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How To Make A Massive Synth Bass Sound (Part 5) : Commercial house bass with impOSCar

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Commercial house bass with impOSCar

ImpOSCar’s beautiful tone and simple-but-solid feature set lend themselves to sounds where less is certainly more. To capitalize on that, in this walkthrough we’ll make a bold and a cheeky commercial house bass. With this type of music the glide and note bends really shine, so this tutorial is as much about the MIDI pattern as it is the patch itself.

Of course, we’ve provided a bassline you can use to get the ball rolling, but if you want to create your own, just make sure you lay down some overlapping notes. The trick is to engage the glide and find that sweet spot where the glide time causes the notes to bend up and down for an effortless groove.

ImpOSCar’s beautiful tone and simple-but-solid feature set lend themselves to sounds where less is certainly more

ImpOSCar’s beautiful tone and simple-but-solid feature set lend themselves to sounds where less is certainly more

Whereas impOSCar makes no bones about being inspired by the classic design of the OSCar hardware, it also brings a few new tricks to the table, most notably the user waveforms. Although it comes bundled with a wide array of pre-generated waveforms, the ease with which you can make your own using its simple interface means you’re not tied down to stock timbres. We take advantage of this here to generate a sharp, piercing waveform that will have no problems cutting through a mix. The beauty of using this approach to bassline synthesis is that we can tweak the harmonic balance of the patch so that it sits exactly where we want in the mix.

We’ll emphasize the top end of this patch with judicious use of filter resonance to really make it sizzle. Now, we could, of course, do this using run-of-the-mill EQ, but the benefit of carrying out this work within the synth is that we can sue key tracking to ensure the filter cutoff moves in relation to the notes we press. This makes the brightness we’ll be adding part of the patch itself, as we’re altering the shape of the waveform rather than EQing the end result with a fixed frequency.

Step by step: Upfront hybrid house bass

  1. With these bass sounds it’s all about keeping things simple (a recurring theme in the more commercial house genres), but just slapping down a raw saw-wave bass won’t cut it. Instead we’ll blend in a custom digital wave shape for a more modern vibe.

  1. For all its many bundled presets, impOSCar doesn’t actually come with an initialized preset (nor a convenient way to generate one), so load up CM_ImpOSCar_init.fxp from the Tutorial Files folder (and keep this preset handy for future use). Now drop CM_Imp_Bassline.mid into your project. (Imp2.mp3)

  1. In the Glide section, set the Type to Auto and crank the Time dial up to a setting that gives the bassline a lazy, lolloping feel when the note bends up for the fifth beat of the pattern. We’re using a setting of 0.55s, but higher or lower settings can drastically change the feel of the groove. (Imp3.mp3)

  1. We will us Oscillator 1 later, but for no push the mix all the way over to Oscillator 2 – we’ll be creating our own waveform and don’t want to be distracted by Oscillator 1 blaring away in the background. Set Oscillator 2’s waveform to User Wave 1.

  1. You can’t hear anything yet as the user waveform is empty, but pitch Oscillator 2 up by two octaves anyway. Now turn the Transpose dial up to 7 semitones. This is the perfect fifth (a scale degree that works well with both major and minor musical scales), and it will add some interesting harmonics and character to the patch.

  1. Turn the Edit Mode dial to W1. You’ll see what looks like a block of LEDs appear in the bottom left-hand corner. Click the first column so that all but the last two LEDs light up, then click the second column so that all but the last five light up. This adds two sine-like waves (harmonics) an octave apart. (Imp6.mp3)

  1. Click the third column so that all but the last four LEDs light up (if you’re straining to see, just switch the Edit Mode to CC and change the GUI size to Large). This is the harmonic, a perfect fifth above the previous column (Imp7.mp3). Now click the sixth column to make it the same size as the third.

  1. Make the seventh column two LEDs shorter than the sixth, and the eighth column the same size as the sixth. There isn’t any science to what we’re doing here; we’re just adding harmonics to the waveform to get a sharp timbre that cuts through the mix (Imp8.mp3). Experiment with adding or removing different harmonics.

  1. Set the Osc Bal back to around 70:30 to blend the second oscillator subtly with the first. Oscillator 1 is providing the meat and bass of the patch, while Oscillator 2 is adding character and flavor. The metallic timbre of Oscillator 2 complements the more familiar timbre of the classic analogue saw shape. (Imp9.mp3)

  1. Go over to the filter section and select the LP 2 Pole filter (each pole of a filter adds 6dB to its ‘steepness’, so a 2-pole filter is in fact a 12dB/octave filter). This is less intense than a 24dB (4-pole) filter, but you can push the resonance much further without it sounding screechy and overbearing. (Imp10.mp3)

  1. Turn the Cutoff down to about 10kHz and the Resonance (Q) up to 0.5. The high Resonance adds a lot of brightness and sharpness around the cutoff point of the filter, letting it cut through the mix more easily. (Imp11.mp3)

  1. We’ve used filter resonance to alter the timbre of the patch, but the filter cutoff is static, so we might not get the desired sound when we play higher or lower notes. To address this, turn the Keyb Trk dial up to 1.0, so that the cutoff tracks the pitch of the notes. (Imp12.mp3)

  1. The sharpness and boldness of the patch make it feel very dry and naked, so let’s sprinkle on some reverb to liven things up. Any reverb will do, but we’re using ValhallaDSP VintageVerb with the Plate A preset at 20% mix for a dense but airy texture. (Imp13.mp3)

  1. The preset has a very long and large reverberation. We want to tone this down, otherwise our mix will end up being swamped when the bass come sin. We turn the Decay down to 0.34s and the Size to around 15% for a tighter sound that adds subtle air and wetness to the patch. (Imp14.mp3)

  1. Where would a bass part be without some heavy distortion? Fire up a distortion or saturator plugin – we’re going for PSP MixSaturator2. Using its Tube 1 setting, we engage the output saturation and increase the gain at the input stage. (Imp15.mp3)

  1. Our patch is now sitting comfortably in the center of the mix, but sometimes it’s good to have your bass in stereo, especially if it contains lots of mid- and high-frequency content as ours does. Turn the Mode dial up to Poly 2Vc to put impOSCar into dual voice unison mode and leave the Detune dial untouched. (CM_ImpOSCar_Result.fxp, Imp16.mp3)

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