Jump ahead to
If someone says that they don’t like bass in music, you would think that is rather odd. This is because, in this day and age, where bass is increasingly getting celebrated in both music production and film scoring, it is not common to find people who dislike bass in music.
When it comes to bass in music production, you find that the limits are being pushed every single day. Hip-hop has completely replaced the kick bass drum with 808 basses. The constant quest to have more bass in songs, which is also balanced, is increasing day by day.
As a music producer, you always try to learn and use different bass progressions in music to make it more interesting. If you are someone who is starting, I would advise you to start learning bass progressions immediately. This will save you from filling space in songs, and in various other circumstances where you cannot add more melodies to make it sound interesting. Bass always adds power to a song and increases the energy of the song. In simple words, bass progressions just extenuate what is already present.
Overshadowing is the best way to learn bass progressions. This will teach you to improvise and make the progression more interesting for your songs and projects. Traditionally, you can learn bass progression through music theory classes. The only disadvantage is that you will struggle to apply it in actual performances.
Just knowing that you need bass progressions is one thing, but understanding how to learn and progress in it will help you take your music to another level. In this article, I will walk you through everything about bass and how you can learn as well.
What is the bass?
Bass refers to the lowest frequency in the frequency spectrum that ranges from 30Hz to 400Hz. There are lots of instruments that produce sounds in this frequency range. Bass guitar, double bass (strings instrument), bass drum are some instruments that you can usually find in this range of frequency spectrum.
Even though there are a lot of other instruments that can produce bass in these regions, the above-stated instruments are predominantly used for bass music production. The most important thing about these instruments is that their frequencies dominate more in the lower end than in the higher end of the frequency spectrum.
There are various ways to make bass sounds. One of the most common ways to make bass sounds is through additive sound synthesis. This method is used to make bass 808 sounds, which are predominantly used in hip-hop and trap music. The origin of this bass started with the synth keyboards which were then repurposed for bass.
These bass sounds are raw and put through a lot of processes before they are used in productions. Saturation is one of the processes that is used to boost the harmonies of the root frequency. This makes sure that the root frequency has more harmonies in the mix to elevate the sound of the bass in the higher end of the frequency spectrum.
Bass has always been one of the areas where you can do a lot but people aren’t always able to tell the intricate details that you have put into it. This has changed a lot due to the availability of high-quality bass-boosted headphones. They have altered the way the bass is produced in modern-day albums.
If you ask today’s trap and Edm producers, their first step in mixing is to reference how the track sounds when played in a phone and laptop speaker. This is to make sure the translation of what is being made sounds good in any speaker. These sound system alterations are new to the industry as well. Usually, reference tracks are used to match how the audio should sound in both mobile speakers as well as the studio monitors.
There are always compromises made to accommodate small modifications to the way the bass reflects in all speakers. The question of whether this affects the way the bass normally sounds often comes up, and it is immediately shut down with a counterargument that it doesn’t translate well enough in all speakers.
Bass has always been the driver of energy in any form music. It adds more strength to the overall track. Bass and drums are two instruments that move people’s souls when it comes to music anatomy.
The ability to run through bass notes and make them interesting is one of the skills that many of today’s producers are trying to achieve.
How do you use bass in music production?
Unlike other instruments, bass must be used properly in music production. You cannot simply add layers of bass in a project. Every single time you add a note as the bass has to have intent. This will make sure that the song is composed in a way that doesn’t clutter the low end of the track.
The lower end is a place where things usually get cluttered. It takes a lot of time to work on the low end, if the bass is not up to standard. This is one of the reasons why as soon as the drums are programmed in a song, the bass is also programmed. This has created a pathway for other optimization of other instruments, in line with requirements of the song.
When you look at the different pathways available to add bass to a song, you will find out that in the end, that they all do the same process, just in a different order. The best way to add bass to a project is by starting with sample selection. This is an important part of how the bass is going to sound in the end. Choosing a high-quality wav sample is essential to get better-sounding bass.
Even though these bass sounds will be altered and edited, starting with a clean sound will make sure we are not over-processing the bass sample. There are lots of sample packs available for bass notes. The best way to look for bass notes is from electronic dance music packs and re purposes them for other genres. These bass samples are usually clean, as they are synthesized from digital additive synths.
Once a proper sample is chosen, it is added to a sampler. There are lots of samplers available. Using an inbuilt sampler will make sure you are not overworking your processor. When using samplers, make sure that the key is set to the key of the sample, and it is not over-tuned. Some people make the mistake of not checking the scale and end up writing the song on a completely different scale.
Once you play along and program bass for the project, the real fun of processing bass begins. First, an equalizer should be added to completely work on the upper end, by adding a cut as well as boosting the root frequency of the bass.
After the equalizer, a compressor is added to compress the bass and to remove any dynamics, so that the bass can sound loud and powerful. After the compressor, a saturator should be included to add more harmonies in the high end of the bass being programmed.
The final step of the process starts here. Adding a limiter is where the processing of bass ends in music production. If you are mixing for -6db then the limiter ceiling is set to -14db and it’s pushed as much as possible until it starts to create disturbances in the mix.
Why does a bass progression matter?
Most people talk about how to program bass but they won’t explain why bass progressions matters so much in today’s music industry. The amount of bass needed to satisfy today’s modern music listener is so different when compared to a bass listener from 10 years ago. This is mostly due to the advancements in how music is recorded.
Most of the music that we listen to has a lot of bass being pumped and this sometimes even overpowers the melody based on the mood of the song. All these have led to making bass progressions more creative and catchy. The number of people who are listening to just bass is also increasing day by day. People are expecting the bass to be more aggressive nowadays when you look at for example trap music.
