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The ins and outs of psytrance bassline

bass kbbb boring technical stuff I wanna be Electric Universe

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#1 recursion loop

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 11:50 AM

The amount of the info on the subject is tremendous but the problem is how to filter the actually useful info and leave the bollocks out. There are Youtube tutorials, 130+ pages Isratrance thread etc, but most of the advices and tutorials usually boil down to “I use these settings and it works for me”.  If it works for someone else, it doesn’t automatically mean it will work for me since the tracks’ key, the bass pattern, the kick are just as important as the bass synth settings (huge thanks to Imba for sharing his bass patch, but I still haven’t even tried it cause I don’t expect it to change my world). So this thread should be more about the basic concepts rather than sharing settings and Youtube (which is also welcome though).

 

So well, what may be important from my experience.

 

 - The synth choice. Some people say that every synth is fine as long as it has a saw oscillator and a 4 pole LP filter. This is not my experience, I think some synths do it much better than the others. Sylenth seems to be popular for a reason and I’ m getting the best results with it so far. 

 

- The key of the track. I’m writing most tracks in E minor because it’s easier for me to write the melodies in this key, but I guess it may be not the best key for the bass. What keys are commonly used?

 

- The amount of oscillators or waves within one oscillator. Sometimes stacking several saws in one oscillator with locked phase and zero stereo spread sounds better than one saw, sometimes it doesn’t. Seems to work better for one note patterns like in progressive than for jumping full-on bass.

 

- The starting phase of the oscillator – may make drastic change depending on the note length.

 

- The suboscillator. I commonly use sine wave admixed to the saw one octave lower.  The relative volume may depend on the key and the bass pattern, I think one note proggy patterns will sound fine with much louder sub than full-on basses jumping over one of two octaves, these usually require way less sub if any.

 

- The filter and amp envelopes. This goes without saying that they are very important but I think they may be mostly set by ear. Highly depends on the bass pattern.

 

- The external processing. All the tracks on my soundcloud have the bass decorated with various plugins like New Year’s tree, but I think none of these basses are especially good. Now I’m gravitating towards minimal processing, basically only an equalizer and a monoizer, al least it is easier to control. As for the eq settings, it was independently confirmed by two guys with very good ears that the harmonic frequencies can mask the fundamental bass tone making the bass muddy (e.g. if the bass is in E, 165 HZ may be a problematic area, where a wide cut may improve the clarity of the bass).

 

What else may be important?



#2 onkelbibber

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 12:23 PM

In general to the layering question: How do you people layer your basslines?

Some people have 3 layers (click, saw, sub), you use 2 (saw, sub) and I don't layer at all.

I use one osc and processing. sometimes i add a click to it, but not always. According to materias interview on youtube i try to keep it simple.

 

 

Any advises here from more experienced users?



#3 recursion loop

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 12:31 PM

I never use more than one synth for bass. I usuallly stack two oscillators within the synth itself (saw + sine one octave lower), may also enable unison in the saw osc (up to 3 saws stacked) but not always. I think making hamburgers of synths is more an EDM thing, not very common in psy.



#4 antic604

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 01:21 PM

Heh, reading all that I feel like my own approach goes against the rules. But maybe that's because I actually don't like those surgically sculpted, very controlled and precise basslines in Imba's or Ticon's albums (to refer to more recent releases). They just sound cold to me and don't fit with otherwise warm music (they're fine in dark/tech styles, though). I like there to be some grit, some unpredictability, some chaos even in my basslines. Therefore - once I'm ready to show my new stuff, that is :) - you'll see that I apply effects and modulations to my basslines, because I like them to be "alive". I think my take is more akin to how old-school goa/psy-trance was created in mid-90's, with bass being an equally important instrument, complementing the rest of the arrangement not only in terms of occupied frequencies, but also musically. Whereas nowadays it is being often relegated to function as a pulsating backbone of the track, sort of like a second kick drum. The discussion I see on various forums on e.g. key of the bassline, phase of the oscillator, notching certain frequencies, etc. are interesting and all, but it's like pianists or guitarists discussing how long their nails should be cut to play better. Sure, I see it can be important - especially in the world of broad EDM - but it will not make or break your music. If there ever was a tune (or even genre - e.g. dubstep) made popular / famous because of it's bassline, it was PRECISELY because it was doing something different and against the "rules".

