighter, whereas if you turn it down, only the lower frequencies are emphasized. To ensure the clicky kick isn’t too prominent though, the volume has been taken down considerably.
Also, to link these two together, so when one is triggered so is the other, hit tab to look at the back and drag the “Gate out” of channel one with the first kick in, into “Gate in” of channel two with the second. Now hit tab again to see the front of the rack and hit the “Trigger drum 1″ button at the top of channel 1 – if you didn’t know already, by hovering over the parameters in reason you’ll be presented with a tooltip telling you what they are called and, where appropriate, their values. – but yes, when you play it, both drum samples are triggered!
On to the snares – we have a snappy snare, a jungley snare and a snare with a decent low end. There’s also another snappy, compressed kinda snare, but we’ll come to that later. These three samples will be used to layer up the main snare sound for the beat. The snappy one to give it that initial crack, the jungley one for a bit more tone and high end, and the low-end snare for the punch of the sound. Bassline music doesn’t always have powerful snares, so you might want to experiment by using just snappier ones if you feel the beat is taking too much focus.
Once again, link these three up using the “Gate out” to “Gate in” technique we used earlier.
The other snare we’re going to use for some “Ghost Notes” – If you’ve done the 7 day song on Drum and Bass you might remember these – slightly quieter snare hits done on the offbeat to make the beat more interesting and bouncy.
To make it even more interesting and to show you some more of ReDrums capabilities, we’re going to do some cool stuff to the sample first – notice that channels 6 and 7 have these “Pitch bend” values down the bottom here? We’re going to make the sample sound a bit more interesting by changing the pitch of it over time.
This is usually used on Tom drums, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t chuck a cheesy sounding snare in there, since the vast majority of Bassline is a hilariously cheesy genre anyway.
So! Let’s quickly go through what these four knobs do – “Pitch” controls the pitch that the sample will be bent to, “Bend” controls what pitch it will be bend from, “Rate” defines how fast it bends and “Vel” defines how much the velocity of the note effects the “bend” value – so you could make it so the harder you hit, the higher the starting pitch is, for example.
For this hit we’re going to take the pitch down to just above a quarter of the way around and the bend up to above a quarter, meaning it goes from a high pitch to a low pitch. I’m happy with the rate, but feel free to change that and the velocity to your taste. A useful tip – if you change a value in Reason then quickly want to get back to the default value, hold ctrl and click on the parameter to reset it to default. I’m assuming it’s command and click on a mac.
Okay, lastly we’ve got our hi-hats! Bassline is unusual in the fact that the hi-hats are generally quite a prominent part of the beat, where usually it’s just the kick and snare. I’ve got two hi hats here, both open hi-hats, since you find bassline hats are quite splashy and that effect is achieved more by open hi-hats, but just so it’s a bit more crisp and you maintain that bassline shuffle later on, I’ve shortened the length of one of the hats to turn it into something half way between a closed and an open hi-hat. Also notice that the shorter hat is quieter in level so it doesn’t overwhelm the hat on the offbeat.
Okay! So that’s each of the different samples covered; let’s make this beat!
First things first, select the kick on channel one, then put it 4 on the floor, meaning on every beat. This is 1, 5, 9 and 13. This 4 on the floor beat is why sometimes you’ll hear bassline referred to as 4×4 Garage. Run the beat to test it, then right click ReDrum and click “Copy pattern to track”.
If we look in the sequencer, we can see the pattern has appeared in our “Da Drums” track. Name the note lane “Kick” so we don’t get confused, and right click it and “create new note lane” – by making a new note lane for each layer of percussion, it means we can easily take out elements or change elements to make fills so the track is more interesting!
Okay, so name the new note lane “Snare” and let’s put in those snare hits! Back in ReDrum, select pattern 2, this means when we copy the pattern to track the kick drum pattern we just made won’t be copied, then increase the “steps” to 32. This means we’ve got two bars to work with instead of one.
For the first bar, put the channel 3 snare on the 5 and 13, then for bar 2 (to get to bar 2, drag the “edit steps” slider up to 17-32) we’re going to make it slightly different – we’ll still have the 5 and 13, but add in the 8 and 10.
Now, back in the sequencer, drag the l and r loop points to cover 2 bars. Now, making sure the “snare” note lane is selected, copy the pattern to track. Sweet! Before we’re entirely finished with the snare, we’re going to add in an extra little hit to turn this into a 4 bar loop – back in ReDrum, add another snare hit on the 12th step in the 2nd bar, then drag the loops points in the sequencer to the next 2 bars, then copy the new, slightly different pattern to the track. Take a quick listen – Blammo! A brilliantly bouncy beat is born!
Okay, so let’s get that other snare in – similar kind of thing, hit pattern 3 in the ReDrum sequencer, select the pitch bent snare channel we used before, then add in one hit on the 10th step.
We’re also going to put one on the 7th step, but a slightly quieter hit – to do this, use the “dynamic” slider – unfortunately, this doesn’t give your sample a cape and force it to pose epically on a Gotham City rooftop, but it does allow you to change the velocity, basically the volume, of the sample on the occasion it is triggered. Drag the “dynamic” slider down to “soft” then click on the bar. You can choose between soft, medium and hard in order to make your beat a bit more varied in volume.
Copy the pattern to a new note lane called “Ghost snare” (this really is starting to sound like a super hero, maybe the dynamic slider has some secret powers after all…). Make sure it’s only being triggered every 1st and 3rd bar in the 4 bar loop.
