Want Powerful Bass in Your Music?
Hello, and welcome to my course that will teach you how to get powerful bass in your music. Congratulations for choosing to advance your skills and knowledge as a music composer and producer. My course will take you on a learning journey. And your end goal and destination for this journey, is to unlock the secrets to bass.
Important: You can take my full course in video form – which includes live examples, demonstrations, and more importantly a visual learning experience.
This is not a course on how to play bass. No, this is a course where you will learn the sounds, the playing styles, the sound design and the performance styles of bass in your compositions.
For example a driving electric bass…a noble orchestral bass…or a dirty synth bass.
Here are the benefits you will gain, by taking this journey.
- Learn the Foundations of Bass
- Master the Sounds of Bass
- Level Up your Bass Writing Skills
- Get Powerful Guidelines on Bass
- Boost your Professional Experience in Music
My Story & Journey in Music
Hello, my name is Mike, and I am a composer.
Just. Like. You. =)
I have composed and produced music since 1998. And I will never stop, because music is my true passion in life, as I’m sure it is for you too, right? We are probably very similar in that aspect. We simply have to continue making music. It’s in our very heart and soul.
I teach my knowledge and experience in music, because I love to motivate, inspire and educate creative people, like yourself. That’s also the reason I created: professionalcomposers.com. My website, network and community for composers with High Goals and BIG Dreams. Composers like you.
Now take Action
Now before we continue, I want to ask you: Do you want to learn how to get a powerful bass sound and performances in your music? Are you prepared to complete this course, and take action on everything you learn? Are you ready to level up as a composer?
Then let’s start your journey, right now! =)
Bass – The King of Music
What is Bass?
Bass is the harmonic root, that leads the listener throughout your music story. It is like the main storyline that weaves everything together. Now let’s talk about the practical role of bass in music. Why is it so incredibly powerful? Why is bass the very anchor of your music story?
Bass has More Sound Pressure
Bass is the lowest register in music, which means the lowest frequencies from 20Hz to around 200Hz. These lower frequencies has far more sound pressure at the same level when compared to higher frequencies. This sound pressure in the bass frequencies is so great, that you can literally feel the sound passing through your body if you listen to music on bigger speakers.
In fact, if you take a look at the waveform for music, the bass frequencies, is what creates the main shape of the peaks and valleys. It literally shapes the core of your music with its sheer power. These bass frequencies should come from your low percussion, such as your kick drum, and your main bassline.
Bass adds Depth & Fullness
Bass is what gives music a full, deep and powerful sound. Remove the bass register and your music will instantly sound thin and weak. Bass adds that fundamental power in the low-end that will glue your harmonic storyline together, and add a deeper and fuller overall tone in your music.
Bass is the King of Music
Treat your bass as the king of music. Give your bass the authority and power it deserves. Let the bass and low percussion rule the low-end of your mix. And make sure you use the power of bass to add depth, fullness, focus and clarity in the low-end of your music.
Congratulations! Now that you have learned the core fundamentals of bass in music, I will share my most powerful guidelines on how you can use bass in practice, in your music compositions. Let’s continue your journey, right now!
Powerful Guidelines on Bass
Now let me give you my best practical guidelines on writing bass parts in your music compositions: with more power, clarity and focus. Here we go!
Guideline 1 – Lead the Harmonic Storyline
Since bass has so much authority, it is only natural that it becomes the anchor of your music storyline. Basically this means that the bass leads the story forward by providing the harmonic root in your music. That is why the bass note is almost always the root note of a chord, even if you play the chord in an inversion.
The main point is that you want to use bass as the master guide, to lead the listener throughout your music story. Personally I even consider the bass line more important than the chords themselves. So when writing a new theme or motif, I often play the melodic idea with my right hand, and the bass line with my left hand. Then I harmonise with chords afterwards.
Guideline 2 – Create Space for the Bass
Bass should be treated like a king in your music. Just like you give room and space for the king when he gracefully walks down that long red carpet…you should create space for the bass in your music compositions, by standing aside with your other instruments and sounds.
I mean literally letting the bass take care of the space in the lowest octaves of your music, and keeping the distance with your other instruments. This will give your music a focused low-end with clarity. And basically, your compositions will have far greater impact and power. So make sure to “create space for the bass“.
Guideline 3 – Less is More
This is a phrase you hear so much, but what does it mean for bass? Well, first I want to share a quote I came up with to summarize why less is more for your bass parts in your music. Here it is: “Weight has More Power than Quantity”. This means that you don’t need many notes to get a powerful sound in your bass. The opposite is in fact more true. Less notes, but with more weight, will create an overall more powerful sound.
