Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
penguinpajamas
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Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by penguinpajamas » Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:39 pm

Hey guys! So I'm curious as to what I can do to make a sub-bass really sound great. Do I want to start with a sine wave and add saturation and distortion to add some high-end? Do I want to start with a saw wave or something and filter out the higher frequencies and boost the lower ones?

I'm curious as to any and all tricks and tips you guys are willing to share relating to sub-bass, as I love me a good sounding sub-bass and I'd love any advice I can get.

Thanks,
Charlie

puzzlefactory
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by puzzlefactory » Thu Oct 01, 2015 7:53 am

I like to keep my sub bass completely clean. All the character and timbre are in the "mids". So with that in mind my sub bass is just a simple sine wave (maybe with a bit of pitch envelope modulation). No, distortion or saturation or anything else that adds harmonic content.

Then it's just a case of balancing the mix (having a subwoofer really helps with this).

Tarekith
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by Tarekith » Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:56 am

I'm the same way, a simple sine usually is all I need, ocassionally a filtered triangle if I need a touch more character. I also find that no processing and just careful mix balancing is the key more than anything to get it solid sounding. The blend with the higher layer for the bassline really makes all the difference.

TomViolenz
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by TomViolenz » Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:15 am

You could also experiment with just doubling your regular bassline and lowpassing one of them with a steep LP at around 40-60 Hz (4x on EQ8) and a high gain bump.

It's a bit more difficult to clean off mud, but it has the advantage that it retains the movement of the original bass (which you have to highpass obviously)

This only works if your bassline has a nice attack to it though, otherwise it will be pure mud.

What also works well, is if you put this bassline into Sampler and use its filter for the LP (the 24dB one). Here you can play with the filter envelope and even add a bit of the waveshaper.

oddstep
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by oddstep » Thu Oct 01, 2015 11:50 am

+1 for the sine

Angstrom
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by Angstrom » Thu Oct 01, 2015 1:20 pm

one thing to be aware of is those low frequencies by definition have a very long cycle length which makes phase issues especially problematic
If two 50hz sines go out of phase they subtract from each other, "attenuating" , going quieter, or wobbling around.

Image

It's easy to get this wrong
Imagine you have a sub-bass tone at 50hz, and a tuned kick drum also at 50 hz, but it has a "punch" pitch envelope of some sort on it. what is happening with that kick drum wave cycle is it starts in sync with the sub-bass at 0 duty-cycle. But the pitch enevelope with move the two cycles out of sync with each other. when the Kick sine comes to rest at 50hz it will be out of phase with the sub-bass. These two low sines will subtract from each other as they go out of phase.

Image

notice that the second image is quieter. This is because after the "kick" pitch enevelope is done it has left the second sine out of phase with the first and this means they don't add to each other, but instead they subtract.

This is why I always laugh when I see people talking about stacking kicks, or basses.


You want quiet bass? Because that's how you get quiet bass!

dewaldo
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by dewaldo » Thu Oct 01, 2015 8:58 pm

I like square waves the best for sub bass. in operator, do a square wave w/ lowpass filter at around 50hz with high resonance...then use saturator with the drive turned up ~6-8db to add some harmonics...and then add another lowpass filter (or two if you need it) at around 100-130hz to get rid of the unnecessary stuff. this is not advice I read anywhere but rather from trial and error. sines are boring and not punchy in the right areas. if you're curious what it might sound like, I made the bass on this track with this same process -- www.soundcloud.com/dewaldo/villa. cheers

penguinpajamas
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by penguinpajamas » Thu Oct 01, 2015 9:27 pm

I suppose it's worth clarifying here that what I'm looking for isn't so much of a sub-bass that's working in conjunction with other bass synthesizers but that works on it's own and encompasses a very heavy low end. Maybe a better way to phrase what I'm looking for is a bass with a very strong sub-bass, that only relies on one synthesizer.

Shift Gorden
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by Shift Gorden » Thu Oct 01, 2015 9:38 pm

penguinpajamas wrote:I suppose it's worth clarifying here that what I'm looking for isn't so much of a sub-bass that's working in conjunction with other bass synthesizers but that works on it's own and encompasses a very heavy low end. Maybe a better way to phrase what I'm looking for is a bass with a very strong sub-bass, that only relies on one synthesizer.
Well, like many of these folk have said, you can't go wrong with a sine wave. Load up Operator, make sure one of your oscillators is a sine, and then start messing around. Or just keep it as a pure sine - and like you originally mentioned, add some saturation or distortion or whatever!

