A common theme that I see happening with today’s beats is that the bassline is a forgotten gem. When I would listen to Rap music in the 90’s, the basslines were all thick and grimey, whereas today a lot of beats either don’t have a bassline, or it’s very minimal at best.
I know it’s difficult for some to work on a bassline because it’s kind of boring, but it can really make or break your track. And if your beat is wack, your beat sales will be too.
Your Bassline Should Be Awesome
Too often, a bassline is an afterthought for many because they would rather spend their time in the studio working on their drum track or laying down other instruments. However, if done correctly, your bass track can be awesome – and that’s what will make your beat great.
A friend of mine hates doing basslines so even though most of his beats are dope, they sound very dry and are always missing something. Whenever he does decide to create a bassline, he just keeps it very simple, so the beat sounds better but still kind of dull.
I always recommend to people that are having trouble coming up with a bassline, to simply follow the first drum kick of each bar – in other words, just go with the metronome.
If your beat is a 4/4 time signature then just start with 4 bass notes for your loop. You can then add more notes as you see fit, but just those 4 notes will make a big difference. A common technique I use to turn a simple loop into something really dope, is to put a bass note on every bar of the loop but I change the pitch or note key at every bar.
Here is an example:
As you can see, the first bar is at a normal pitch of zero, the 2nd bar is at -2, 3rd bar at -1, and 4th bar at +2 pitch. It’s nothing special, but at least it starts you off in the right direction and you can easily change the pitch or take out some of those notes. I guarantee you this will get you motivated enough to work hard on your bassline.
The great part about this technique is that you can use it for other instruments as well, so think about that.
Use Different Bass Sounds That Will Really Fatten Things Up
Upright bass. Some might call it the Double Bass, but most people will refer to it as the Upright. This is probably the one bass instrument that really stands out because of how diverse it can be. In other words, it’s neutral in the music world.
The Upright can be used in Jazz, Rock, Hip Hop, and everything in between because the sounds it gives just work. When it comes to Hip Hop, who could forget A Tribe Called Quest’s “Buggin Out”?
This is a perfect example of how a bassline can really help distinguish your beat because it’s right in your face yet it it’s smooth enough to blend with the rest of the track.
Filtering Is A Must When Layering Your Basslines
However, it’s not just about using the Upright because there are other bass types such as the sub bass or saw bass. This is why it’s very important to filter your basslines whenever possible.
I tend to use the sub bass a lot, and that’s because for the type of beats I make, it sits in the mix perfectly. When I want my bassline to overpower the rest of the track, I will try the Upright, otherwise it’s a sub bass for me. One of the problems with the sub bass is that it can get out of control real fast because it’s so thick that it can really rumble and cause your neighbors to bang on your wall.
This is when filtering becomes your new best friend.
The sub bass frequencies are normally below 60hz, but it’s still good to run it through a low pass filter so you can contain it and make sure it doesn’t go too low, depending on what kind of result you’re trying to achieve. It’s also very beneficial when you want to layer the sub bass with another bassline such as the saw bass.
The saw bass is higher in frequency than the sub bass, but that’s where a high pass filter or mid pass can come in handy. You will want to use your ears to guide you of course, but if you have one bassline going through a low pass and the other through a mid or high pass, the end result will be really awesome (and you will sell more beats).