One reason for this is that the lower frequencies has a much longer waveform. And that is why they blend together and become muddy if you add too many notes. For example: when programming percussion parts, you can easily make super fast rhythms on the higher pitched drums like hi-hats and shakers. But on the deepest percussion instruments, fast rhythms will sound messy and bad. Again, less is more, especially in the low-end. It is simply a matter of physics.
Guideline 4 – Layering for Power
You can use a single bass instrument for your music composition if you want. However, I am a true fan of layering for more power. By adding and shaping each layer to form a new cohesive overall bass sounds, you can add more Depth, Body and Clarity to your bass.
In fact, my essential guide for layering a bass sound is indeed those 3 layers.
Layer 1 – Depth: Here I recommend a deep sub bass. I use this layer to add that extra oomph in the lowest part of the bass. In fact, I always add a sub bass to every composition I make. Even if it is barely audible, you can always feel that it is missing if you don’t add it. Especially on bigger speakers and good headphones.
Layer 2 – Body: This is the main bass sound. The character and basically what you hear as the bass tone. For example an electric bass, an orchestral bass, or a synth bass.
Layer 3 – Clarity: The higher harmonics, and the distinct attack of the bass, which makes your bass more present. This layer can be great to get your bass more audible on very small speakers. For example, you can use a very distinct plucky sound as an extra layer for clarity. Or a layer that is an octave higher than the main bass.
Here’s a Power Tip: When using layers, I often use transposing in octaves to make the bass sound as big, powerful and audible as possible. So if I use the 3 layers I just mentioned, I will transpose them over 3 octaves.
Guideline 5 – Distortion for Density
I love using harmonic distortion and saturation effects for my bass. You don’t have to go overboard by creating a dirty distorted sound, unless you want to of course. Saturation can be used to simply add density, by bringing out more weight from the harmonic overtones.
For example: You can use a bass amp, which is basically similar to a guitar amp but with a more mellow and bass-rich sound. There are also countless of distortion and saturation plugins you can use on your bass. Which I am fan of personally.
Here’s a Power Tip: Whenever you use distortion, I recommend not adding it to the depth layer, meaning the sub bass. Because the purity of the sub bass is what makes it tight, focused and controlled. And as soon as you add any type of effects in the sub-bass frequencies, you mess up this clarity. Some plugins have filters to let you avoid adding distortion in the lowest bass. Otherwise you can simply just add the effects on the other layers.
Guideline 6 – Attack for Clarity
You can also bring out more clarity by boosting the attack part of the bass. You can do this by using an effect called “transient shaper” that basically controls the amount of attack and sustain in a sound. By boosting the attack you will bring out more of that sharp and distinct beginning of each bass note.
Or as you already learned, adding a clarity layer to the bass, and make it a very distinct plucky type of sound.
Guideline 7 – Compression for Control
I always teach the importance of keeping the dynamics in your music. To make it breath, feel more alive, and add emotion and movement. However, there are exceptions to this. And bass is in my opinion the instrument that you should have the least dynamics in. Mainly because, as you learned, it is the very harmonic anchor and guide for your music story.
Dynamic range compression, or compression for short, is the best way to keep the dynamics of your bass controlled. You generally don’t want too much level variation in your bass performances, and you most often want to keep the bass as powerful as you can. This is what compression does. It reduces the variation in dynamics, meaning the perceived loudness of the sound.
You can use a loudness meter to check the average loudness level of your bass. And on top of the compressor, you can also use a maximizer to really push the levels. And finally, you can use saturation to increase the density of your bass, which will also bring up the loudness level.
Bass Guidelines – Summary & Action
Congratulations! You have now learned all my fundamental guidelines for bass in music composition and production. And remember, guidelines can be broken, as long as you are aware of them, and know what you do.
Let’s make a quick summary of these Bass Guidelines:
1 – Lead the Harmonic Storyline
2 – Create Space for the Bass
3 – Less is More
4 – Layering for Power
5 – Distortion for Density
6 – Attack for Clarity
7 – Compression for Control
Now take action, and practice all these guidelines on various types of bass sounds in your DAW. Because learning by doing, is something I am a huge believer of. So go ahead and practice each guidelines, and also, experiment with breaking or bending them. Have fun with your bass, and I will see you in the next video.