 

My point is, I obviously try to take all above things into consideration, but I try to get my bassline out of the sight as soon as possible. Once it's functional I try to move to others - IMO more important - parts and I can always come back to it, fiddle with presets, effects & modulations. I'm really fed up with this obsession of goa/psy-trance producers with basslines, because they spend dozens of hours talking on forums about it, in the end trying to replicate the same(ish) sound over and over... It's like jungle music years ago all having to use the same amen break loop - it's admittedly awesome (I almost cried from nostalgia when I recently heard it in Galantis' "No Money"), but surely we can come up with something more creative? Our music got really commoditised (standardised) over the last couple of years, which led to huge homogenisation of how it sounds: just listen to old compilations from TIP, Transient, Blue Room or Flying Rhino and compare the variety of sounds, textures, styles and emotions in there to almost any current compilation. No contest there! It's symptomatic that over the years people making music stopped being called "musicians" in favour of "producers" but it's very fitting in hindsight: the latter obsess with how the product is made, with the ingradients and ways to assemble them; the former were just having fun and tried to channel their emotions via music and were just using synths & drum machines as tools.

 

Sorry for not being helpful and - God forbid - I'm not suggesting that I'm in any way better than this. Guilty as charged. But I still can recognise this as a problem :)

 

Actually, this preference of mine extends beyond goa/psy-trance: e.g. I like dub music very much because of the mysterious, hazy aura it creates, but I feel like the conventional basslines really limit it and hold it in place. On the other hand there's acid jazz/funk music - e.g. early Jamiroquai albums - where I could literally just listen to rhythm section alone because it's so evolved, intricate and full. I feel bad even calling it "rhythm section" because it genuinely doesn't do it justice - there's more musicality in there than in many other full tracks... :)



#5 antic604

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 01:52 PM

Sorry for the rant above :(

 

Actually the thoughts that triggered it was this Ableton Live tutorial from Mr Bill - who does great, experimental music - on how to "make psytrance":

 

 

In 8th second of 21+ minutes-long video he says "it's actually pretty easy" and proceeds to make the typical machine-gun KBBB pattern with some swooshy effects track on top. Well, duh?!? Out of maybe 20+ similar videos I saw, at least 17-18 were just like it. Apparently that's what psytrance is sounding like for people. And I can't blame them considering we focus so much on kick+bassline :)



#6 recursion loop

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 01:57 PM

I hear you, but 

 

1) The bass in trance must be groovy, it must move you. Good bassline cannot improve a bad track but a poor bassline pretty much kills otherwise great track.

 

2) You can make your bass purely by ear and go against the rules in a creative way if you have great acoustic treatment in your room and speakers with good bass responce, not everyone has such a luxury. I'm a bedroom producer in the most literal sence - my DAW machine is in the same room as my bed. In this situation I can only learn what things are typically wrong and should be avoided and what things may help me to get my bass better transferable to other rooms and sound systems. 

 

3) You can still be creative within the rules. People sometimes say that today all psytrance basslines sound the same but I think it couldn't be more wrong and mostly reflects very superficial view of the scene (I know that this doesn't apply to you though).

 

Dl;dr: this thread is not about "how to sound like X, Y or Z" but mostly about "how to make better basses in less than ideal listening conditions"



#7 antic604

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 02:21 PM

1) The bass in trance must be groovy, it must move you. Good bassline cannot improve a bad track but a poor bassline pretty much kills otherwise great track.

 

Well, the basslines of Imba or Ticon (to stick with my examples) are the opposite of "groovy" for me (they're only rhythmical), so maybe it's a matter of preference and definition. To again refer to my dub vs. Jamiroquai example: the bass in the former is just the droning background and foundation, in the latter it's the equally important musical element. I tend to prefer my basses in the latter category.

