Recently I had a lesson with one of my 1:1 students, & he asked me to dissect how UK bass sounds are made.
I was delighted to open up Serum and put the pieces of the puzzle together, and I want to share how it was made.
In this article, I'm going to share with you exactly how to make a UK bass preset in Serum.
And, I'm gonna show you exactly how you can use this technique with different waveforms to generate the same result.
I'm also going to be taking requests for sound dissections in my Facebook group, so if that's something you're interested in be sure to join the Whipped Cream Sounds family!
How To Make A Simple Bassline Patch Preset [Condensed]
For those of you that are clued up on synthesis and don't need to learn sound design, Bassline uses very simple techniques.
So I'm gonna run through my, 5 point, condensed checklist (for serum):
- Set amp envelope. Change envelope 1's settings to 65 ms attack, 368ms decay and no sustain.
- Open up a Sine wave. Place 2 sine waves in oscillator 1 and 2.
- FM modulate from B. On oscillator 1, use the modulation option ‘FM from B'
- Modulate FM parameter with envelope 2. Put your attack up to 215ms, decay to 170ms on envelope 2. Apply this envelop to the FM from B modulation and turn it up halfway.
- Modulate low pass cutoff. Place a low pass filter on & turn the cutoff all the way down, adjusting the resonance to your liking. Use the same envelope 2, drag it to the cutoff knob and turn the amount of modulation halfway up.
Now you have the basis of a simple Bassline synth. You can change oscillator 2 to different waveforms to hear the difference in the sound.
Harsher waves such as saw or square waves will give you harsher tones.
Add some mixing FX & play around with the wavetables until it suits your liking.
If you need extra details, below you'll find an in-depth run through of everything with pictures & diagrams.
How To Make a UK Bass Synth Patch [In Depth]
In this section of the article, you'll find everything you need to know about creating a warping bassline including:
- Basic sound design
Let's start with the set up of the wavetables.
In order to make this bass – on Osc 1 you're going to want to open up a sine wave.
This is a smooth, pure tone & will work as a base for us to get that wonky, somewhat soft FM sound.
As you'll see above, I've opened up an Analog BD Sin – so do the same.
You'll also notice I've applied some FM modulation from B.
This is what will give it that warping and wonky bass sound, but more on that further down.
Just open it up on oscillator 1 for now.
Osc 2 uses the exact same Analog BD Sin wave & a change in octave.
Changing the octave gives us the screechy high sound of the bassline synth that we want.
Pitch the octave up +3.
If you've ever found yourself asking the question: “How do you make wubs in serum?” then this part of the tutorial is for you.
The envelope is where most of the sculpting of this sound comes from.
Envelope 1 controls the amp, & because Bassline sounds are stabby & short, we want to replicate that with the envelope.
For envelope 1 you're going to want to:
- Set the attack to 65ms. This prevents pops and crackles when you're playing the synth, and also makes the synth volume come in fast.
- Set the decay to 368ms. By giving the patch a short decay, we are stopping the sound quickly after it has been played. This gives it that plucky, short characteristic we are looking for.
- Set the sustain to the lowest. With no sustain, this means the synth stab will stop when we have set the decay to. If you increased the sustain, the note would hold on.
- Set the release to 52ms. The release needs to be short, so that the sound can be short, but can't be 0ms. If you set the release to 0ms you'll hear an annoying clicking.
Setting up your envelope this way gives us the foundations of the bassline synth patch.
The rest of the sound is going to come from clever modulation using envelope 2.
Envelope 2 is what you're going to use to modulate the sound & get that wub style characteristic.
Using envelope 2, you're going to apply this to the FM from B oscillator setting, the filter & another filter.
For envelope 2, we want a short ramp up.
Here are the settings you should use:
- Set the attack to 215ms. This provides a ramp up, and when used as modulation gives us that wub sound we want.
- Set the decay to 170ms. Doing this stops the sound quickly & still gives it the characteristic of a stab bass.
- Set the sustain to the lowest. When you hold the note, it won't continue – it will still stay as the stab sound we want.
Now we have set up the envelope, we want to apply it to the FM from B in oscillator 1.
