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How to create a throbbing Reese-style sub-bass
When creating sub-bass sounds, it's all about simplicity. Dance music needs a low-end built on simple but powerful waveforms that can add energy and depth to a mix without muddying it.
This Reese-style wobbling sub is a classic sound and a staple of drum& bass and rave music. It's deep, weighty and a great tool for adding energy to a track.
For more on the ins and outs of bass production, check out the January issue of Computer Music (issue 186.)
Step 1: For this tutorial we're going to be using Dune CM, which is part of the CM Suite of plug-ins that comes free with each issue of Computer Music (or a demo version of Dune can be downloaded from the Synapse Audio site.) Load up the Init patch by clicking the B button and draw in some long bass notes around E1. Click the Mono button to change to monophonic mode and set the Osc Mix to 50%. Set both the Attack and Release of the Amp Envelope to 15% - this gives a super-swift fade in/out that gets rid of any clicking at the start/end of notes.
Step 2: Now set both oscillators to Sine and set Osc 1's Fine Tune to -50 and Osc 2's to +50. Notice how the oscillators have started to 'wobble' and beat against each other due to them being at different pitches, with the wobble getting faster the higher up you play. The overall pitch still sounds OK because we perceive the average of the two - ie, 0 cents detune.
Step 3: Let's add a sub-bass tone to our Reese wobble, one octave below the main pitch - Dune CM's Osc 3 is purpose-built for this. Set Osc 3's waveform to Triangle and turn its Level knob all the way up to the max. Listening back, we can hear a nice, deep sub-bass with the menacing wobble of the oscillators in the octave above contributing to the more audible main bass band.
Step 4: Ideally we'd use a sine wave for our sub-bass, but as Osc 3 doesn't have this option, we can achieve something similar by filtering out some of the upper harmonics using the low-pass filter. Set the Key Track to max so that the cutoff frequency tracks the note being played, and pull the Cutoff down to 30%. Set the filter mode to Lowpass 24dB. Check our audio examples in the Tutorial Files.