So you want to make your own earth-shaking, ground-breaking bass drops, huh? A well-timed bass drop in the context of a mix can be the perfect way to transition between two sections of a song or add massive impact to the heaviest-hitting parts.
In metal, bass drops are often used to kick off breakdown sections, making the listener feel like a bomb was dropped in their headphones. Electronic music uses bass drops in an extremely similar manner – adding size and scale to transitions between sections. The same can go for just about any genre where the dynamics and music build to a crescendo. Add a bass drop at the peak and let your heaviness of your song come crashing back with it.
As widely as bass drops get used, many producers and engineers still struggle with getting them to fit just right in their songs. We’re going to take a look at why that is and how do-it-yourself bass drops are the perfect solution to their problems.
Where Producers Go Wrong
Music producers know the impact that a good bass drop adds. In genres like EDM, they’re almost a requirement for a hit single. But despite knowing they need to use them, many of these producers spend tons of time and money on bass drop sample packs when they could easily be creating custom drops themselves with tools they already have at their disposal.
Now I love samples as much as the next person – layering in some explosive sounds with glass breaking or heavily bit-crushed audio can be a great way to add some character to these transitions. But when it comes to the bass drop itself, DIY is the way to go.
The reason for this is actually pretty simple: control.
When you’re creating your own bass drop, you control everything about it. You can massage the dynamics and frequencies to your mix’s specifications. Bass drops can easily fit both the key and tempo without any type of transposition and that not only saves you time but can be a huge payoff in quality as well.
You don’t have to give up the samples completely and in pre-production situations where you just need a placeholder sound, I’d actually encourage them. But when it comes down to the final product, there’s nothing more rewarding that a bass drop of your own design.
What You’ll Need
The tools required to create a bass drop are extremely minimal: your DAW and a synthesizer with a single oscillator. In the example below, we’re using Sub Destroyer:
Most synths have way more options than you’ll ever need for such a basic sound, but for engineers looking to push their bass drops harder, noise and various waveform options can lead to some very unique combinations, as does post-processing with compression, overdrive, and other forms of manipulation.
The key to any DIY bass drop is automation. You need to focus on three parameters: the starting frequency, the stopping frequency, and the duration or length. Get those three things right and all that’s left to do is trigger the drop.
The beauty of the DIY bass drop is that the starting and stopping frequencies can be matched to the key of your song, making them fit better sonically alongside any root note being played alongside the drop. The same goes for the duration – having a drop that lasts for a set interval makes it seem that much more intentional. Use a shorter drop time (quarter note or half note) for super quick transitions or drag it out over several bars for a long descent.
Linking It All Together
If you’re trying to keep the drop tight to any other element in your mix, automation and using another instrument to trigger your drop can both be super helpful. For example, if you know that a drop should fall right on an aggressive snare hit but that hit isn’t locked to the grid, you can always use it as the trigger so the drop fires off of that hit. Simply use that hit as the MIDI input for sample-accurate triggering each and every time.
Other than that, just try not to overdo it! A single, well-placed bass drop in a song can have a massive impact, but by the time you introduce a handful of them, you go from something really cool and unique to sounding a bit cheesy. It’s easy to overuse them if you’re not careful.
If you’re looking for some inspiration – you don’t have to go any further than some live shows on YouTube. Find a band or artist that uses bass drops in their sets and see where they’re placing them. Mimic the timing and structure in your own work and with the customization you’ll have with your own DIY bass drops, feel confident that you can come up with something as good if not better than what they’ve done!
Enhanced Sampling & Synthesis
If your interest is piqued and you’re wondering what else samples and synths can add to your productions, you’re not alone. Thousands of musicians and engineers are starting to take a look at what it is that certain producers are doing in the studio and using their tricks to bring a professional new character to their music.
This is why we released our eBook, The Producer’s Guide to Synthesizers & Sweeteners. These techniques shouldn’t be kept secret – especially when they’re so easy to implement in just about any session. Take a look today and see how you can start adding some new life to your songs!