Deconstructed - Five Classic Bass Music Tunes And Discover Some Key Ideas (Part 2)

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DJ Fresh - Gold Dust

By far the most commercial track of our featured five, Gold Dust started out in 2008 as an instrumental 12-inch, then spawned a vocal mix featuring Ce’Cile, which appeared on the 2010 album Kryptonite. The track had a further lease of life with new vocals from Miss Dynamite, this version appearing on Fresh’s 2012 album Nextlevelism.

Understandably, the single versions focus on the main hook and vocals

Understandably, the single versions focus on the main hook and vocals

The key theme throughout is the pulsing bassline/lead line combo that takes its inspiration from classics such as Moguai’s U Know Y. however, at 177bpm and in a full-on DnB style, this is a far more energetic workout than the breaks classic.

Understandably, the single versions focus on the main hook and vocals. If you can track down the original instrumental version, you’ll discover a more complex structure with more interesting sections that shift away from that main lead/bassline and into beat-driven breaks. As is the case with a lot of DnB tracks, the programming can be very complex, and a lot of these subtleties are lost in the shorter edit versions or simply masked by the vocals. In the version we’ll be looking at here, there are a lot of great vocal snatches peppered throughout, along with additional synth stabs and effects to complement the main rhythmic square-wave bleep that sits right up front.

The main bass/lead riff sound is a staple of club tracks (Mason’s Exceeder is a good example) and features a four-semitone offset in the higher oscillator on top of an octave or two-octave interval below. As it’s such a critical aspect of the track, we’re going to focus solely on it in our walkthroughs. We’ll show you how to create that sort of sound in the first place, then look at ways to manipulate it, and hopefully you’ll learn that even if you think you’ve created a killer riff and sound, there’s always more you can do to make it better.

Although you could build this part using separate MIDI notes, if you’re sticking with fixed-note intervals, as this part does, it makes more sense to create it all within one patch. The upside of this is that you can then manipulate the whole part more simply via the synth itself.

Step by step: Bass/lead sound

  1. The main bass/lead sound is quite easy to construct using offset oscillators and some additional effects. Here we’re using NI Massive in an attempt to get as close as possible to the original vibe, although any multi-oscillator synth can build similar sorts of sounds. The starting point is to get the synth to monophonic.

  1. The first oscillator needs to be set to the basic square/saw setting at -12 semitones. Here we’ve also set it to Bend -/+ mode to give it a bit more attack. This is the bass end of the sound, and tweaking the wavetable position (Wt-position) will influence the bass content as well, so experiment to get a good, solid bass end. (BL 2.mp3)

  1. For the next two oscillators, set the basic wave settings the same but set one to +16 semitones and one to 0 semitones offset. Again, tweak the wavetable positions and intensity to taste. Make sure all three oscillators are routed through one filter, and set the glide Time to taste (though it should be pretty quick). (BL 3.mp3)

  1. For added edge, we can phase modulate one or more of the oscillators, and we’re going to do this to Oscillator 3, which is the one with the zero Pitch offset. Again this is a matter of taste, but we’re pushing it roughly halfway, which will add a bit of grit to the sound. (BL 4.mp3)

  1. Now to add a filter. Select a Lowpass type with low to minimum Resonance. We want to modulate the filter to open on the note attack. There are various ways in which we can do this, but we opt to use a special LFO shape called Fall 1 and route it to the Cutoff. This LFO can be synced, so we can also set it to work in time with the track. (BL 5.mp3)

  1. There are a few extra things we can do for the sake of finesse. First up, add in some noise; we’re using the Tape setting. Next, use a distortion insert such as the Sine Shaper option that we’ve chosen here. And finally, a bit of EQ – we’ve just edged out some of the low end and removed some top. (BL 6.mp3)

Twists and turns

Zone in on the main bass/lead sound and you’ll hear how it morphs and shifts throughout the track, with various changes to the envelope and note decays. This make the sound feel much more organic and breaks up the repetitiveness. There are various ways you can go about effecting these sorts of changes, and with the main pattern programmed up, it’s easy to just cycle sections, playing with synth parameters to see what works best.

We’re aiming for two particular effects. First, we want the note lengths to gradually increase towards legato, so that the notes start to smear together. Second, we want to change our filter attack, which is currently fast with a sharp decay, to a slow attack, so that the sound swells in. To stretch out notes you can sometimes simply extend the note lengths, but in this case that doesn’t really achieve the sort of extreme effect we’re after - we’re much better off leaving our MIDI programming as it is and actually automating parameters within our synth sound.

Zone in on the main bass/lead sound and you’ll hear how it morphs and shifts throughout the track, with various changes to the envelope and note decays

Zone in on the main bass/lead sound and you’ll hear how it morphs and shifts throughout the track, with various changes to the envelope and note decays

We will need to make a couple of tweaks to our existing synth sound to achieve this. The main LFO is already modulating the filter cutoff, but we can also route the amplitude envelope to it. By doing this we can lengthen out the envelope release, influencing both the cutoff and the note length at the same time, and this will go some way to setting up a more extreme effect.

Next, we need to work out a way of switching the attack on our filter. Massive offers us a rather neat solution here, as it can crossfade from one LFO to another. So, by setting up a second, differently set LFO and switching mid-track, we can automate the envelope change quickly and simply. Read on to see exactly how it’s done, step by step.

Step by step: Modulating the lead

  1. First extend the release stage of the amplitude envelope, using automatic to increase it gradually. This begins to create the effects we’re after but it’s not quite there, so we also assign the amplitude envelope to the filter cutoff. (Mod lead 1.mp3)

  1. With this done we can now automat the filter cutoff. If we do this to match the increasing amplitude release, we get that note-extending effect with lots of top end, so it all sounds a little bit out of control. We can then automate both of them back down for the next section. (Mod lead 2.mp3)

  1. To influence the attack stage of the sound, we could modify the amplitude envelope. We really want to influence the attack stage of the filter too, however, and although our amplitude envelope is routed to the filter, the effect isn’t strong enough. A much neater option is to use a second LFO and switch using the LFO blend control. Se, set the second LFO to ramp up.

  1. Now both attack styles are influence by an LFO, so to make the switch between one style of attack and the other, we simply use the LFO cross fader. This is easy to play on the fly or automate, and we can also blend between the two for further sounds. (Mod lead 4.mp3)

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