The Sounds of Bass
Now let’s talk about the sounds of bass. I will show and demonstrate the most common types of bass sounds I personally use in my music compositions, for all kinds of music. Of course you have endless possibilities to shape the main tone of your bass sound, but these are the kind of sounds I come back to again and again. Here we go!
Bass Sound 1 – Acoustic Bass
Let’s start with the grandfather of all bass. This acoustic string based instrument has many different names, mainly depending on which genres of music and playing style it is being used for. In an orchestra it is often called double bass, contrabass, or simply bass. It is most often played with a bow, which creates a wonderfully rich and noble sound.
When playing strings with a bow, you have more control over the expression, playing styles and performance techniques than any other type of instrument…except for the human voice.
You can do smooth transitions like legato…or longer gliding transitions like portamento and glissando…You can bounce quickly on the bow with a staccato or even the shorter spiccato…You can do vibrato…and you can shape the character of the sound with bow pressure, speed and placement on the strings.
In jazz and band music it is often called an upright bass, acoustic bass or even jazz bass. It is played with your fingers and has a very mellow, intimate and soft tone. Slide transitions are often used to spice up the groove.
Bass Sound 2 – Electric Bass
The electric guitar changed the core and heart of the entire music world. And a follow up to the electric guitar, is of course the electric bass guitar.
The electric bass is played either with your fingers, or with a pick, and it has a huge range of possible playing styles and performance techniques. Such as bending notes…sliding into notes..adding vibrato…various degrees of palm muting…and so on.
Bass Sound 3 – Pad Bass
Now let’s dive into the world of synthesized bass sounds. And the first one, which is one of my favorites is what I call a pad bass. This is a type of synth sound that is similar in character to a bowed orchestral string bass.
But since it is a synth, you can shape the character and tone much more. From deep, smooth and warm….to glassy, hollow and airy…or perhaps evolving, magical and shiny…The foundation of any pad sound is a smooth, long attack with a long sustain in the sound.
Bass Sound 4 – Sub Bass
Next up is probably the single most important style of synth bass. The sub bass. It is a very pure waveform in the lowest octave that provides the fundamental tone to your final bass sound. I always use a sub bass layer for my bass in any style of music I compose. Even if you can barely hear it, it adds that sense of fullness, focus and clarity in the low-end which no other instrument can.
Bass Sound 5 – Warm Bass
Now another type of bass sound I often use, is what I call the warm synth bass. Basically it is a very deep and fat synth sound which also has a lot of body. I prefer to use a vintage analog style synth for these types of sounds, such as a classic MiniMoog for example.
Bass Sound 6 – Dirty Bass
Let’s get dirty now. Because another favorite type of bass, which can really add character to your low-end is what I call the “Dirty Bass”. Basically it’s a heavily distorted bass sound, which don’t have to be a synth, but I often prefer it. The point is not to simply saturate the sound like a bass amp does on an electric bass guitar. But to actually drive it hard to make it a completely new sound. Heavier, dirtier and with lots of more complex overtones.
Bass Sound 7 – Retro Bass
The next type of synth bass is what I call a retro synth bass. Even though this is a huge range, I am basically referring to the classic bass synths you can hear in 70s and 80s music. What I believe they often share is a very “synthy” and pronounced ound. Making them great for hooks and adding a unique character to your music composition.
Bass Sound 8 – Edgy Bass
Now, let’s talk about what I call the “Edgy Bass”. This is what I call the bass sounds that are often used in electronic music. The kind of bass, that are not merely a bass, but actually has lots of mids, and even high frequencies. They are sharper, edgier, and often with lots of LFO modulation, filter sweeps and movement. Basically, the Edgy Bass, is more in your face that all other types of bass sounds.
Bass Sound 9 – Pluck Bass
Bass sounds that have a more pronounced attack and shorter sustain, I call “Pluck Bass”. They often have a very distinct accent in the sound, and can work great for either driving basses like a classic 303. Or for providing some extra clarity and focus as a layer on top of a warmer, deeper bass sound.
The Sounds of Bass – Summary & Action
Congratulations! You have now learned all the fundamental types of bass sounds I come back to again and again as a composer and producer. Basically every bass sound I use in one of my projects, is a variation on one of these types of bass sounds you have just learned. Let’s make a quick summary of them all:
1 – Acoustic Bass
2 – Electric Bass
3 – Pad Bass
4 – Sub Bass
5 – Warm Bass
6 – Dirty Bass
7 – Retro Bass
8 – Edgy Bass
9 – Pluck Bass
Now I always say that taking action is the best way to move forward on your journey. So I recommend you to practice all these types of bass sounds in your DAW, right now. Practice how to find them in your plugins and instrument libraries. Practice how to shape them in creative ways with sound design and effects. And practice playing them, using various performance techniques, to get a sense of how you can actually use them in one of your music compositions.
