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Creating Dubstep Bass Sounds from Scratch with Bitwig Studio

Tutorial | Mar 01, 2022

In this video, I walk viewers through a step-by-step guide to creating a dubstep bass sound using the Phase 4 FM synthesizer in Bitwig Studio. I start by explaining how to create a basic bass sound using mono mode, and then transition into using the Phase 4M in additive synthesis mode. I also explain how to use the LFO and ADSR settings, as well as how to use modulation and frequency to achieve a dynamic sound. Finally, I emphasize the importance of getting the bass and drum sound right from the start in order to create a successful dubstep track.

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Questions & Answers

Maybe you dont watch the video, here are some important takeaways:

What is the best way to create dubstep bass sounds?

One of the best ways to create dubstep bass sounds is to use the Phase 4 FM synthesizer or distortion synthesizer inside Bitwig Studio. This way, you have access to a wide range of possibilities mixing partials together, operators, frequency modulation, and more. It’s important to start by playing only one note at a time, as this is a bass sound, and then use a different operator, for instance the blue one, with a different ratio. You can also use an LFO in free mode, as well as an ADSR to modulate the speed of the LFO and the pitch, respectively. You can also use an additive synthesis method, bringing in multiple oscillators at the same time playing different frequencies, and then mix them together. Finally, you can use an EQ2 to split the frequency band in half and cut everything above 300 hertz away, as well as distortion and reverb.

What effect does detuning have on dubstep bass sounds?

Detuning can have a huge effect on dubstep bass sounds, as it adds a polyrhythmic or out-of-phase modulation to


This is what im talking about in this video. The text is transcribed by AI, so it might not be perfect. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.
You can also click on the timestamps to jump to the right part of the video, which should be helpful.