Lastly, let’s add those hi-hats. Select Pattern 4, then add the open hi hat in channel 9 on the back beat – 3, 7, 11 and 15, and to give the hi-hat rhythm something more interesting and rolling, select channel 8 and put it in between the offbeat open hi-hats. I’m going for 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 13.
Copy it to the “Hi-Hat” note lane that you already knew you were going to have to create and voila! Make sure you click the “enable pattern section” button in ReDrum so the ReDrum sequencer isn’t playing at the same time the Reason sequencer is, then take a listen to your bassline beat!
Okay, this beat is sounding alright, but it’s not bouncy enough; what it needs is some shuffle. To do that, we’re going to use the ReGroove mixer. Coolest name for a mixer ever. Select it at the bottom right of the Reason interface and in channel A1, open up a shuffle preset – I’ll use the “68% shuffle” preset found in the “MPC-60″ folder in the “ReGroove Patches” folder of the Reason factory sound bank.
Now that’s selected, back in the Reason sequencer, using the little drop down menus on the note lanes, select “A1″. Now, take a listen – much bouncier, right? I think I prefer having the Ghost snare off the groove setting. It’s cool enough as it is, what with that metaphorical cape and all.
Join me in Part 2 where I’ll be adding some EQ, compression and using the scream 4 unit to bring this beat together and make it sound punchier!
Okay, so now we’re going to start adding a little bit of EQ. Firstly, we’ll need to run everything through into different channels on the mixer above ReDrum. For that, we’re going to make three Spider Audio mergers and splitters – run the kicks into one and out into channel 1 in the mixer, the snares into the second spider instance and out into channel 2, and the hi hats into the third, then out into channel 4, with the ghost snare not going into a spider instance and just going straight into channel 3 on the mixer.
Now, let’s start with the kick. We’re just going to add a little bit of compression to show you what you can do with it – right click in the combinator and shift-click to create a compressor (Shift-clicking means it won’t automatically connect to anything) then connect the kick drum spider audio instance to the compressor, then back into its channel in the mixer.
Now, have a listen to the kick. The compressor tames it a bit, but we’re going to try and emphasize the bass of the kick a bit and compress that tail end of the beat. Turn the input gain up about 5dB and the attack to about 20ms, so the compressor kicks in 20ms after the kick punches, meaning that initial click will be retained. Now, try sweeping the ratio – when it’s closer to infinity, it’s clickier and when it’s closer to 1:1 it’s bassier. Put the value where you’re happy with it, I’ll move it to 2:1 so there’s a bit of a click but mostly the punchy bass end.
Next, the snare. Shift-Create a compressor and an equalizer, then route the snare to the compressor, EQ, then mixer. In bassline, the snares are generally really snappy and quick, so we’re going to emphasize this by turning the input gain up to full, the ratio to infinity to one and the attack down a bit to 30ms – this means that 30ms after the snare hits, the snare will be brought down to the -18dB threshold. The input gain means that it’ll punch really hard initially, then the compression will kick in to stop it seeming too long. The volume increase from the input gain will be compensated by reducing the output gain by about 8dB.
I think the sample is too focused on the low end at the moment, so with the EQ, turn on Param 1 and we’ll boost around the 2.8khz mark by about 10dB with a bandwidth of 1.3 to really bring that high end up above the low. Some people argue that you should cut frequencies rather than boosting them, but I find that so long as you’re not boosting too much and you compensate for the volume in the mixer, boosting saves a lot of time rather than cutting either side of the frequency I want to boost. You might prefer to cut the lower frequencies instead though – experiment and see what works for you!
Lastly for the EQing, run the hi-hats into an EQ followed by a compressor, then into the mixer. With the EQ, cut the low mids by hitting the lo shelf on and turning freq up to full and gain to fully left, -18dB. This leaves more room in the mix for the snares. Also, so it’s not too sizzly, boost around 2khz by 5dB to give some more definition in the high end.
Now that compressor – input gain up to 5dB, ratio at 4:1 and attack down to 20ms – this will just mean that those open hats will punch a little bit harder.
To make the beat slightly less dry, right click on the mixer and create an RV7000 advanced reverb unit. Turn it to the “Medium stage setting and apply to taste – generally you shouldn’t apply it to the kick, since reverb in the low end of the frequency spectrum results in muddy mixes, but turn the aux knob on the hats and the ghost snare to about a quarter and maybe add a smidgeon of reverb to the main snare as well. Listen to the mix without it… and with it. Hear the difference? It makes it all seem a bit more meshed together.
Lastly, we’re going to use scream 4′s Tape compression. Turn off the bypass and turn off the cut and body modes. Now turn it to Tape mode and take the damage control down to 40. This mode emulates those nice hardware tape compressors that give warmth to a mix.
The P1 and P2 knobs emulate the speed of the tape and compression amount respectively. The higher the speed of the tape, the more high frequencies are kept in, so this can be useful to remove any piercing high frequencies. We’re going to leave P2 at mid way and P1 around 95. Use the “shift” button whilst clicking to get more accurate control over the knob.
And take a listen – there you have it! A bassline beat snappier than my ex-wife! *laugh track* I lied, I’ve never been married. Join me tomorrow for Day 2 where I’ll be making the first of several basslines for this track – we’ll have about 5 different bass synths by the time we’re done, since I figure that’s probably why you’re watching this tutorial series! Until then, have a play with your beat and see what syncopations work for you!