How To Produce A Great Drum And Bass Track
From its humble beginnings on the london rave scene in the early 90's, when breaks were innocently looped instead of sequenced, and vocals pitched up instead of timestrecthed, to the present day, it has always been at the cutting edge of electronic musical innovation. Much of the scene's early output was characterised by a total disregard for the conventions, techniques and rules of the day (largely because none of the producers knew what they were), while todays producers are among the most skilled, meticulous and innovative there are. But the common thread is a determination to rinse it, and rinse it in even more ingenious ways.
As the production bar in drum 'n' bass has been rased on an almost seasonal basis, it's taken the learning curve with it. Even producers who don't like the genre will often sit and marvel at the complexity and density of modern DnB productions. Also drum 'n' bass has a distinct sound, and it places emphasis on different areas of the mix to other genres, so that even producers in other types of electronic music can struggle to achieve that DnB vibe.
20 MUST KNOW DRUM 'n' BASS TIPS
1- Layering chopped up break beats (DRUM LOOPS) is a good way to get that authentic DnB sound. For a tight, modern sound, put each hits end point before the next drum sound occurs: simply leaving the end point at the end of the sample makes it easier to program junglistic beats, but you'll either have to tune or time stretch it to make sure it plays at the correct tempo.
2- One of the main advantages of using really tightly chopped beats is that you can easily pitch bend your drum part up and down without it ever going out of time. This technique can be used to create stunning percussive effects. For the best results try combining this method withother forms of processing such as filtering or degrading effects.
3- If your track's switch lacks bite, try using a different break beat or rythm pattern to keep the crowd on their toes, processing such as pitch shifting or flanging can do miracles here.
4-When using heavy compression on your rythm track for that fat break beat sound, you may find that your beat gets overpowered when a big kick drum sound is triggered. Consider putting any such sound on a seperate channel with its own compression. If your kick drum needs enhancing, try beefing it up with a layered TR-909 kick drum sample, but resist the urge to turn it up too loud, make sure the sub bass and beat still have enough room to breath.
5-By using a variety of layered re-programmed breakbeats, you can quickly build up a complex rythm track. The trick is to make it sound like one cohesive part that develops and builds, rather than several different parts all fighting for space. The golden rule is to accurately program your drums in the first place, although additional EQing of flabby kick drums, cymbals and hihats may help reign in errant beats.
6- For those liquid funk moments, a housey organ bass always sounds great. You can make your own using sine, pulse or triangle waves low-pass filtered until you get just a few harmonics poking through. Try detuning one oscillator up seven semitones for a handy fifth that will bring back some old school memories.
7- These days it seems everyone is rockin the saw wave lead. This sound is easy to create - short attack and release envelope, a little chorus or pitch modulation on the saw wave and your there. Things can be made more interesting with a little degrading effect, and a bit of glide can add an interesting twist to your nasty lead noise.
8- For artificial intelligence style warbling synth lines, an LFO tied to the filter cutoff is your best bet. Make sure the LFO's phase is synced to the start of the note and try a variety of rates and phase positions until you come up with a suitable noise. Experiment using different wave shapes, LFO amounts and filter cutoff settings,and try further developing the sound with a little LFO based pulse modulation.
9- When using 'real' instrument samples or presets, it's important that they sit comfortably alongside your more processed sounds. If possible, create reverb and delay send effects so you can place all your sounds in the same virtual space. Along with good playing or sequencing, reverb can disguise synthesized reverb sounds. For an even more pronounced effect, try applying a reverb pre-fader soundscape style effects.
10- Make more sophisticated arpeggiator leads by applying frequency or pulse width modulation envelopes to the sound and varying the decaytime. High-pass work well with this style of sound. When filter sweeping the sound in or out, try automating another synth setting, such as one of the envelopes decay time or filter envelope amount. For a trancey sound, delay is a must, but don't make it too extreme or you may mask any chord changes.
11- Now days, most virtual analogue synths feature a massive amount of wave shapes for you to experiment with. Instead of using a sine wave, try a variety of different wave shapes and low-pass filter them to remove all but the lowest frequencies. This will give you a sub bass with more interest than a standard sine tone, which can be enhanced further with tube amplification and other effects.
12- A proper sub bass is all important when creating DnB tracks. In order to create the desired wall of sound effect, the bassline has to hit the low end of the frequency spectrum. The easiest way to create a sub bass is to use a sine wave with a very short attack time and quick release. Try using this sound to double the lead part, thereby adding beef, but remember to watch the levels, as you can have too much of a good thing.
13- Another classic DnB sound is that of the 'Reece' bassline, as used in Renegade Feat Ray keith's Terrorist. While it's unlikely you'll get in trouble for sampling this much loved tone, you can create your own version by layering up detuned square waves with a touch of low pass filtering. This can then be resampled and further processed to create your own fearsome basslines.
14- Another good way to keep the energy levels up on a switch is to introduce a kick drum roll underneath the main beat.
15- To create the familiar wah-bass effect you'll need a synth with a an oscillator set to a wave shape with at least a few harmonics (ie, not a sine or triange), filtered with a low pass filter. An LFO or, alternatively, a short attack and decay envelope, can control the cutoff of the filter. When using an envelope, the note must be retriggered quickly to create the undulating bass riff.
16- Variation can be added to wah-bass riffs by modulating the LFO speed or envelope amount via key-following, eg, the higher the note played on the keyboard, the quicker the LFO oscillates or the more envelope is applied to the filter cutoff. Try varying amounts of one or both of these techniques to create progressively more twisted bass flutters.
17- When adding overdrive effects to filters, try out the different distortion types available and experiment with varying amounts of your chosen effect. Using vast amounts of overdrive may sound menacing,but in the context of a track, less is often more. Try starting out with a small amount of distortion and increase the levels slowly until you reach the optimum settings for your sound. The key is experimentation!
18- Another parameter that requires judicious tweaking when creating distorted bass noises is resonance. While it's very tempting to crank everything up to the most ear bending levels, try to stick to subtler settings- the highest db filter won't necessarily sound the best. Experiment with a combination of filter types and resonance settings until you get just enough harshness to offset the, rumbling bass end.
19- If your using an LFO to create your wah-bass, there are a couple of options available to you. Syncing the LFO to the track is a convenient way of getting it to play in time, but you may find the flexibility of the LFO rate control is worth making use of instead. Try any alternative phase and shape settings to create a variety of sounds.
20- Try using your synth or samplers pitch envelope to automatically bend notes downward. Experiment with different attack, decay and level values, and additional LFO pitch modulation, to create some unusual effects. If your instrument is capable of it, try applying different pitch modulation settings to each voice for yet more twisted bass.
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