[00:00.000] Hey folks, in this video it's about dubstep basses, without zero, without vital, just pure,
[00:16.000] clean, bass distortion, FM goodness, inside Bitwig Studio.
[00:21.000] Now if you like it, and yeah, let's start.
[00:24.000] So when you usually do dubstep bass sounds, people go for vital or some wafetable synthesis,
[00:31.000] because you have already a wafetable with a lot of harmonics in there, and you scan through the wafetable,
[00:37.000] and maybe you add some stretch or rhythms to get more out of it.
[00:42.000] But for me, I really like to create bass sounds from the ground up with the Phase 4, FM synthesizer,
[00:50.000] or Phase 4 distortion synthesizer, because you have so many possibilities mixing partials together,
[00:57.000] operators, frequency modulation, so many possibilities.
[01:02.000] And before we start here, I switch to the device itself and go to the monophonic mode,
[01:08.000] so when we play mutable notes, the notes or the voices don't actually overlap.
[01:13.000] So I want to play only one note at a time, because it's a bass sound, and it seems to work.
[01:24.000] Okay, so I open up here the extended view of Phase 4, so we can see what each operator does,
[01:31.000] obviously, at least the waveform of the operators, with your sine waves in different frequencies.
[01:41.000] So each of these operators are basically the same as you can see, it's the same layout,
[01:47.000] and you can dial in here the ratio, which basically means two times the frequency or fundamental frequency three times,
[01:56.000] or you get half of the frequency, so it's like it's a ratio, right?
[02:02.000] And when you use this ratio settings here, you can also target frequencies that are not in a scale,
[02:11.000] so it's like microtuning, basically.
[02:15.000] So if you have equal temperament with your piano roll, then this is basically just intonation,
[02:24.000] because you target sometimes frequency that are not exactly on a note, so this is important to know.
[02:31.000] But it's also interesting, because it gets you clear divisions of frequencies,
[02:39.000] and also, therefore, nicer sounds sometimes.
[02:44.000] Okay, so in this configuration here, I'm only playing this red operator at the moment,
[02:51.000] it's a sine, it says saw, or it's a sine. If you turn up your this shape knob,
[03:01.000] you can see it turns into a way a saw.
[03:09.000] Because this one is more or less something like a squeeze transformation,
[03:18.000] so you squeeze basically the waveform together and get the saw out of it.
[03:25.000] You can switch your also to half and double.
[03:30.000] There's double the frequency, I think.
[03:34.000] You can see we squeeze this together.
[03:39.000] Get there for a different sound.
[03:42.000] And usually, when I do bass lines or bass sounds, I start with the red operator first,
[03:51.000] and this one delivers my fundamental on my sub bass.
[03:55.000] This is more or less always a sine wave, which brings a clean sub to the sound itself.
[04:04.000] And then I use a different operator, for instance, here the blue one,
[04:08.000] with a different ratio, for instance, twice the frequency here of the first one.
[04:13.000] And then I have frequency modulate the first one, but the second one.
[04:17.000] And this you can do here with these knobs.
[04:20.000] As you can see, there's a blue knob here, which means,
[04:23.000] please frequency modulate operator red with the blue one, right?
[04:30.000] So you get this type of sound.
[04:36.000] And because it's exactly twice the frequency as this one,
[04:41.000] it's a pretty aesthetic sound.
[04:45.000] So nothing happens.
[04:47.000] So what I do is I detune the second one, just a tad.
[04:58.000] Get some polyrhythmic or some out-of-face modulations,
[05:03.000] because the frequency is slightly different than this one,
[05:07.000] so they don't add up, and it doesn't is that static anymore.
[05:16.000] And then I use sometimes, or most of the times, the yellow operator here,
[05:21.000] and then I turn down here the red one, we don't hear anything,
[05:26.000] and I turn this one up.
[05:28.000] You can hear it's also a sine.
[05:31.000] But then I turn up here the smart knob,
[05:34.000] which means everything I dial in here on these four buttons is 800% modulated.
[05:43.000] And I mix in the yellow operator to the yellow operator,
[05:46.000] so I mix in, it's kind of a feedback, right?
[05:50.000] And the more I turn this up here, I get more and more noise.
[05:58.000] Until it's completely white noise, kind of,
[06:01.000] you can barely hear a tonal sound at the background.
[06:09.000] And instead of detuning, I'm switching this to stereo mode,
[06:16.000] which means we have now two oscillators,
[06:19.000] one for the left channel and one for the right channel of our speakers.
[06:25.000] And when we detune this one here, this one means, basically,
[06:29.000] I have 10 hertz higher frequency on the left speaker on the right,
[06:33.000] I'm not sure.
[06:34.000] And 10 hertz or 0.10 hertz less on the left speaker,
[06:40.000] so you change the frequencies on both speakers at the same time,
[06:44.000] which gets you some kind of stereo effect.
[06:50.000] Instead of this, I have to actually release the key so we can hear it.
[07:07.000] So it's slightly stereo.
[07:10.000] And I use this as a form of fake distortion,
[07:14.000] because we have this sound, which is pretty dry.
[07:19.000] And I can now mix in this yellow operator here,
[07:22.000] which is purely noise into the blue one, for instance.
[07:29.000] Or in this red one.
[07:32.000] But I like to use the blue operator here,
[07:36.000] because I want to modulate this blue one.
[07:41.000] So I mix in, basically, the sound of B,
[07:44.000] which is modulated by the sound of Y, which is noise.
[07:48.000] And it sounds like we have distortion.
[07:52.000] So it basically sounds like the sound is going louder and quieter,
[07:56.000] and when it gets louder, it's going into the amplifier,
[08:00.000] and then it distorts.
[08:02.000] And when you release it, then the distortion goes away.
[08:05.000] So it sounds like a real, real sound that is distorted.
[08:11.000] And I also like to use the LFO in the free mode,
[08:40.000] where you can dial in the hertz.
[08:43.000] I don't like too much using these beats modes,
[08:47.000] where it's synchronized to your BPM,
[08:50.000] because it's too boring, in my opinion.
[08:53.000] It's better to use your hertz and then dial it in,
[08:57.000] and you feel the groove of your drums.
[09:02.000] Maybe I use a dubstep here.
[09:05.000] Loop, I don't know.
[09:10.000] And then you can feel, basically,
[09:14.000] if it sits right and dial in the better groove, for instance.
[09:23.000] I have something like this.
[09:25.000] Just a random drum loop here, nothing special,
[09:28.000] just to get the feel.
[09:32.000] This is a hard clip on there.
[09:55.000] Okay, so now we have this, and we can dial in
[10:00.000] the frequency for the modulation.
[10:05.000] Maybe re-trick, I am.
[10:33.000] As you can hear, it's not really in time, in sync,
[10:40.000] but it's more groove-y kind of.
[10:45.000] It sounds more loose, more dynamic than having the straight on the grid,
