3 ways to use the element of surprise in your bass parts

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Electronic music is inherently predictable. The expectation of certain things to happen at certain times is what makes dance tunes so effective on the dancefloor.

However, it’s the subversion of this predictability that can elevate an average tune from good to great, and this is particularly relevant when it comes to bass production.

One thing to bear in mind, though: try too many unusual tricks throughout a track and it’ll sound too gimmicky. Instead, stick to one or two particular ‘themes’, and your creative endeavours will have more purpose and impact. 

With that in mind, here are three small but effective manoeuvres to try when laying down bass alongside other rhythmic and melodic parts. These obviously won’t work in every scenario, but when they do, they can make all the difference...

(Image credit: Future)

Tip 1: Want to build up (or lead in) to your most powerful bass note on a micro scale? Try increasing a track element’s level, reverb time or delay feedback to the point just before an important low bass note, then immediately silence that effect when the contrastingly dry note fires.

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Tip 2: A current trend in bassline and DnB is to let a track drop in with drums, but hold back the bass from entering the track for a beat or two - or even a bar or two! The crowd expect the bassline on the first beat of the bar, after all, so subvert that for a bigger reaction.

(Image credit: Future)

Tip 3: Consider chopping out other sounds in your mix for a tiny amount of time, just at that critical point before the bass drops back in. Try doing this with running percussion, sustained melodic elements… or even the entire mix!

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