 

 

2) You can make your bass purely by ear and go against the rules in a creative way if you have great acoustic treatment in your room and speakers with good bass responce, not everyone has such a luxury. I'm a bedroom producer in the most literal sence - my DAW machine is in the same room as my bed. In this situation I can only learn what things are typically wrong and should be avoided and what things may help me to get my bass better transferable to other rooms and sound systems. 

 

Sure, that's true but then even the best producers always advice to listen to your stuff on variety of devices: speakers, headphones, car, poorly compressed mp3, etc.

 

Also, in my case, I don't ever aspire for my music to be listened by other people in their rooms let alone on a big sound system, so maybe that's why I don't care :)

 

 

Dl;dr: this thread is not about "how to sound like X, Y or Z" but mostly about "how to make better basses in less than ideal listening conditions"

 

Agree if you're talking about wide psytrance world, covering the whole range from: suomi, through forest, goa, full-on, prog and ending with dark / tech.

 

But within those sub-genres, I think we're much more "standardised" than we ever were.



#8 recursion loop

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 02:42 PM

But within those sub-genres, I think we're much more "standardised" than we ever were.

I hope the discussion here will eventually help to solve this problem. :)

 

That is you may either buy a samplepack from a known producer and use his samples which are proven to work at most sound systems, but your basses will sound exactly like his or 1000 other guys who bought the same pack.

 

Or you may learn some things and compensate the defects in your listening environment by your techncial knowledge, which will help you to be more creative and original.

 

Sure, I check my stuff at any sound device I can get my hands on, but the less wrong things are done from the very beginning, the less remixing sessions are needed and the less are the chances that I'll grow tired as hell of this track and never finish it.



#9 antic604

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 04:15 PM

Amen to the above.

Please carry on with tips & tricks and I'll contribute when I have something useful to say :)

#10 onkelbibber

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Posted 18 January 2017 - 04:18 PM

I think this kind of music i make is predestined for being played on big system and having people dance to it. And that is also why i make this music, except for enjoying the results by myself it's a great feeling to see people having fun with something you've created. In those situations you've helped them having a good time :) and therefore have a good time together.

 

And as it's definitley focused on the bass on some parts the bass has to be good by itself. Sure this is also a matter of taste and i sometimes listen to "pro" basslines through my dt880s and think that they don't sound so good by itself. But they work on the big systems. So even if you have a different taste of bassline there are some things that should be payed attention to to have them be working on big systems (or on any system, if that is your goal).



#11 Padmapani

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 12:59 AM

1- The synth

2- The key of the track.

3- The amount of oscillators

4- The starting phase of the oscillator – may make drastic change depending on the note length.

5- The suboscillator. I

6- The filter and amp envelopes.

7- The external processing

 

 

1- you can make a working psy bassline with any synth that allows you control over the relevant parameter, but obviously some sound better than others. and of course some will sound better to your ears while others will sound better to others'.

2-i've been thinking a lot about that one a while ago. but this would probably warrant an own thread. we have not even one octave of space where the typical psy kick/bass will sound good, so the key makes a huge difference. (i myself tend to stay in the range e to a)

3-it can only be one saw for your typical psy bass. of course additional oscillators are possible for oldschool basses or prog offbass.

4- definitely. and i often overlook this one.

5- i've never been able to make a sub oscillator sound good. there's always a "hole" between the sine and the fundamental of the saw which is one octave higher.

6- that goes without saying

7- that wholly depends on what you want to achieve and what your particular patch needs. sometimes its only eq, sometimes distortion, eq and compressor. more complicated thing only go on the upper layer.

 

In general to the layering question: How do you people layer your basslines?

Some people have 3 layers (click, saw, sub), you use 2 (saw, sub) and I don't layer at all.

I use one osc and processing. sometimes i add a click to it, but not always. According to materias interview on youtube i try to keep it simple.

i typically use only one or (more often) two layers. but i don't do a sub oscillator. rather i split the same patch into two so the lower layer is filtered down to something that's beginning to sound a little like a sine, while the upper layer has all the rest. this allows me to put effects life flangers/phasers/... on the upper layer, playing with the stereo field to widen the bass sound and add some movement.