Make sure you mess around with the envelope - ADSR can vary the sound quite a bit - you get get some nice "booms" by extending the sustain/release a tad.

A lot of the time it will depend on the space you leave for the sub in your mix down. Leave room for the sub to operate without clashing - EQ it (and everything else).

puzzlefactory
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by puzzlefactory » Fri Oct 02, 2015 10:10 am

penguinpajamas wrote:I suppose it's worth clarifying here that what I'm looking for isn't so much of a sub-bass that's working in conjunction with other bass synthesizers but that works on it's own and encompasses a very heavy low end. Maybe a better way to phrase what I'm looking for is a bass with a very strong sub-bass, that only relies on one synthesizer.
If you just want to use one synthesiser then you'll want to use one that allows you to route one of the oscillators straight to the output, bypassing all the effects and distortion etc. Massive and Serum are examples of synths that allow you to do this. You then put an pure sine wave on that particular oscillator.

If you then want to use external effects on the synth then you'll need to create a parallel effect chain and then use EQ's (or the solo function on Lives multiband compressor) to separate the sub frequencies from the mids/highs and then put all your effects in the mid/high channel, keeping your sub channel clean.

If you want it to be "sub heavy" then all along the way you balance the mix (both in the synth and the effect chain) to favour the sine wave sub part of the sound.

mihai
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by mihai » Tue Oct 13, 2015 2:55 am

sine's a way to start, i also dig low-passing a saw quite low for a bit more body. it's just sub.

Stromkraft
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by Stromkraft » Tue Oct 13, 2015 12:14 pm

mihai wrote:sine's a way to start, i also dig low-passing a saw quite low for a bit more body. it's just sub.
The problem with sines are that they easily disappear as Angstrom notes. Someone also pointed out not so long ago the point of EQing the upper harmonics, the fifth in particular, of a sub in order to bring out the sub psycho-acoustically also when it can't actually be reproduced.
In order to have harmonics with a sine you need to add them as it has none. I find the best way is to do that in the synth already — which is what you and several others seem to be doing in practice? — or use something like Waves Renaissance Bass, Corpus in Live 9 Suite or a number of plug-ins made with similar intentions and maybe some that just adds stuff like Saturation. Watch the levels though as it's easy to just add distortion you don't want in addition to the distortion you do want.
Make some music!

oddstep
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by oddstep » Tue Oct 13, 2015 12:27 pm

in live, I create a rack with two chains - one is a sine. the other is something else - saw or square usually with a high pass filter to keep the low frequency content out of the sine's frequency range. any fx go on this chain, leaving the sine clean. I might transpose one of the chains so that there is even more space between the two oscillators.

mihai
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by mihai » Tue Oct 13, 2015 4:57 pm

@Stromkraft well that's really up to what you're trying to accomplish. depending on the other stuff around the sub a simple sine can be enough to get a solid bass.

with that being said my main subs are basically a sine with a saw on top and low passed until the only thing you hear are neighbors screaming to turn it down.
as for maxx bass and tools in that category they're great but unless i'm fixing recorded audio i don't even touch them, just open up the synth and tweak.

john gordon
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Re: Tips for Making a Solid Sub-Bass

Post by john gordon » Tue Oct 13, 2015 7:07 pm

Angstrom wrote:one thing to be aware of is those low frequencies by definition have a very long cycle length which makes phase issues especially problematic
If two 50hz sines go out of phase they subtract from each other, "attenuating" , going quieter, or wobbling around.

Image

It's easy to get this wrong
Imagine you have a sub-bass tone at 50hz, and a tuned kick drum also at 50 hz, but it has a "punch" pitch envelope of some sort on it. what is happening with that kick drum wave cycle is it starts in sync with the sub-bass at 0 duty-cycle. But the pitch enevelope with move the two cycles out of sync with each other. when the Kick sine comes to rest at 50hz it will be out of phase with the sub-bass. These two low sines will subtract from each other as they go out of phase.

Image

notice that the second image is quieter. This is because after the "kick" pitch enevelope is done it has left the second sine out of phase with the first and this means they don't add to each other, but instead they subtract.

This is why I always laugh when I see people talking about stacking kicks, or basses.


You want quiet bass? Because that's how you get quiet bass!
Nice tip. Thxz

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