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How To Make A Massive Synth Bass Sound (Part 3) : Nasty Reese bass with Predator

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Nasty Reese bass with Predator

A stalwart of early noughties drum ‘n’ bass, the Reese has been elevated to near-mythical status as it epitomizes the perfect marriage of synthesis and heavy processing that modern digital tool and techniques facilitate. Rob Papen’s Predator is ideal for making a nasty, abrasive Reese patch while there’s nothing too wild going on under the hood, it offers enough options to let you really go to town. The use of detuned saw waves has become something of a cliché among DnB aficionados, but actually this basic technique provides the foundation for a lot of basses and leads where that smothering tremolo from beating oscillators is required.

Rob Papen’s Predator is ideal for making a nasty, abrasive Reese patch – while there’s nothing too wild going on under the hood, it offers enough options to let you really go to town

Rob Papen’s Predator is ideal for making a nasty, abrasive Reese patch – while there’s nothing too wild going on under the hood, it offers enough options to let you really go to town

We’ll need to take care when detuning our oscillators with this technique. If we leave one as it is but detune the other, say, +50 cents, the resulting pitch will be sharper than the note being hit, so that patch will sound out of key. If we detune one oscillator by -25 cents and the other by +25 cents, on the other hand, we get a net detune of 0 cents, keeping the perceived pitch in line with the triggering note.

Predator’s per-oscillator sub-oscillators are handy for adding weight without using up a previous oscillator. As Predator has only three oscillators (two of which are tied up delivering our pulsing detune), the sub-oscillators provide a convenient means of filling a hole between our sine sub and the detuned saws. This lets us pitch our saws higher up, so that they themselves can add that mid-range sizzle. We’ll also use a notch filter to add some hollow ‘nasalality’ and give our Reese real menace.

Of course, you don’t have to live and die in the synthesis domain. Once you’ve worked your way through this walkthrough, start bombarding your sound with effects such as phasers, flangers, distortions, reverbs and anything else you can think of to push the texture further and further.

Step by step: Creating a Reese patch in Predator

  1. Let’s lay down the groundwork for a really nasty Reese bass. At the heart of this patch are the tremolo-like effect of the detuned oscillators and the careful use of distortion to roughen things up without getting too messy. We’ll be doing some further distorting outside the synth to add some more growl to the patch.

At the heart of this patch are the tremolo-like effect of the detuned oscillators and the careful use of distortion to roughen things up without getting too messy

  1. Drop CM_Pred_Bassline.mid into your project, and in the patch manager, right-click the current patch and select Default. We don’t need any amp enveloping or amp velocity for this patch, so turn the Release of the amp envelope and the Vel>Vol dial all the way down to 0.(Pred2.mp3).

  1. We’ll make heavy use of Portamento to give the bassline a lurking, menacing feel. Switch the Play Mode to Legato 2 and the Portamento to Held Rate so that it only kicks in for held notes. Now set the Port speed to around 62% (Pred3.mp3).

  1. Switch on the first two oscillators and set their waveforms to Saw. We don’t want drifting, free-running oscillators, so turn off the Free buttons – this will give us the tightness and consistency of phase-synced oscillators. (Pred4.mp3).

  1. Pitch both of these oscillators up an octave, then detune the first one by -25 cents and the second by +25 cents. This will cause the oscillators to beat heavily against each other, but because they’re detuned by opposite amounts, the pitches of the notes will remain consistent. (Pred5.mp3).

  1. Turn the sub-oscillators for both Oscillator 1 and Oscillator 2 up to -9dB. This adds a square wave an octave beneath the oscillators, which is a handy way of bulking out the patch – especially as we only have one oscillator to spare with this particular synth. (Pred6.mp3).

  1. Turn on Oscillator 3 and switch off the Free button. Pitch this oscillator down and octave. This provides the clean sub-bass for this patch, and had we not turned on the sub-oscillators for 1 and 2, we’d the left with a gaping hole in the frequency spectrum between this oscillator and the first two. (Pred7.mp3).

  1. Change Filter 1 to 12dB Notch and set the Cutoff to 2.7khz. This gives the sound a nasal feel that’s perfect for our obnoxious Reese bass. Turn the Keytrack up to +100% so that the filter cutoff moves up or down in relation to the pitch of the notes we play.

  1. Switch on FX 1 and select the Multi Distort effect. Set the Type to Square and the Mix to 100D/47W. This blends nearly half of the wet distorted signal in with the dry signal (parallel distortion), giving a tougher sound without completely devouring the texture of the patch.

  1. Turn the Pre-Boost and Amount 1 dials all the way up for a gritty, growling texture (Pred10.mp3). Now would be a good time to have a flick through the different distortion modes to see if there are any others that tickle your fancy. Cross in particular is less grungy than Square if you want a cleaner sound.

  1. The low-pass (LP filter) and high-pass (HP filter) dials are a convenient way of adjusting the timbre of the distortion. By using them to scoop out certain frequencies, we can selectively adjust which part of the spectrum will be distorted. Turn the LP filter to 5.7kHz and the HP filter to 65Hz for a more mid-range distortion. (Pred11.mp3).

  1. Turn on FX 2 and select the Phaser effect. We’ll use this to add a more modern flavor to the patch. Set the Mix dial to 100D/30W and turn the Feedback all the way down to eliminate any annoying resonance. (Pred12.mp3).

  1. The Phaser is having the unwanted side effect of behaving like an autopanner, so turn the Speed dial all the way down. We’re going to leave the Phaser settings where they are for now, but experiment with the Stages and Pitch dials to alter the timbre and intensity of the phasing effect to taste. (Pred13.mp3).

  1. Now let’s push the patch even further with some processing. We want to terrorize the patch with some aggressive distortion, so fire up QuadraFuzz (or an equally devastating distortion plugin) and turn the Gain up to 10.5dB. To compensate for the massive gain increase, pull the Output down to around -7.5dB. (Pred14.mp3).

  1. The different Shape modes affect how the bands bleed into one another. By default, the bleed is quite clean and relatively mellow, so select the second one. Turn the High Mid gain up to about 2.5dB to bring out the nasal midrange of the patch. (Pred15.mp3)

  1. As a final touch, let’s add some reverberation. Any reverb will do, but we’re using ValhallaDSP’s ValhallaRoom. Turn the Mix down to about 10% to keep the effect subtle and, more importantly, turn the Depth down to 0%. This allows only the short, tight early reflections through, so we get a subtle ambience and none of the lengthy tail. (CM_Predator_Result.fxb, Pred15.mp3).

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