 

 

I think making hamburgers of synths is more an EDM thing, not very common in psy.

 hamburgers  :lol:

 

Heh, reading all that I feel like my own approach goes against the rules. But maybe that's because I actually don't like those surgically sculpted, very controlled and precise basslines in Imba's or Ticon's albums (to refer to more recent releases). They just sound cold to me and don't fit with otherwise warm music (they're fine in dark/tech styles, though). I like there to be some grit, some unpredictability, some chaos even in my basslines. Therefore - once I'm ready to show my new stuff, that is :) - you'll see that I apply effects and modulations to my basslines, because I like them to be "alive".

i agree partly. it can be exact, but i like to have some movement and a warmer sound, so i often layer by basslines (see above) to achieve that, but some "puch" or clarity is lost in the process. still it fits by idea of a good compromise between fullon and goa bass nicely :)

 

People sometimes say that today all psytrance basslines sound the same but I think it couldn't be more wrong and mostly reflects very superficial view of the scene

i think that's an outdated view that people are just repeating. back in 2008 (it can't be 9 years ago, feel more like 2-3...) when fullon was still the main thing and progressive was resticted to daytime, every single artist used exactly the same fullon bass and it really started to bore pretty much everyone. now when i hear progressive on the mainfloor, using varying basslines (from kbbb to offbass to minimal to electro-like patterns played by "hamburger" patches) i often wish they'd play those always-the-same, but fun and bouncy fullon basslines instead ;)

 

 

I wanna be Electric Universe
you better look for the samples he's using (if any) or sample his basslines ;)

#12 Trinodia

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 07:22 AM

Baselines and bass patches for me is perhaps also a bit different from the norm.

I don't save patches when it comes to bass sounds (and most other sounds aswell) so I start out with a blank init patch and go from there. I might use a single saw with 24db filter. Or a pwm saw with sin sub or square sub or even saw sub. I have used many different synths for the bass in my tracks and some worked well, others not so much and most times when I change it is because of the tightness of the envelopes in their attack and how well the oscillators sound. Filters IMO nowdays tend to be quite similar on different plugins. All in all it when it comes to bass sounds for me it depends on the track I'm making and I go back and adjust the bass sound during the production of the track. I tend to have another track that doubles the bass notes with a wider more grittier sound that is one or two octaves above the bass and that has the lower frequencies cut off with an EQ. Sometimes I use a short reverb on the bass, ping Pong delay and so on, all depending on what fits the current track.

In terms of groove I don't use shuffle alot. I have done but I tend to work with alternating length of notes and instead of removing 16s notes I shorten them down so they are almost just a click and that gives a rhythmic groove.

I always use sidechain compression on the bass to duck it using the kick as source. I dont use EQ most times on the bass sound but that also depends on the track and how the other sounds give room (or not) for the bass sound in the mix. If the bass needs more attack I add a second compressor after the sidechain to sculpt the sound better, not agressive compression but enough to give it a little boast in the attack.

Am I ever pleased with my bass sounds? Never... So the search Always goes on :)

I agree that old school psy and goa were much more varied in how the bass sounded, both I melodies and sound and I'm more into that than today's progressive standard basslines. That said I have done those aswell and in some tracks they work well but I dont like to just use the same over and over again, it's too easy and does not Challenge the listener enough.

Just my couple of thoughts :)

//Trinodia

#13 antic604

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 09:24 AM

Ok, so if we're sharing our experience, I'll chime in with what I'm doing in the track I work on:

- a base oscillator for my bassline is a saw wave, with 12dB low-pass, with both filter & resonance almost at zero;

- as an accent on certain notes, I'm enabling a 2nd oscillator: a pulse wave with 24dB low-pass & same filter settings, but I'm still considering out on its octave (currently it's the same as base osc), PWM and detune;

- filter and volume envelopes are the same: minimal attack, approx. 500ms decay (not a machine-gun bass obviously...), no sustain;

- the sound is mono, with enabled glide / portamento for overlapping notes;

- I side-chain it with a kick, using a compressor;

- I add a stereo delay, hi-passing the source with different - and actually moving in time with LFO - cut-offs for left & right ear, with different delay times as well;