Good luck, and have fun, playing the sounds of bass.
The Styles of Bass
Now let’s talk about the playing styles and performances of bass in your music. Of course you have almost infinite options, and of course you can mix and blend, go back and forth between playing styles. But I want to share some of the fundamental playing styles for bass that I use personally over and over again. Here we go:
Bass Style 1 – The Driving Bass
If you want to add energy to your music, the driving bass line is one of my favorites. It is a bass performance that focus on rhythm & drive more than varying the notes. Similar to an ostinato pattern on strings for example…A classic driving bass line is the straight drive, with for example 8th notes…But then you can start to experiment with rhythm and note length for the bass notes, to create the kind of vibe and drive that works for the track you are working on.
Bass Style 2 – The Authority Bass
Now if you want minimalism, and keep the bass and low-end very sparse and controlled. The authority bass line is always a great choice. Basically you use long sustaining bass notes, to add a sense of power and authority. Almost like when a church bell rings, and demands respect, since it only says a few words, but every word has a lot of impact and importance. For example, only playing the bass in whole notes, for every new chord change.
Bass Style 3 – The Noble Bass
If you want a very classy and gracious sound in your bass, I recommend what I call “the noble bass”. Basically you focus more on the transitions between the bass notes, and often use softer and smoother transition types, like legato, portamento, or gliding if you use a bass guitar. Make your bass line gracefully move, and you will get that noble sound.
Bass Style 4 – The Walking Bass
The classic walking bass line simply walks up or down from one bass note to the next. The notes in between are basically only transition notes for the walk. Often simply walking down the scale to the new root note of the next chord. And you don’t have to play every scale note when walking up or down, but you can actually choose to skip one or several notes.
Bass Style 5 – The Riffing Bass
This is one of the most fun bass lines to play in my opinion. A riffing bass line adds movement and spice to your bass line by jumping, or riffing, around in pitch. Of course, also by adding rhythm and note various note lengths when riffing with your bass adds so much more character to it.
Here’s a power tip: One of the greatest moment to use the riffing bass performance is when you want to increase the power of your main accents in your composition. Basically for layering with your main percussion hits etc.
Bass Style 6 – The Melodic Bass
Now the final type of bass line is what I call a melodic bass. And by melodic, I mean that it actually follows the main melody line, like a deep layer. It doesn’t have note for note though. For example the bass can skip a few of the note changes, but the main point is to let the bass mimic the main melody, hook or motif in your music.
I don’t think you should overuse the melodic bass lines, because that would make your music too simplistic and you will lose all depth that comes from the interplay between all the parts in your music. However, whenever you want to truly bring out the main melody, riff, hook, or whatever you call it…use the melodic bass line to mimic for maximum impact.
The Styles of Bass – Summary & Action
Congratulations! You have now learned all the fundamental bass performance styles I come back to again and again as a composer. Let’s make a quick summary of them all:
1 – The Driving Bass
2 – The Authority Bass
3 – The Noble Bass
4 – The Walking Bass
5 – The Riffing Bass
6 – The Melodic Bass
Now take action. Practice all these types of bass performance styles, either by playing them on your MIDI keyboard, or by programming them in your DAW, right now.
And remember, you can be as creative as you wish with your bass lines. You can mix and blend, and jump back and forth between any of these styles, or stick to one style for an entire section of your track if you wish. The choice and power of bass is in your control as a composer.
Good luck, and have fun, playing and performing bass lines.
Congratulations – You are Amazing!
Congratulations! You have now completed my course, and learned how to add, shape and perform powerful bass in your music.
Now take action. Because the only way to move forward on any journey, is to take a step forward, and then another step, and so on. Practice all tips and guidelines you have learned in my course, and focus especially on:
- The Sounds of Bass
- The Playing Styles of Bass
- Designing & Shaping your Bass
- Performing Basslines to Empower your Music Stories
So take action, and remember my mantra for success:
- Learn every Day
- Practice every Day
- Create every Day
My name is Mike, and I wish you good luck and great success as a professional composer.
My name is Mikael “Mike” Baggström, and I am a composer, sound designer, artist, video creator, coffee lover, science geek and true nerd…
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