Create a dubstep bass sound using the ES2 synthesizer and Logic's effects.
the synth engines that are most synonymous with dubstep are probably Rob Papen's Albino and Native Instruments' Massive (and its accompanying Massive Threat library). However, for those of you who haven't got the spare cash for either of these, Logic's ES2 can do a great job of nailing those classic dubstep sounds with a little help from a few choice insert plug‑ins. This article will focus on building the basic, familiar dubstep bass sound. You may find it useful to visit /sos/jun07/articles/logictech_0607.htm to learn the basics of ES2.
You'll need to create a new software instrument track and call up an instance of ES2, but ES2 doesn't have a proper default patch, so first you'll have to create one, by holding down the Option key and clicking every parameter on ES2 to reset it to its default value. You should then save that plug‑in setting as your ES2 default (a default patch is included in the accompanying Logic files).
Once you have your default patch, the following steps will get you started:
- Go to the oscillator section in ES2.
- Next to each oscillator is a number button that turns the oscillator on or off. Click the buttons next to oscillators 1 and 2 to turn them on.
- Go to the oscillator mixer, which is the triangle to the right of oscillator 2, and drag the square until you have a blend of mainly oscillator 1 with a bit of 2.The triangle on the right‑hand side of the oscillator is the oscillator's mixer. You can blend the active oscillators together in different amounts, depending on where the small square is placed. In this instance, we want to drag the square until we have a blend of mainly oscillator 1 with a bit of oscillator 2.
We're going to use ES2's basic FM synthesis capabilities to generate a really buzzy wave that's perfect for creating dubstep bass lines. In the ES2, FM is achieved by modulating the frequency of oscillator 1 with the output of oscillator 2.
- Go to oscillator 1's wave selection knob. The control range between the Sine (11 o'clock) and the FM (five o'clock) symbol determines the intensity of the FM modulation, where 11 o'clock is the minimum and five o'clock the maximum.
- Set oscillator 1 to three o'clock to give a pronounced FM effect. You can tweak this later. Oscillator 2's output will modulate oscillator 1 and, depending on which waveform we pick in oscillator 2, will affect the resultant sound of oscillator 1.
- Set the wave of oscillator 2 to the Sine (six o'clock) and then Ctrl‑click at the same position. This brings up a menu of 100 Digiwaves for you to experiment with, by auditioning the different waves and listening to the effect they have on oscillator 1.
- After you have auditioned the various waves and marvelled at their effect, choose 'bell5'.
- Set oscillator 2's coarse pitch to ‑12 and oscillator 1's coarse pitch to ‑24.
- Now play a few notes on your keyboard between C2 and C3. You should hear a strong‑sounding buzz wave.
We now have the building blocks for our bass sound.
The next part of creating that classic bass sound is to modulate the fIlter cutoff with a tempo‑sync'ed LFO. ES2 has two filters that can be used in either series or parallel configurations. Set the filters in series and move the Filter Blend control fully to the right. In the filter 2 section, set type to 24dB, cutoff to maximum, and Res (resonance) and FM controls to zero. The controls for ES2's dual filters.Now we're going to modulate that filter.
- Go to the modulation matrix, and in the first cell set the target to Cutoff 2 and the Source to LFO 2.
- Set the modulation intensity slider to maximum.
- Go down to the LFO 2 section and drag the rate slider down past halfway. The rate now becomes musical divisions that are sync'ed to the project's tempo. Choose 1/8th note.
- At the top‑centre of ES2, click the button next to Mono so that the patch is monophonic.
- Go to the release setting of Env 3 and set it to a value of 570ms so that the notes ring on for a while after you release them.
- Play some notes on your keyboard between C2 and C3 and listen to the filter being modulated.
- Experiment with different LFO 2 values.On the modulation matrix, set the target to Cutoff 2 and the Source to LFO 2. The rate slider on LFO 2 has been set to just under halfway down. You should experiment with all of LFO 2's values.
We're now going to apply some final touches in the Effects section. To fatten the sound of your patch, turn the Sine Level control up to one o'clock. This adds a sine wave at the frequency of oscillator 1.ES2's built-in effects will help us to start thickening up the sound of our dubstep bass.
- Go up to the distortion section and set it to Soft.
- Turn the Distortion control up just a little, to thicken the patch, and set the Tone control to the middle of its travel.
- ES2 also has a choice of Chorus, Flanger and Phaser effects. Experiment with adding the Phaser effect.
- Once you've decided on your final settings, save your basic patch as WOB1.
We'll now make up for ES2's quite basic internal effects by using Logic's insert plug‑ins to improve the sound of the patch.
Go to the channel strips and, in the first insert slot, go to Amp and Pedals / Pedalboard. The Pedalboard insert effect offers great opportunities for parallel effects chains, which are perfect for adding a bit of distortion and subtle modulation to our patch. Parallel distortion is often a much better option on bass sounds, as it will let you subtly add harmonic content without weakening the bass area.
- Drag the Double Dragon distortion pedal and the Vibe modulation pedal into the pedalboard from the browser.
- Drag the splitter pedal into the pedalboard and drop it to the left of the Double Dragon. Logic creates a mixer object to the right.
- Tweak the distortion and modulation effects and use the mixer pedal to blend the effected sound with the original bass sound.
Now let's thicken the bass part with Logic's Stereo Delay plug‑in in insert slot two. Short delays offer a great way to thicken a bass part without pushing it to the back of the mix in the way that reverb often does.
- Call up Logic's Bitcrusher plug‑in and drop it into insert slot three. We'll use this to add a bit of aggression and top end, courtesy of some judicious clipping. The Bitcrusher plug‑in can produce some great clipping and distortion effects, giving bass sounds a more aggressive timbre.
- Call up a channel EQ plug‑in to roll off a bit of bass and add a bit of top end (see example one in the accompanying Logic project for the finished channel strip).
- Now save this as a Channel Strip Setting called WOB1.
Now let's go back to ES2 and produce some variations; you'll need to copy the existing channel strip to a new track by going to the Track menu and selecting New With Duplicate Setting.
- On ES2, set the filter to a Parallel configuration.
- Make Filter 1 a band‑pass filter andgive it a medium cutoff, a small amount of resonance and a medium drive setting.
- Now set the blend control to the middle, so you're hearing equal amounts of the band‑pass and low‑pass filter combined.
- Go back to cell one of the modulation matrix and change the Target to Cut 1+2, so that LFO 2 now modulates both filters simultaneously.
- Now play some notes between C2 and C3 and listen while moving the filter Blend control up and down so that it fades between filters. This can be a great parameter to automate! (See example two in the accompanying Logic project.)
- Once you've found a blend of filter settings that works, save it as a Channel Strip Setting.
- Once again, duplicate the track.
- To generate some variations on your patch, go back to oscillator two and, while playing a bass riff, switch through the 100 Digiwaves.
You'll find that changing the wave of the modulator can have a dramatic effect on the sound of your patch, giving some nice variations in timbre that you may wish to save. Also vary the amount of FM modulation; you will generally find that brighter, buzzier sounds require more FM, while mellower, fatter sounds are created with less.
There's so much more that can be accomplished with ES2 and Logic's fearsome suite of plug‑ins that this article barely scratches the surface, so do keep experimenting. In the meantime, enjoy your new dubstep bass!