[10:50.000] with using these settings here.
[10:55.000] I mean, it can be nice too.
[11:01.000] It's like I really like to do it this way.
[11:07.000] Maybe make it a bit shorter.
[11:12.000] And then we also can use an ADS R, which is just an envelope,
[11:17.000] and we use this to modulate maybe the speed here of the LFO.
[11:33.000] This is nice.
[11:46.000] Also maybe a second ADS R for the pitch.
[11:51.000] Maybe we pitch it down from one octave higher.
[12:15.000] Okay, so you can dial it in and deal if it's right,
[12:20.000] but it's wrong and then change some settings of set here,
[12:23.000] the frequency, and find the right modulation.
[12:26.000] I really like to do it this way because of the reasons I just said.
[12:31.000] Okay, so this is how I usually do a bass sound,
[12:35.000] but there's of course more you can do with the phase 4M,
[12:40.000] for instance, if I remove here the modulation from this one.
[12:44.000] So instead of modulating or frequency modulates each of these operators here,
[12:51.000] you can also go for yeah, additive synthesis method,
[12:55.000] where you bring in multiple oscillators here at the same time
[12:59.000] playing different frequencies.
[13:01.000] So for instance, this one is playing here a sine partial at the root node,
[13:06.000] and this one is playing twice the frequency.
[13:10.000] Let me see.
[13:14.000] Maybe I release a release here to pitch modulation.
[13:23.000] So we have basically now two oscillators playing at the same time.
[13:33.000] Maybe go for three here.
[13:47.000] And then we can also modulate this here.
[13:57.000] We can see different LFO here for the blue operator,
[14:04.000] with the much, much slower modulation.
[14:17.000] We trigger.
[14:35.000] And because of the distortion and because you have different frequencies
[14:39.000] you're playing together at the same time that are not really,
[14:43.000] yeah, let's say twice the frequency or double the frequency or half the frequency
[14:50.000] you get these strange movements in the sound.
[14:57.000] And then you bring in the distortion and basically squeeze or pressure
[15:00.000] all these sounds together.
[15:06.000] And when you bring in a bit of detuning it gets more exciting.
[15:36.000] So this is one way of doing it, like using the Phase 4
[15:41.000] more like an additive synthesizer.
[15:46.000] I do this also sometimes because usually drum bass sounds are heavily
[15:53.000] reliant on the fundamental frequency and here the one octave higher and the fifth
[15:58.000] or the third harmonics of the fundamental,
[16:04.000] which gets you directly to strum with bass sound.
[16:11.000] Instead of having just hit the fundamental and dialing in basically the third harmonic.
[16:27.000] Basically instant drum bass sound or this typical drum bass sound.
[16:33.000] Okay, what else? So we can also target here some
[16:38.000] moments, that's how it's called.
[16:42.000] But it's basically just doubling the frequency also here.
[16:47.000] So two or three times the frequency, I think the fundamental frequency,
[16:52.000] if I'm not wrong.
[16:59.000] We have the root note or the root sign partial.
[17:08.000] And then maybe go here to different wave shape, double.
[17:19.000] And then instead of playing this we mix this into the first operator.
[17:27.000] Also using this one, maybe also a different time format.
[17:57.000] And then we have the root note.
[18:04.000] And then we have the root note.
[18:11.000] And then we have the root note.
[18:18.000] And because of these formats here, in my opinion it sounds a lot like typical vocal sounds.
[18:36.000] And goes more in the direction of these dubstep vocal grow sounds.
[18:41.000] Or at least you can kind of get these sounds out of this with this kind of technique here
[18:47.000] using the formats.
[18:54.000] And all you need to do now is probably using modulation.
[19:16.000] And there are also multiple ways of doing this.
[19:19.000] You can either modulate each of these modulations for itself.
[19:23.000] Or you go for the global mod here, which basically means turning down all these mod knobs
[19:30.000] at the same time.
[19:34.000] And then just modulators.
[19:47.000] And I think it should be also nice to use your random mod.
[19:52.000] Paint here the shape of some of these things, these two modulators here slowly.
[20:10.000] Maybe a second one there of this one.
[20:40.000] And then we have the root note.
[21:09.000] And you need to find the sweet spot here how much you dial in the frequency modulation.
[21:15.000] Because you still want to have some rest of the fundamental of this oscillator, which brings in your pace.
[21:22.000] And it's probably good to have some kind of spectrum analyzer in the end and see if you still have enough low end.
[21:38.000] And then we have the root note.
[21:45.000] And then we have the root note.
[21:53.000] And then we have the root note.
[22:20.000] I think this is okay.
[22:24.000] In the FX box of the phase 4, I'm usually going for FX2 so we can split here.
[22:34.000] The frequency band in half and basically a band below 300 hertz and above 300 hertz.
[22:42.000] And here we can go for an EQ2 and cut everything above 300 hertz away.
[22:52.000] Maybe use distortion.
[23:01.000] Maybe reverb.
[23:04.000] Just a bit.
[23:11.000] Maybe a small delay.
[23:21.000] And then we have the root note.
[23:50.000] And then we have the root note.
[24:00.000] And then we have the root note.
[24:29.000] And then we have the root note.
[24:39.000] And when you are happy with the sound,
[25:08.000] then you can usually just clone this or duplicate this into a second track.
[25:18.000] And use maybe the same sound here or the rest of the riff.
[25:27.000] Same note.
[25:29.000] But then you can dial in different settings here.
[25:32.000] Or maybe some modulations, but since we can now go here to the setting.
[25:42.000] Maybe use different elements.
[26:11.000] And
[26:40.000] maybe you make a third sound or fourth sound and then you switch between the different sounds.
[26:47.000] And get a better riff or a more interesting riff than I have here.
[26:55.000] Maybe tune this a bit down in.
[27:11.000] Maybe clone this here and at the end here we use a third bass.
[27:28.000] Maybe use maybe you.
[27:45.000] Maybe no pitch modulation for this one here.
[28:13.000] We have to sound at the end.
[28:33.000] And there you have it.
[28:59.000] It's basically very important that you start with a nice clean and good bass sound.
[29:06.000] And then you start to clone these sounds to different tracks.
[29:10.000] And if you do dubstep or if you do drum bass, it's highly important.
[29:17.000] At least in my opinion that you start with a good sound, a good bass sound and good drum sounds.
[29:23.000] And if you don't get it right then you don't need to proceed basically.
[29:29.000] It doesn't get better but more tracks.
[29:33.000] If you don't get the bass sound right and the drum sound right and you don't mix the bass and the drums well together, you don't need to proceed actually.
[29:40.000] You need to get this right from the start and then the rest is basically just easy peasy.
[29:46.000] And there you have it.