Turn the FM from B setting all the way to the left, and put the modulation amount from envelope 2 about halfway up.
Doing this will give us frequency modulation. This is a key component of the sound & is what gives it the screechy tone you hear.
There are 2 filters on this sound, both doing different things.
I'll start by explaining the main filter.
For the main filter, you want to:
- Set filter type to MG Low 12. This is a low pass filter which will give us the rising and falling sound we want by opening the cutoff using envelope 2.
- Send both oscillator A and B through the MG Low 12 filter.
- Turn the resonance up. Turn up the resonance about halfway. This will give our sound a bit more of that grit & presence on the wub.
- Turn cutoff all the way down. Put the cutoff knob all the way to the left.
- Apply envelope 2 to cutoff. Use envelope 2 on the cutoff and turn the amount up around halfway. This will give us that rising and falling sound.
If you want it to sound harsher, open up the cutoff some more.
The 2nd filter is found in the FX tab of Serum.
For this you'll want to:
- Choose filter type Flg L6+. This acts as a flanging effect on our sound and we can modulate it to generate more depth.
- Turn the mix to 50%. The filter makes a drastic change to the sound, so I'd recommend mixing it with the original sound to your taste. 50% is what worked for me.
- Turn the cutoff down. Put the cutoff at about 9 O'Clock.
- Apply envelope 2. Place envelope 2 as the modulator signal & turn all the way to the right.
Adding the flanging effect to the sound, gives it more of a wobbly – detuned effect.
This flange filter can be used in a variety of bass heavy genres like neurofunk, bass house & others to create jaw dropping sounds.
Mixing & FX
As you'll hear from the above audio, the bass still sounds kind of dry even though you have done the majority of the sound design.
This is because FX & mixing make a huge difference & are often how you turn a boring, low quality sound into a great patch.
For this patch you'll want to follow what we have done below (filter explained above):
- Tube distortion. The distortion will give it a warmer, grittier sound. Tube distortion adds extra harmonics while adding lots of volume. You'll want to mix this in with the original sound so you don't overdo it.
- EQ. This has been used to give a slight roll off in the low end, so that the kick doesn't interfere & the mix doesn't get muddy.
- Multiband Compressor. This has been used for upwards compression & as a tone shaper. It helps to give the sound more presence in the higher range frequency spectrum.
- Chorus. This gives the sound a little bit of stereo width & gives a slight detune effect adding to the wonk of the bass.
- Reverb. This adds a little bit of space and makes the bass sound less dry.
To get that pumping feel in music production, sidechain compression is a great tool.
It has been used here because, like in most dance music, UK bassline uses a lot of sidechain to make it feel like the track is moving with the beat.
To do this you'll want to open a stock compressor in your chosen music production software.
Here's how you can set it up in Ableton:
That's it for the patch!
I hope this tutorial has helped you further your music production & sound design skills.
It was really fun to make, and I'm thinking of doing a few more of these, so keep an eye out ?
If you are struggling with music production & need some extra help, come and connect with me in my facebook group!
You can request tutorials, join in on our weekly feedback threads & you'll get access to exclusive content!
Join the Whipped Cream Sounds family.
That's all for now!
What Is UK Bassline?
For those of you that don't know, Bassline is a form of wonky, screechy, wub, club music that people have taken a massive liking to in recent years.
I personally lived through the height of the (newer) Bassline wave, when I was studying music production in Bristol.
It's an interesting blend of House & UK Garage that has its origins in Sheffield – starting around the early 2000s and, is extremely similar to Speed Garage.
Bassline commonly consists of Speed Garage style reese & warp basses – or a Korg M1 style organ lead.
It sits around the 135-142BPM mark, has a 4×4 rhythm and a very heavy emphasis on bass.
Recently, it's made a massive comeback with the likes of Darkzy, Albzzy & Sammy Virji topping charts & ruling club land.
The newer Bassline that is emerging is sounding more and more like UK Garage, with a dirty twist.
The blend of beautifully Jazzy chords & ear-bending bass sound design is what makes the genre so interesting & popular.
(especially if you're on a lil something)