If you’re sick of writing boring basslines that don’t give you the stank face every time you hear ‘em, then you’ve come to the right place.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest things new producers overlook is their basslines, which is ironic considering bass is literally the foundation of any song. In this article, we’re going to give you a few tips and tricks so that you can get the most out of your basslines.
Note that the tips we’re going to talk about can be used by any producer, no matter what genre you’re working in.
Let’s get right to it!
1. Change Up The Rhythm
While this might seem like a pretty basic concept, it’s one of the most important things to ensurer your bassline is as interesting as it can possibly be. There are so many producers that approach creating basslines by simply following the roots of their chords.
However, when doing that, you end up with a pretty stale and boring rhythm that doesn’t grab the listener’s attention. Of course, there are certainly times when a minimal bassline will be exactly what you want, though most of the time, having a bit of extra movement is warranted.
For example, even if you decided to stick with following the roots, you could at least try to divide the rhythm like the photo below to make it slightly more interesting. Experiment by moving root notes around on the grid to see how they sound in context with your track!
2. Use Syncopation
Another great way to add a bit more interest to your bassline is by adding syncopation.
Syncopation, for those who don’t know, is when you accentuate an offbeat. In an otherwise simple rhythmic pattern, syncopation can add movement. Pretty much any note that doesn’t hit on a strong beat is a syncopated note.
One popular syncopation technique would be to take the second and fourth bass notes in a single bar and push them slightly before the strong beat. Start by putting them a 16th note before the grid line to see how it feels, and change it from there if need be!
Syncopation can also have to do with velocity. As you can see in the photo below, even though the bass notes are all on the grid, the velocity changes from note to note, accentuating the beats that you wouldn’t expect.
There are many unique ways to experiment with syncopation and we highly recommend incorporating it into your basslines!
3. Don’t Stick To The Root
If you always stick to the root note, your basslines will be predictable.
Predictable music gets old really fast and certainly won’t help separate you from other producers.
The good thing is that there aren’t any strict rules that tell you you can’t play notes other than the root in your baselines!
For example, let’s say you had a C Major chord in your chord progression. Rather than sticking on note C throughout the entire progression, you might consider moving to other notes while that chord is playing to see how they feel.
Of course, this might require a slight bit of music theory knowledge unless you want to spend time experimenting with different notes until you hear something that sounds right.
We have a super helpful music theory course for beginners that might help you out!
However, if you’re not looking to do a deep dive into music theory, there are a few simple ways to create variations right off the bat.
For example, if you know the notes in the chord that you’re working with, you can adjust your bassline by limiting yourself to those notes. If we know that a C major chord contains the notes C, E, and G, we can use those notes to build more interesting basslines. Notes found within a chord are called chord tones.
However, this doesn’t mean you should be afraid to use notes outside of the chord either. As you can see in the photo above, I have the note D in the bassline underneath my C Major chord. The note D is not in the C Major chord, yet using it in passing before going to the next chord creates a unique sense of movement and spices things up!
If any of that sounds confusing to you, don’t worry! Again, our course is very helpful in this regard if you’re serious about elevating your music theory skills!
Play With Your Octaves
This next tip is super simple, yet it can enhance your basslines in incredible ways. In the bassline in the photo in Step 3, you can see that I move from the lower octave C to a higher octave C.
The cool thing about moving in octaves is that there isn’t any big harmonic change, yet you still have movement and energy. Listen to any disco records and you’ll hear octave jumps all over the place. The same thing goes for 808s in trap music.
Add a Bit Of Swing
Playing with the rhythm and timing of a bassline is something way too many producers tend to ignore. When you don’t have any sense of push or swing in your basslines, they can sound very robotic and lifeless. Even with genres that don’t have recorded instruments, such as EDM or trap, it’s still important to have a human feel.
Of course, the specifics for adding groove and swing to your basslines are genre-dependent, so we can’t give you exact settings.
However, one of the best ways to start is by moving some of your bass notes off the grid.
When it comes to adding swing, which is very popular in the hip-hop realm, you can simply push your bass notes a few milliseconds behind the grid lines. The effect might sound subtle at first, though if you A/B it with your bassline that is locked to the grid, you’ll notice that it makes a difference.
Outside of changing the timing of all of your notes, you should consider changing the timing of individual notes. Think about someone playing your bassline with a band. During the relaxed sections, the bass player might relax and stay behind the beat. However, during the more energetic sections, they might get excited and play slightly ahead of the beat. There may even be sections where they really want to lock in with the kick, in which case you can stick to the grid!
Bonus Tip: Manipulate the Amp + Filter Envelopes
By manipulating the amp and envelopes in the synth that you’re using, you can affect the rhythm and feel of your bassline. With this concept, you’re not only thinking about what notes you’re playing, but also how those notes are being played.
The ADSR settings in your amp and your filter can make or break your bassline.
This is going to be very genre-specific, so again, we can’t give you specific settings, though it’s worth thinking about and experimenting with once you have your basslines in a good place!
How Do I Make My Bass Deeper?
If you want to make your bass deeper, one of the best ways is to use a low-pass filter on your bass sound so that you take away the higher frequencies. By changing the balance of high and low frequencies, you can get deeper, fatter basslines without having to boost any particular frequencies.
What Frequency Should Sub-Bass Be?
Sub-bass should be anywhere between 20 and 60 Hz. When writing basslines, it’s a good idea to copy your MIDI over from your chosen bass sound to a sine wave sub-bass. You can then low-pass your sub-bass channel to around 60 Hz and high-pass your man bass sound up to 60 Hz before blending the two together.
This way, you’ll get clean and controlled low-end with the sub-bass and character and grit with your main bass sound.
If you want to make heads bop when your music is played, you have to have a killer bassline. By following these simple tips above, you can elevate your basslines and add interest to your music!
For further info on music production, music theory, mixing, and mastering in FL Studio, make sure to head on over to our course page and check out the many different courses we have for sale!