Creating Dark Electronica Bass Sounds In Reason

Get your mood on with this step-by-step on creating bass sounds that spring to life '¦ in a dark and brooding way. Mo Volans shows how in Propellerhead Reason.  

OK, so here's the situation... You're in the middle of putting together a nice electronic project and the bass sound you are using is just a bit... boring! So let's look at a few little things you can do to add a touch of interest and inject a bit of life into even the most vanilla of patches.

The Problem Patch

To demonstrate the issue at its worst, I decided to completely initialize a Thor and program a simple bass line. The pattern is solid and gels pretty well with the drum track but it lacks flare and could certainly do with some work. It's not really surprising as all you are hearing here is a single dry saw wave with zero modulation!

Thor init patch

Thor is fully initialized.

Basic patch playing with the drum track

The very basic patch plays back with the drum track.

Let's take a look at how we can add some energy here in four or five easy steps. You can make these sorts of moves with any patch to inject a bit of life when needed.

The single saw wave leaves a little to be desired: 

Oscillator And Filter Tweaks

The first thing I like to do when beefing up a synth patch is to get stuck into a fresh oscillator mix. In this case I actually kept the original saw wave, added a second saw and detuned it. This gives us a slightly chorused effects and fattens the whole thing up instantly.

To add some interesting harmonics I added a third wavetable oscillator. Pretty much anything from one of these oscillators will add a whole new flavor to your patches. I love using these and really enjoy mixing digital and analogue styles. The result is usually good!

The oscillators are mixed up

The oscillators are mixed up.

These oscillators were then fed through two different low pass filters. The two saw waves were routed to filter number one, whilst the wavetable oscillator was given its own independent low pass. I did this due to the fact I wanted to modulate the two filters differently... More about that next.

A Few Crafty Routings

Now for a little modulation. The first filter was subtly lifted by an envelope, adding a touch of movement to the first two oscillators. The second filter used one of Thor's LFOs to create a slight synced wobble. 

Some mod routing takes place

Some mod routing takes place.

The bass patch with the routing applied:

The pitch of the first two oscillators was then modulated by another faster moving LFO to introduce some gentle vibrato. The effect of all of these modulators is by no means extreme but it all gives the patch a stronger identity.

And with the drums:

A Little Processing

Next up I reached for the reasonably new Pulverizer to get some vintage harmonics applied to our patch. I used one of the straight forward bass orientated presets and dilated in around 50% of the wet signal. 

Pulverizer doing its thing!

Pulverizer doing its thing!

I find this is a great alternative to the Scream 4 unit when you are looking for some analog warmth but not total mayhem. At this point the sound was just about complete and only needed a small amount of attention on the console.

A Touch Of Side Chaining

Finally I used one of the console's aux sends to create a side chain set up. The send was routed to the key input of the bass channel strip in the rack and then a decent amount of the signal was sent from the drum loop.

The routing for the side chain effect

The routing for the side chain effect.

This created a good ducking effect, but to make it a little more focused, I used the console's built in low pass filter to create a frequency dependent side chain. This is easily achieved using the switch in the filter area.

The filters are used to fine tune the result

The filters are used to fine tune the result.

The final bass patch : 

The bass patch now moved in time with the drums and I felt at this point that my 5 easy tweaks had certainly added the right amount of flavor. Try this yourself if your bass needs a lift!

Mo has been a professional in the music industry for around 15 years. He has released material with the world's leading record labels and also produces music for TV and Film. Mo is also a prolific writer and is a regular contributor to magazines such as Music Tech, Future Music and EQ magazine. There isn't a piece of music software tha... Read More


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