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How Do You Make Bass Lines Sound Dope?

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There Are a Combination of 5 Different Methods to Use to Help You Get the Bass Sound that You’re After

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Here’s the exact question regarding bass lines that I recently received from a BeatTips reader:
“…I’ve just noticed how sick the alchemist’s bass lines are, and sometimes even just bass stabs. You did an article dissecting his beat on “Keep it Thoro” but I was wondering if you could talk about how he does his basslines. I have the minimonsta along with maschine but I can’t quite get it to sound quite as sick, maybe if you could talk about mixing it a certain way? I’ve also messed around with sampled bass but I read somewhere that Alchesmist uses a mini moog. I also know that Jaisu uses the minimonsta and his basses are sick. So I guess if you could answer the question how do I mix a bass to make it sound DOPE, then that would be awesome.”

Answer: As for your question about bass lines, specifically The Alchemist’s bass lines, I first have to point out one thing. Fundamentally, bass lines from all sample-based beatmakers share two things in common: signal chain (and amplification) and personal ear. That is to say, that while the signal chain that The Alchemist, DJ Premier, Kev Brown, Marco Polo, etc. may use may be different, it plays a role in how the bass line will ultimately sound. Likewise, the tuned ear of each will also play an important role. That said, there is no *one piece of gear that will deliver Alchemist’s sound (or any other producer for that matter).

Instead, however, there are methods and processes that can help you achieve a parallel sound that matches that same overall style and sound, while being true to your own ear and sensibilities. These methods and processes usually include the use of a combination of 5 things: (1) a unique signal chain and amplification, for example, a DJ mixer, a compressor, an equalizer (brand and model is subjective for all pieces of equipment); (2) a pre- and post-EQ mix approach, for example, how fat your bass lines sounds going into your sampler will usually determine how fat it sounds in the beat, do you want to boost it up? do you want to brighten it up? do you want to darken it?; (3) ADSR manipulation, this refers to the sound envelope of a given sound—Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, (4) post-filtering, after you’ve sampled the bass sound/stab or line, how do you want to filter it?; and (5) the final mix. in the final mix you pay attention to where the bass line sits in relation to the other elements and it helps you determine if you should cut some frequency, boost it up, or add a touch a brightness. Also, remember that the type of beat itself will dictate how the bass line should sound. Furthermore, depending on how thick, deep, shallow, muddied, or elongated you want your bass line to sound, chances are you’ll be able to get that sound through a combination of the four methods and processes I described above.

Special note: I should point out that while any combination of these 5 things may be used, the aim should always be to develop your own subjective ear for how you want your bass lines to sound.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual