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How to Make Skrillex's “Make It Bun Dem” Bassline

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In this tutorial I'll show you how to recreate that high pitched wobble bass used by Skrillex in the first half of his track "Make It Bun Dem". I'll help you to understand the techniques used to create this kind of sound, and apply them to any other software you may use.

Here's a preview of the patch that we'll build:


Overview

We'll build this bass line in three big steps:

    • First, we'll create the timbre using Thor, by doing some FM, waveshaping and parallel filtering.
    • Next, we'll enhance its stereo field and overall presence.
    • Lastly we write the MIDI notes.

1. General Setup

Before beginning to actually build the sound, let's pay attention to some details that will make our building process more effective. Working with initialized patches by default will save a lot of time. This setting can be made from the menu, by going to Edit > Preferences > General and uncheck Load default sounds in new devices. Also, to keep the workspace clean, we'll work inside a Combinator.

Initialized patches

Create an MClass Maximizer, a Line mixer 6:2 and an instance of Thor. The routing should look like this:

ohm-step101 600px

As you may already know, we'll need the mixer later, when we'll add the sub bass and another version of the main sound.


2. Timbre

The whole timbre will came from Thor1, by making some frequency modulation between its oscillators. Its high pitched nature is due to the modulators high octave value

Step 1: Oscillators

Oscillator 1 will be used as a carrier, and the other two as modulators. The first oscillator will be a Wavetable Osc, with the MixedWaves 1 wavetable selected, octave three, and Pos to 34. The second oscillator will be also a Wavetable Osc, but with the Basic Analog wavetable selected, octave to eight, and Pos to maximum. The last one will be an Analog Osc set on octave eight, with a square waveform, and its PW (Pulse Width) to 22.

ohm-step201

This is how it sounds:

Step 2: Modulations

On the left side of the modulation matrix, do the following routing:

ohm-step202a

Notice the modulation between LFO1 and CV Out1. This connection will allow us to synchronize the sub bass with the main sound movement, by using the same signal source.

To create the wobble effect, we'll modulate the gain by LFO1 signal. Also, by using the same LFO1 to modulate the pitch of each oscillator, the sound will have more personality.

ohm-step202b

It should sound like this:

Step 3: Filters

We'll use the filter routing only to create another version of the sound that is smoothly altered by a Comb filter. In order to do this, bypass Filter1 and enable Osc1 to the second filter. Make Filter2 a Comb Filter with the drive set to 50 and frequency to 7.62 kHz. Since we don't want frequency knob to change over time, turn down to zero the Env and Vel rotaries. To send the sound to the outputs, enable the Filter2ToAmplifier button.

ohm-step203

It should sound like this:

Step 4: Adjustments

Before leaving Thor, let's take care of the details, to achieve the maximum potential of our patch. First, enable the Shaper, change it to Hard clip, and increase its drive amount to 39. In the LFO1 section, enable both Key sync and Tempo sync, and increase the rate value to 1/8T. Enable the Chorus to start gaining some movement in the stereo field, and reduce the dry/wet amount to 18. Lastly, in the Amp section, turn the Decay and Sustain all the way up, to have a constant gain over the time, and increase the Attack time to 40.7ms.

ohm-step204v2

It should sound like this:


3. Processing

By now, it sounds pretty interesting, but also very muddy. Let's make it cleaner by applying some discreet distortion, and EQ it a bit.

Step 1: Scream 4

Create an instance of Scream 4 right under Thor. We don't want to destroy the sound by too much distortion, only to add some personality to it, just like we did inside Thor. Turn down the Damage control to 30, and the damage type to Overdrive. Set P1 to maximum and P2 to two.

ohm-step301 600px

Step 2: EQ

Create an MClass Equalizer, and enable its Param1, Param2, and High Shelf. For Param1 turn down the gain to -6.6dB and its Q to 1.4 to eliminate those unneeded mid frequencies. For the Param2 only reduce the gain to -6.9, for a much cleaner presence of the sound. In the High Shelf, just turn up the gain rotary to 1.7dB.

It should sound like this:


4. Stereo Imaging

A very important step in the song mastering process is stereo imaging, and of course, for satisfying results, each instrument should have its own amount of stereo activity. A well made Combinator patch or, in general terms, a good sound design represents the most important part of electronic music production, so we have to take care of every aspects of our sound.

Step 1: Splitting

Usually, just inserting some MClass Stereo Imagers would be enough, but in this case these devices simply will not work that easily. That is because they need stereo signal, and our sound is more like a dual-mono signal. This problem can be solved by doing some parallel processing, and thanks to Reason's routing, we can do it very easily, by splitting our initial sound into two parts. The first one will remain unaffected, but the second one will be processed a little more. These two parts will be merged together by the line mixer.

So, let's start by creating a Spider Audio Merger & Splitter right under the MClass Equalizer. Flip the rack by hitting the Tab key, or from the menu by selecting Options -> Toggle Rack Front/Rear . Disconnect the equalizer from the mixer and route its outputs to the Splitter audio inputs. Next, route the first pair of outputs from the Spider Splitter to the mixer's channel one inputs to reestablish the signal flow, like in the image below:

ohm-step401

Step 2: Expanding

Now, that the dry version of the sound is set, we can focus on the effects that we'll apply to enhance its stereo field. Holding the Shift key to prevent an unwanted auto routing, create a UN-16 Unison device and a Stereo Imager. The second chain of the signal starts from the second pair of the Splitter outputs -> UN-16 Unison -> Stereo Imager, and ends to the mixer's second channel inputs, like in the following image:

ohm-step402a 600px

So far so good. Flip the rack again, so we can configure these devices. For the UN-16 Unison just turn down the Dry/Wet amount to 90. Set the Stereo Imager X-Over Freq to 1.45 kHz and turn to mono all the frequencies below this threshold. Lastly, set the Hi Band to maximum wide.

ohm-step402b 600px

Even though these parameters have extreme values, the result can be finely adjusted from the line mixer. For now, I turned down the second channel volume to 67, but you can set this value as you wish, depending on the context.

ohm-step402c

It should sound like this:


5. Sub Bass

We're almost there. Since we're back to the Line Mixer 6:2, create another instance of Thor right under it. Make sure Thor2 audio outputs are routed to the third channel of the mixer. Flip the rack, and route the CV1 Output of the first Thor into the CV1 Input of the second (sub bass) Thor, as in the image below:

ohm-step5a 600px

CV1 is now the equivalent of LFO1, and we’ll use it to modulate the amplitude of the sub bass sine wave.

Inside the second Thor make the Osc1 an Analog Osc with a sine waveform and set its octave to 4. Also, make sure to turn all the way up the Decay and the Sustain in the Amp section.

ohm-step5b

In the matrix section, make the following routing:

3.3.2 Thor3 matrix

6. Automations

In general, the use of this type of sound is quie basic, and the only automation that is going on is the wobble rate changing over time. In Reason terms, it is a very simple connection between Rotary1 and LFO1 Rate. To do that, open the Combinator's Programmer section and select Thor1 from the devices list. In Modulation Routing section, in the right side, just select the target, like in the image below:

ohm-step6 600px

Rename the Rotary1 label to something relevant, like "Speed" or "Rate".


7. MIDI Notes

To recreate Skrillex's bass line set the project tempo to 140 BPM and turn Rotary1 up to 106. As for the notes, they are as follows:

  • G, G#, G, G, G, G, D, C, D#, D.

Next, use a quantization of eighth and draw the notes like this:

ohm-step7 600px

Conclusion

I hope you've found this tutorial helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please put them in the comment section below.

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