So you’ve been on the Synthwave wave, and want to make a beautiful sounding 80s style bass.
In this tutorial we’re gonna show you exactly how you can make a Synthwave Bass using a free synth VST plugin called Vital.
If you haven’t got vital yet, it’s basically a free version of Xfer Serum. Not on the same par, but still good.
You can download vital for free over on their website.
How To Make A Synthwave Bass Using Vital [Condensed]
For those who know the synth inside and out, and don’t want to read.
- Set oscillator 1 to a saw wave, and oscillator 2 to a square wave.
- Change the pitch of both oscillators by changing the coarse pitch -12 semi-tones, set the unison on both to 3 voices, and set the detune to 15% on both.
- Set oscillator 3 to a sine wave, with coarse pitch of -12 semi-tones.
- Set noise oscillator to white noise, with coarse pitch of -12 semi-tones.
- Set filter 1 to low pass 24db, mix on full, cutoff at 14 semi-tones, resonance at 48%.
- Set filter 2 to low pass 12db, mix full, cutoff -16 semi-tones, resonance at 30.57%.
- Change the attack of envelope 1 to 0.049 seconds to remove unwanted click.
- Set envelope 2: attack on 0, decay on 16.32s, sustain at 0.272 and release on 0.089 seconds.
- Apply envelope 1 to filter 1 as modulation, on setting of 45.26.
- Set LFO 1 to 1/8 triplet, mode trigger, and pull the middle point of the triangle to the left to create a downwards saw wave.
- Open FX panel and load: soft clip distortion, 6db drive, 20% mix, low pass filter 12db, mix knob 80%, apply LFO 1 to cutoff, chorus, 12 voices, 1/2 frequency, 15% depth, 25% feedback, 22% mix, cutoff on full.
- Apply LFO 1 to, noise oscillator level, filter 2 cutoff, filter 2 drive, and effects panel filter cutoff.
1. Set The Oscillators
In this section we’re gonna go over each oscillator and how you should set it up for your Synthwave Bass sound!
For a Synthwave bass, you’ll want to set the foundations correctly. Since we’re making an 80s style sound, we want 80s sounding wavetables. Back then, most synthesizers didn’t have complex digital wavetables, so you’ll want to stick to your basic shapes.
The basic wavetable shapes consist of:
Turn on the 1st oscillator in Vital, click “init” to browse wavetables, and load thebasic shapes wavetables.
Then set the wavetable to a standard saw wave from the basic waves wavetables.
Put the coarse pitch down to -12 semi-tones, and detune the wave by -11 cents.
The you’ll want to set the unison to 3 voices, and detune by 15%, then send everything through filter 1 + 2.
Detune is a key part of this synth bass sound, it gives it that dissonant, vintage, wonky flavour, while also adding fantastic stereo width.
The square wave will add a digital, warm sounding tone to our Synthwave bass and patch.
Load the “Basic Shapes” wavetable set, and slide the slider until you get a square wave.
Then you’ll want to pitch it down -12 semi-tones and detune the square wave by +9 cents.
After this, set your unison to 3 voices, and detune by 18%. Then set the filter routing to filter 1 + 2.
Next you’ll want to add some thicc low-end sub information. So we’re going to use a beautiful, curvy sine wave.
Find the “Basic Shapes” wavetable set again, and load it up. Now you should have a sine wave.
Then you want to pitch this down -24 semi-tones to get that low end goodness. Don’t apply any detuning, or anything else. We just want this to be a pure sub bass layer.
Set the filter to: filter 1+2.
Now we have the barebones of the Synthwave bass sound.
Next we want to add some white noise to this sound to replicate the old noise that would come from classic hardware synths like the Juno.
So, turn the noise oscillator on, and select white noise. Then pitch down by -12 semi-tones, and turn the level all the way down.
Later you’ll do some crazy modulation wizardry on this noise to only play it momentarily. This will add texture and height to your bass sound.
2. Set The Filters
Next you’re going to wanna add some filtering to this. So, turn on filter 1 and 2, then load 2 low pass filters.
- Analog low pass 24db on filter 1
- Analog low pass 12db on filter 2
On filter 1, put the cutoff to 14 semi-tones, then the resonance to 48%, and the mix knob on full.
On filter 2, put the cutoff to -16 semi-tones, then the resonance to 30.57%, and the mix knob on full.
We’re gonna modulate these later!
