How To Make a Killer Dubstep Bassline

March 7, 2012

Ableton Live Tutorials

There’s nothing that shakes the floor quite like a raunchy Dubstep bassline.  There’s probably nothing quite as chaotic either.  However, amidst that chaos lies an intricately sculpted palette of sound.

In this article, we will take a look at how to create those modern, neck-breaking bass lines you’re accustomed to  hearing in the clubs.

You will need to have access to some quality bass sounds to get the most out of this article.  I recommend looking into Native Instruments Massive if you haven’t already.  It’s an extremely popular soft synth for all types of Electronic music and you can find a lot of free presets for it.

If you’re looking for some free Massive presets be sure to check out PlatinumLoops Facebook page.
Once you have some quality sounds, you are ready to get started.  I’ll be working in Ableton Live, but you can accomplish this is any DAW.

Here is an audio snippet of the of the bassline we’re going to recreate:

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Step 1 – Pick a dirty bass sound and record a few notes into your DAW.

Start simple.  Set up a four bar loop and record notes on the 1-beat of every bar.  Cut them off on the 3-beat of every bar just as I have done below.

MIDI notes for my first bass sound.

 

Here is the sound I chose:

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Choose a sound that is big and commanding, as this is the foundation for your bass line.

Step 2 – Add pitch bends and rhythmic variations

I big part of making Dubstep sounds come to life has to do with automation and modulation parameters.  Modulating the frequency cut-off or LFO rate of a sound (or both) gives it depth and character that otherwise would not exist.

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MIDI information with recorded pitch bends.

 

You can give your bassline more rhythmic variation by modulating its LFO rate, which will get your bassline to “wobble”.

An easy way to do this is to route the LFO rate of your synth to the mod-wheel on your MIDI keyboard.  Then you can modulate the LFO rate in real time and you can record that automation in Ableton.

If you are uncertain how to set this up then be sure to check out some of the sound design tutorials for Massive at www.youtube.com/platinumloops

Step 3 – Start to fill in the remaining gaps with new sounds.

Once you have a solid foundation for your bassline, you’ll want to start to fill in any remaining gaps with other bass synths, hits, stabs, various FX, and other random sounds.

Using a plethora of sounds will give your basslines a randomly chaotic feel.

Here’s the sound I chose for the gap between my first two bass notes in the MIDI loop above.

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From this point on, you keep repeating these same steps to steadily fill in the gaps of your loop.  Throw in a howling siren for a quarter measure.  Flair it out with some pitch-bending and FX. Follow up with a sub bass drop for half a bar, sprinkle in bits and pieces of vocal cuts, etc.

Arrangement view of the sounds that make up my bassline.

 

Keep the general melody of your bass loop simple.  Only use a few notes.  You’ll get plenty of variation by the multitude of sounds you incorporate.

Take a listen to this audio example as it demonstrates the effects of repeating the aforementioned steps.

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As you can hear, we’ve interwoven many different sounds to create one unified body of sound.

Try keeping the sounds fresh.  After you get a solid 4 to 8-bar loop, you can occasionally substitute new sounds into the mix.  This can be as simple as taking the MIDI information from one sound and applying it to a new sound.

Summary

There are more complex ways to construct a Dubstep bassline.  This article only scratches the surface, but will get you moving in the right direction.

Here is a summary of the technique we just covered:

Step 1 – Find a commanding bass sound to start with.  Lay down a few simple notes. Be sure to leave plenty of space in between those notes to incorporate other sounds.

Step 2 – Flair out that sound with modulation effects.  Modulate the pitch, the frequency cut-off, the LFO rate, and more.

Step 3 – Find another sound and repeat this process of slowly filling in more of the gaps in your loop.  Repeat the process until your bass loop is complete.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful.  Be sure to check back regularly for more great articles from Samplepacks.ca!

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4 Responses to “How To Make a Killer Dubstep Bassline”

  1. shane b Says:

    Really great article! Thanks!

  2. Massive Dubstep Presets Says:

    Very very good for dub producers, respect!

  3. Fosbie Says:

    Awesome article, I finished reading it and got to the hang of it… I just finished creating a dope dubstep drop on fl studio …for a beginner in dubstep…

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