By now, many in the music production realm are familiar with the “classic” dubstep sound. affectionately labeled “wobble bass,” this sound is created by taking a simple oscillator and applying a low pass filter with a LFO applied to the filter cutoff, resulting in the iconic “wob, wob” heard in dubstep and electro house. The following video demonstrates a very simple way to to create the iconic dubstep sound:
While this particular sound is classic and ubiquitous, it has since evolved into a more advanced product of sound design. The following synth is an alteration of a couple of the sounds that can be heard on my electrohouse track, “Intervention.” This particular sound is using massive, but the technique used to create a “liquid” style electro bass can be applied to any other subtractive synthesizer which can utilize lowpass and highpass filters to manipulate the audio signal. I personally find massive to be the best suited synthesizer for this particular sound.
Hear the difference? By using both the lowpass and highpass filters at the same time (in addition to a multitude of effects and settings), a “liquid” sound is produced. This sound can be manipulated to sound more aggressive, catering toward a nuance in electrohouse, by adding a simple distortion effect:
The following video demonstrates how to create a similar sounding bass from scratch:
I start off by using the Escalation II oscillator in massive. Next, I’m going ensure that the signal from the oscillator to the filters is equal between the parallel and serial filters. This will allow the signal between the highpass and lowpass filters to be accentuated properly, resulting in the modulation of the higher and lower frequencies at different intervals. This is what gives us that distinct “liquidy” sound. For filter 1, I choose highpass 4 (any of the highpass filters will suffice; it is a matter of personal preference). For filter 2, I choose lowpass 2.
In the event you find Massive daunting, I have included a .KSD file for those who wish to explore the settings of this synth without having to do the dirty work of sound design (cheaters)!
Now for the LFO selection, which will give our bass sound its distinctive rhythmic flair. This is where I would encourage trial-and error, using the ear as a guide. There are many LFO patterns to choose from, some more appropriate to your particular sound than others. I would strongly suggest tweaking and combining as many as possible until you reach the ideal combination of LFO patterns.
Some great additions to our already advanced synth can include a little flanger. The flanger effect option built into massive is a great way to give our sound an “alien” flavor. I personally favor “flanger negative mono.” Make sure not to overuse effects such as flanger, as they can dominate your sound very easily. Adding a bit of phase modulation to the primary oscillator, and applying one of our LFOs to it will also result in some truly bizarre, yet brilliant sounding auditory monstrosities.
Now we’re done with the synthwork, it’s time to use effects. Effects are essential! Multiband compression is a great tool to use in order to bring out a more bold, rich flavor to our sound. Distortion is another invaluable effect for bringing aggression and harshness to your synth’s tone. Equalization can also be used to emphasize or deaden particular frequencies you want to manipulate within the context of your sound. I find that cutting the frequencies above 9,000Hz helps reinforce rich midrange of the “liquid” bass sounds.
Have fun experimenting with many different LFO patters, oscillators and effect settings! Feel free to use the .KSD/.NMSV file included in this tutorial as an experimental template for your sonic creations. In my next tutorial, I will explain how to use automation to manipulate the rate of the LFO, rhythmically modulating the signal of your synthesizer and further advancing the alien-like “liquid” bass.