Producing music is something that is fun to do because it gives us all a chance to show our true creative side, and at the same time possibly make a living from it. Digging for drums and other music samples is what a lot of us enjoy, but when it comes time to work on the bass track, it can be a big turnoff.
I know of some beatmakers that tend to shy away from using any kind of bass in their beats because they just don’t like it. It’s understandable, but most of the time you need to have a bassline in your beat. Not all beats need bass, but most of them will really shine with one.
If you are having trouble coming up with a dope bassline for your beats, maybe these three tips can give you a boost.
1. Make It Fluid
With programs like Reason, Maschine, and most DAWs, it’s really easy to piece together a bassline and make it sound great. Most of the time it’s as simple as selecting the draw tool and then adding notes anywhere you want on the grid. Doing it that way is a great option because it allows you to follow your drum pattern, for example, and then build from there. However, the issue I’ve always had with doing it this way is that your bassline can end up too strict and robotic.
Making your bassline fluid is the key. There was a time where I didn’t have any sort of hardware controller to use for my bass, so I ended up having to pencil in my notes. Since I didn’t like the outcome, I then found another solution, which was to use my computer keyboard as a controller. This was great because I felt like I was playing the bass, rather than just placing notes on the grid.
Depending on what type of music you produce, you may think that you don’t need to have a fluid bassline, but I have to disagree with that one. No matter what music you make, your bass should sound like it belongs there, not just sitting there, going along with the kick. I’ve done it like that in the past and I just felt like I was robbing the listener of something that could be so much better.
2. Keep Your Bass Simple
I have a friend that just hates doing basslines. Whenever he makes a beat, he really tries to stay away from it and prefers to just make straight up dry beats. They still sound good, but every time I give him feedback, I always mention how much better the beat would be if he were to add some bass.
The few times that I’ve convinced him to do a bassline, I told him to keep it simple and then build from there. For example, I would tell him to place the bass note at the beginning of each bar, that way it falls on the kick drum, which will fatten things up.
So if he has a 4 bar loop, he now has 4 bass notes. As he keeps playing his loop, I tell him to add in more notes as needed, but again, I make sure he keeps it simple.
Something as easy as adding a note towards the end of the bar and raising the pitch will do the trick, as I’m about to describe in the last tip:
3. Pitch Is Your Friend
One of the best tricks (if you want to call it that), that I’ve used over the years is to use one bass note and then just mess with the pitch. By doing this, I find it gives my beats a very gutter and dirty sound, which is exactly what I’m looking for.
At this point, this is what I will have:
I don’t like to lower or raise the pitch of my bass note too much because it can either sound too muddy, or too squeaky. Normally, keeping the pitch to no more than +/- 2 is the best range, depending on your bass. If the bass note you’re using is straight from a digital source, then you can probably get away with going lower or higher, but if your bass is from an analog source, like a vinyl record, then keep it to +/- 2.