- there's an 8-band EQ added on top, to notch some of the very low frequencies, low/mid frequencies and also to limit the highest frequencies in case I'd want to open the filter / resonance on the bass later in the track

 

I'll post a sample in the evening :)



#14 recursion loop

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:41 AM

 

i typically use only one or (more often) two layers. but i don't do a sub oscillator. rather i split the same patch into two so the lower layer is filtered down to something that's beginning to sound a little like a sine, while the upper layer has all the rest. this allows me to put effects life flangers/phasers/... on the upper layer, playing with the stereo field to widen the bass sound and add some movement.

 

Interesting, curious to hear what it sounds like. Where do you typically hipass/lowpass your layers? Do you spilt the signal from the same synth, or make two synth channels with similar settings?

 

Hamburgers because they are FAAAAAAAT  :D

 

I also love late 00's fullon basses (duh, some people are weird!), right now I have this track imported into my DAW project and I'm trying to make a similar bassline

 



#15 recursion loop

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:59 AM

In terms of groove I don't use shuffle alot. I have done but I tend to work with alternating length of notes and instead of removing 16s notes I shorten them down so they are almost just a click and that gives a rhythmic groove.

I always use sidechain compression on the bass to duck it using the kick as source. I dont use EQ most times on the bass sound but that also depends on the track and how the other sounds give room (or not) for the bass sound in the mix. If the bass needs more attack I add a second compressor after the sidechain to sculpt the sound better, not agressive compression but enough to give it a little boast in the attack.

 

I'm now also playing with altering note lenghts in the patterns aligned to 16th grid, it can make a machinegun bassline sound more interesting while still remaining a machinegun bassline. 

 

I also used to sidechain basses, now I'm trying an alternative technicque - assigining velocity to the synth output and/or cutoff and make velocity pattern like that 50 - 70 -100, imo it gives more controllable groove.

 

Curious why compressor and not a transient shaper (for boosting the attack)?

 

Thanks for sharing your tips guys!



#16 Padmapani

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Posted 19 January 2017 - 10:55 PM

- as an accent on certain notes, I'm enabling a 2nd oscillator: a pulse wave with 24dB low-pass & same filter settings, but I'm still considering out on its octave (currently it's the same as base osc), PWM and detune;

that's actually a very good idea. i'll have to try it with my next track. i now imagine a second oscillator with a highpass filter, maybe some stereo spread and some distortion, with the volume controlled by velocity. i think you could really build a nice groove with that sort of thing...

 

Interesting, curious to hear what it sounds like. Where do you typically hipass/lowpass your layers? Do you spilt the signal from the same synth, or make two synth channels with similar settings?

 

 

I also love late 00's fullon basses (duh, some people are weird!), right now I have this track imported into my DAW project and I'm trying to make a similar bassline

if i don't forget, i'll post something this weekend. i'd like to know a way to split the signal, but i'm using two synth channels with exactly the same patch now. though maybe it's a good thing that i cannot split the signal totally equal because when fiddling with the eq settings to find the ideal crossover i don't get the same frequency for both channels. but it's usually around 200hz +-50hz.

 

that bassline is a bit too high (or more accurately: the filter is opened too much) for my taste. but for fullon it's completely fine. i prefer basslines that don't act as a lead, rather fill in the spot in the lower mids / bass spectrum to add warmth (if you take away the bassline you get that abrasive techno feeling), and don't get in the way of the leads too much.



#17 antic604

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 12:44 AM

...



#18 antic604

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 09:47 AM

BTW, Tom Cosm has a lot of great tutorial videos on YouTube (mostly focused on Ableton Live), with this one in particular being the best of "how to make psytrance bassline" I came across yet, at least for my taste:

 

 

He's incredibly knowledgeable, but also seems like a really nice, down-to-earth guy.

 

Not to mention he practically sold me on purchasing Live 9 :)



#19 Spiral Sun

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 10:58 AM

Just in case you´re more or less starting out producing and here to find out what you need for that killargh psybass you might consider this info, if not - skip it.