3. Set The Envelopes For This Vintage Bass Sound
Next we want to shape the sound using envelopes. We’ll use 1 for amp enveloping, and the other for modulation + movement. There is a lot of movement in synthwave basses, specifically on the filtering, so you’ll need to set it up this way…
On envelope 1 we only want to change the attack to remove the clicking in the sound. Put the attack time up to 0.049s.
You may also want to add a tiny bit of release, something like: 0.082s.
For envelope 2 you’ll want to create a large envelope which we’ll use for modulation, movement and texture.
- Attack: 0s
- Decay: 2.6s
- Sustain: 0.448
- Release: 0.082s
4. Set The LFO
Next you’ll want your Synthwave bass to play multiple times even when you’re holding 1 note.
We can mimic this by using an LFO and applying it to the cutoff of filter 2.
So open up LFO 1, and draw a ramp down shape. To do this, just pull the middle point of the triangle to the far left.
Then you want to set the mode to “Trigger”, and the frequency to 1/8 triplet.
5. Open a Filter in The Effects Tab.
After this, you’ll want to open another filter before applying the LFO modulation to your bass.
Open up a low pass analog 12db, then set the mix to 80% so you’re not applying the full filter to the sound.
Then you’ll want to set the cutoff to 7 semi-tones, and the resonance to 0%.
The use of 3 low pass filters gives us a lot of room for movement, with clever modulation, and can create complex filtering that will help this sound like a classic, retro, juno patch.
Along with the detune, and basic wave selection, you’ll be well on your way to Synthwave, retro madness.
6. Add Movement to Your Synthwave Bass Using Modulation
After you’ve set up that LFO, you’re going to want to apply it to a number of filters. This will help your bass sound a lot more Synthwave-like and retro.
Drag and drop your LFO over to filter 1, and put it on the cutoff. You should have a purple pie wheel pop up.
You then went to set this pie wheel to a value of 45. This will now trigger the cutoff every 1/8 triplet, giving us that moving, vintage, Synthwave bass sound we all know and love.
Drag and drop LFO 1 on filter 2’s cutoff. You should have the same purple pie wheel. Set this to a value of 50.
Then apply LFO 1 to filter 2’s drive, on a setting of 7.6.
Lastly, drag LFO 1 to your effects filter, and apply it to the cutoff. You’ll then want to set this pie wheel value to 42.
7. Add Effects To Your Synthwave Bass
Lastly, to polish things up a bit, you’ll want to add some audio effects to your synth. The 3 different effects we will add are:
- Filter (you’ve already added it, but make sure this is in-between distortion and chorus in the signal chain).
This will help to enhance our bass sound, and make it sound more vintage + like a Synthwave bass.
To distort your bass, choose the soft clip distortion mode. Soft clipping rounds off peaks, rather than cutting them in a straight line and will give you a warm, vintage sound.
Set the drive to 6db and the mix to 0.24.
Finally we add some chorus.
Chorus will give this bass sound a more analog feel, by detuning it slightly and adding some stereo width.
Change your settings to:
- Voices: 12
- Frequency: 1/2
- Depth: 15.5%
- Feedback: 25.75%
- Mix: 22%
- Cutoff: full.
Synthwave Bass Presets For Vital [Free Download]
If you’d also like to have the free patch and some other bass patches along with it, you can download our free synthwave vital preset pack below
Or on the free downloads section on our site.
Now Play Me an 80s Juno Bass Lick!
You’re all done!
Now you know the basics behind creating those beautiful, vintage sounding synths. You can get better results using other plugins like Serum, and 3rd party, vintage chorus effects like TAL-CHORUS if you wanted to take it further.
You could also spice it up and add some XLN Audio RC-20 to emulate that tape, and vinyl feel.
But either way, the sound is perfect how it is to put into a Synthwave Bass track. Now you got no excuses, get out there and start making some tracks!
Be sure to check out our other sound design & music theory tutorials:
- Mr Carmack Chord Theory & Track Dissection
- Mr Carmack Chord Sound Design in Serum (YouTube Video)
- Medasin Chord Theory & Track Dissection
- Medasin Chord Sound Design in Serum (YouTube Video)
- Sam Gellaitry Chord Theory & Track Dissection
These all come with free MIDI downloads and Serum presets 🙂
With over 8 years of hands-on experience in the music industry, Harry has run successful raves, played alongside industry heavyweights such as Max Chapman, DJ EZ, DJ Zinc and more (pictured below), had music played on national radio, DJ’d on live radio, produced until he hated every song, mixed until his ears bled, created sample packs from scratch using just a Zoom H1n and some sound design skills… and pretty much anything related to music production – he’s done it, tested it, tried it.