How To Make A Massive Synth Bass Sound (Part 2) : Dubstep wobbles with SynthMaster

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Dubstep wobbles with SynthMaster

In this walkthrough we’ll be making the ubiquitous dub step wobble, and rather than tying the patch down to one particular style, we’ll show you some staple tricks and techniques that will empower you to take your sound design skills to the next level. At the hub of this patch is the bass oscillator that will do the heavy lifting for the bottom end, delivering a tight, sturdy sub-bass. On top of this is the mid-range oscillator, which drips with texture and provides the main character of the patch.

The flexibility of the synth enables you to run these filters in series (one after another), parallel (both at the same time) and split mode

The flexibility of the synth enables you to run these filters in series (one after another), parallel (both at the same time) and split mode

SynthMaster gives you pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, so we’ll be taking advantage of the two multimode filters available. The flexibility of the synth enables you to run these filters in series (one after another), parallel (both at the same time) and split mode. It’s the last we’re interested in, because it enables us to send the first oscillator through Filter 1 and the second through Filter 2. This lets us wobble the bejesus out of the second oscillator with some squelchy, rasping low-pass filtering while leaving the first oscillator untouched, so that it remains solid and consistent. As if two filters weren’t enough, each one can be set to Multimode, giving you two completely independent filters for the price of one. As each of the two filters can be modulated and automated independently, we can really go to town and get extreme results.

As well as the usual analogue suspects, SynthMaster comes with a ton of digital waveforms and modulation options. Of particular interest for this patch is oscillator modulation, where each of the oscillators can have its phase or frequency modulated by one of the four modulation oscillators. These can twist even garden-variety analogue waveforms into something utterly alien, and you’ll be surprised at how little effort it takes to get those oscillators wailing.

Step by step: Creating a dub-step wobble patch

  1. This patch will end up sounding like two different synths layered together, with the bass oscillator being sustained and the mid-range oscillator wobbling around like a rogue spinning top, if you prefer pumping and groove, just replicate the LFO modulation of Filter 2 on Filter 1’s cutoff.

  1. Set the project tempo to 14-bpm and draw in a bassline. We’re looking for a long, droning bass riff rather than something snappy, so keep the notes lengths nice and long for the most part. Of course, you could just go ahead and drop CM_SM_Bassline.midi into your project instead. (Syn2.mp3).

  1. We’ll be using this first oscillator as our sub-oscillator, se set the waveform to Pulse. This particular oscillator behaves differently from the others, as the Phase dial is used to adjust the pulse width rather than the phase. Set it to 280 degrees to add some important harmonics above the fundamental for a meatier sound. (Syn3.mp3).

  1. We don’t want all that midrange and brightness in our sub-oscillator, so pull the Tone down to 35 for a mellower, more bassy sound. The Tone dial lets us filter out the harmonics for each individual oscillator without having to use up one of the two that are available per layer (Syn4.mp3).

  1. We’ll use glide to get that lazy pitch bending effect between notes. Click the Mono and Legato buttons in the Layer section, then the S button next to the Glide dial. Set the Glide time to around 110ms to get a rapid but noticeable lag in pitch when each note is pressed. (Syn5.mp3).

  1. Now turn on Oscillator 2. The default waveform is a saw (Default Saw.mp3), but if you have a look through the waveform list you’ll see a number of see waves. This one is quite bassy, but we’ll use the saw wave from the Single Cycle Waveforms category as it has a flatter spectral shape, and so sounds brighter and bolder. (Syn6.mp3).

  1. Now for the keystone of our patch. We’ll use phase modulation on Oscillator 2, so set its Src to M1 (the first modulator). Notice how the timbre instantly changes to something more modern and exciting than the more ‘vanilla’ analogue waveforms. Oscillator FM modulation is a powerful tool for sculpting futuristic spectral shapes. (Syn7.mp3).

  1. Go to Mod 1’s page and sweep the Pitch dial up and down. Notice how drastically the timbre changes? There are a plethora of possibilities here and we could further experiment with Mod 1’s waveforms, but for now let’s just set the Pitch to 1 octave 4 semitones for an abrasive, growling texture. (Syn8.mp3).

  1. Now have a sweep through Mod 1’s Volume dial. When set to minimum we hear Oscillator 2 without the FM, and as we increase the Volume we get a more and more dramatic effect. Don’t worry if Oscillator 2 drowns our Oscillator 1 – we’ll be filtering it in a later step. (Syn9.mp3).

  1. By default the two filters are set in series, so that Oscillator 1 and 2 pass through Filer 1 together and then go on to Filter 2. We instead want to filter Oscillator 2 but leave Oscillator 1 untouched, so we set the filter mode to Split. This sends Oscillator 1 to Filter 1 and Oscillator 2 to filter 2.

  1. Turn on Filter 2 and set the Algorithm to Dual to give us two independent filters for shaping Oscillator 2. We want these to operate independently of one another, so we need to set them to run in parallel rather than in series. When the Topology dial is turned fully left, the filters run in series, so turn it fully to the right. (Syn11.mp3).

  1. Turn the Mode 1 dial to the right to set the first filter to high-pass and the Mode 2 dial fully left to set the second filter to low-pass. Set the Cutoff 1 control to 120Hz to cut some bas from this oscillator and the Cutoff 2 dial fully to the left. The filters will be too loud, so turn the Volume all the way down to -7dB. (Syn12.mp3).

  1. Set the Resonance to 25, right-click Cutoff 2 and set the modulation Source to LFO 1. Set the modulation amount to about 85 and then record in some automation for LFO 1’s speed. This can be quite fiddly, so save your project first, then touch up the recorded automation by hand if need be. (Syn13.mp3).

  1. Do the same thing with the LFO Volume level. This dial controls the strength of the LFO’s modulation, enabling us to adjust how deeply the LFO sweeps Cutoff 2. But turning the dial down, we get a weaker, less wobbly effect, which we can use to add some dynamic rhythm to the bassline. (Syn14.mp3).

  1. Turn on the EQ and set both the Lo Mid and Hi Mid band’s Gain and Q to -8.5dB and 77 respectively. By sweeping the frequency of these two bands we can create an interesting phasing effect, but with much more control than a standard phaser. Experiment with different Gain, Q and Freq sweeps. (Syn15.mp3).

  1. Now you can process the patch with external effects to suit your mix or tastes. Here we’ve slammed the bass into PSP MixSaturator 2, engaged the output saturation and cranked the input gain up to the maximum. This has squashed the dynamics out of the patch and added harmonics to give the bass its massive sound. (CM_SM_Result.smpr, Syn16.mp3).

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