Short Version:

Hi I´new here.Now why is it that there is so many information on how to make your kb kbbb psytrancebass (and indeed every other goabass),the process is described to be easy - yet it is hard to get sounding pro like Boris Blenn? It´s because beside the fact thatmost information is indeed helpful if you take it as optional - the main goal is not getting to know all techniques,but enable yourself to listen properly. Limiting the amount of used techniques might take you there much faster.

Longer Version:

Hey I´m new here tho not new to goa/psytranceproduction. Like most producers I´ve been (and still am) striving for that perfect kick and bass, reading hundreds of posts, watching tutorials, installing vsts and downloading patches.
Sitting down for weeks and weeks trying to get it right. I´d like to second the above thread because imo its at the core of a common misconception about "how to get there". I think can´t be stressed enough, just if beginning to intermediate level producers read this.
Sorry if some of it is a little bit OT.

As stated above by recursion loop there is no perfect formula (every kick/ bass is different). "Layering is the best way" / "gotta get you a virus ti" / "install cubase" bla bla is all bollocks.
Using nothing but vsti + eq CAN sound great using tons of processing also CAN sound great.

If you´re starting out you will need to learn what good kick/bass actually sounds like - take professional reference tracks. If your kick/bass sounds better on your system than the protrack you admire - you are wrong - it sounds worse.
Most importantl of all information: Get the best listeningenvironment (roomtreatment/ monitors/ cans)you can afford. If you don´t have it you´ll very unlikely have consistent good results.
Pro for cans: they reach down low + take the room out of the calculation. Pro for monitors: cans won´t give you the actual tactile physical bassresponse to be sure nothing clashes in the bottomened . Even if you have a decent setup it will not be
the same like playing it out on a party.While analyzers and looking at the waveforms can help reduce this problem, ultimately the only perfect check (even for pros with nice gear) can be made when a track is played out on a big system.

Professional Artists arent that good because they know something you cannot find in most tutorials - its because they know what they have to listen for, and how - using the common techniques - they get it right.
If you just started out you will say "but yeah I know how good kick/bass sounds like". You are wrong. You will be pleased with your sound at some point - then learn to hear more - know it was actually not as good as you like -
be frustrated and go back - then the cycle begins again.

This imo important - and at first glance quite trivial - information can also be found in many threads aso but usually is getting overlooked. Which for many results in trying out tons of vsts, techniques aso. In the unlikely event of me travelling back in time I´d then tell me to stick to one
synth regarded by many of beeing capable to produce killargh bass (sylenth1 for instance) no need for layering, and try to get the best out of it (just choose "moog bass" and alter to taste)*. Same for Kick (bazzism). Ad Eq - bounce to audio - basta.
To quote Dr. Bill Cosmosis on this: "the amount of tracks produced is negatively correlated to the amount of vsts in your vstfolder". Trying out ervery technique might be doing it the hard way because of the psychoacoustic roule new=better (nearly) everything you throw at your bass will sound better, unless
you already know how a great bass should sound and you realizing you just ruined it with quadrafuzz.

That said it is good to know the arsenal to experiment further or to get a particular sound. Like the bass of an Electric Universe track (you need reopen quadrafuzz now ^^). Hope I can contribute
to that in future postings.


Sorry for all that ot mumbling - Cheers, Chris Sun


*and I will play the almanac into my hands.

btw: antic saw ur post over @ kvr - did you end up getting bitwig? / I´m a longtime live user and I´m loving Bitwig

#20 Spiral Sun

Spiral Sun

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Posted 20 January 2017 - 11:54 AM

BTW, Tom Cosm has a lot of great tutorial videos on YouTube (mostly focused on Ableton Live), with this one in particular being the best of "how to make psytrance bassline" I came across yet, at least for my taste:
 

 
He's incredibly knowledgeable, but also seems like a really nice, down-to-earth guy.
 
Not to mention he practically sold me on purchasing Live 9 :)


This guy made incredibly informative and indepth tutorials. I have pretty much the same story like you regarding Ableton Live :)





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: bass, kbbb, boring technical stuff, I wanna be Electric Universe

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