Modern bass music has so many variations as well. Distortion and pitch bends are used in tracks for bass, so as to make it more interesting. This bass music has taken a 360 degree turn compared to how it was produced a few years ago. Music festivals and clubs promote high-energy bass music. This is one of the reasons for music producers longing to reach more loudness in their tracks.
Bass progressions carry a song forward. They act as tools for chords to flow through the song. Bass progressions make sure that there is no energy drops in any part of the song. Using the same simple bass note on a particular key can sound boring; this is why short notes and long bass notes are mixed well, within the track, to make sure that the track flows as smoothly as possible into the mix.
When you forget to program the bass for a song, you won’t find out until you go to the mixing room. When you hear the song on a studio monitor, you will hear your song sounding empty in the low end. This is why bass has to be added as soon as the drums are set, based on the sections of the song.
Bass can be creatively removed in certain spots, to create an easier flow for the chords in the song, and so as to not allow the track to be overpowering in the ears of the listeners. If the bass is continuously playing throughout the song, without a change in notes, it will tire the listener, this is why bass drops, and bass is even removed in certain parts of a song.
Programming and arranging bass is simple if you already have a set of chords added to the track. You can take the midi file of the same chord progression and easily outline the same chords to get your bass notes. Using such a technique will also boost the way your production process looks.
You can completely change the way you produce music. Re purposing the midi files and using them in multiple ways to produce music will aid in developing faster workflows.
How to program bass?
When you look at bass lines in a pop music song, it varies so much starting from how they are programmed to how they are used creatively to induce emotions through them. They start in a simple format by just root notes following the kick and also in some cases elaborate melodic bass notes and bass parts.
This has always been the trend in pop music. Although it’s easy to record a real electric bass part and then add virtual pumps and compressors, nowadays a lot of tracks are created based on synth software instruments.
If a producer tries to write bass in a part of a song using virtual instruments, as opposed to a real bass guitar, there are certain things that they have to take into account to make it sound real and energetic. The first step to program bass properly is phrasing. It’s a key part of how the bass instrument is played realistically.
When you are programming a bass note, the only way to note it down in your production software is by striking your midi keyboard. This is not the case when an actual bass guitar is played. The bass player employs different techniques to make the same sound. They are sometimes plucked; fingerpicked and sided as well.
These techniques will create different attacks and characteristics to the bass notes. One of the ways you can make it sound realistic is to add strongly accented notes in between, and add software notes as passing notes to add extra movement without clashing with the other chords.
The next step to programming bass is the duration of how long the note is being triggered. When you are programming in a digital audio workstation, you tend to always add the notes at the same length, this is not the case on how a realistic bass guitar is played. They have varied note lengths based on how the bass player is playing the notes.
Creating these hyper accented notes with varied note length is one of the ways that you can program a bass part without making it sound like it has been programmed. The variable human touches as well as the imperfectness in the performance are what give life to the notes.
Some bass players utilize short, dampened notes as grace notes, to add a little rhythm without overplaying the bass part. These might be the equivalent of, say, a kick drum part with a couple of softer grace notes here and there, though the bass doesn’t have to follow the kick in this regard—a bass part could add its subtle rhythmic variations this way to a more steady kick rhythm.
As mentioned above, there are so many ways to program bass, instead of getting overwhelmed by open ideas and try to implement them one by one in your production you will start to see a great shift in how your music sounds.
Learning bass instruments
When you choose to start learning the bass guitar, the first step is to get a bass instrument. When you are starting you don’t need to get an expensive bass guitar at all. An entry-level bass is enough as a beginner and you can go to higher models as you progress in your skills.
When you are first searching for a bass guitar, start by choosing a budget and from there select your guitar. Practicing is the key to learn any instrument. There is no shortage of tutorials today. The only place where people struggle is practicing the guitar.
Practice daily when you are starting in bass guitar, at least 30 minutes a day. You have to find a time of day where you can practice without any distractions. Some players will get up early and then the practice guitar, some do it after work, and some do it after dinner. Make time for practicing when you are completely comfortable.
Always start with technique exercises; this will make sure that you have a solid platform to start with. Running scales, playing arpeggios, and chords are used to get your fingers to move and to get your mind focused. This also helps when you improvising. This technique acts as a warm-up.
As a bass player, you have to develop a strong sense of timing on how the rhythm works, and how far you can adapt to the tempo of the song. Always practice with a metronome or a play along with the recording. This will give you a subconscious level idea of how to keep timing while you are performing.
When you are starting, be slow ,don’t rush things. Make sure that you are getting every note correct. Focus on each note and work on it until you get it right. You have to practice the same note at regular intervals so that you get the fluidity and precision.
Always keep track of your progress. Have a practice log of what you have practiced and where you are trying to get to. Set realistic goals based on your current learning rate. Always note down your routines, goals, exercises, and the difficult notes that you are working on. One of the important aspects of learning any instrument is consistency.
People start with a lot of enthusiasm, and then they lose it in the middle. If you want to keep the same energy till the end to always be motivated to practice, it’s probably a good idea to look back at your progress with a log. Self-motivation is the ultimate weapon for consistency.
You have to see your results to be consistent in something. The desire to get better at playing bass guitar has to come from seeing your results in the limited time you tried to practice playing.
Learning to play any instrument is a challenge that can pay dividends for your lifetime. While it’s possible to teach yourself how to play bass, it’s a good idea to study with a qualified teacher.
They can help you avoid bad habits and will offer direction, inspiration, and encouragement to get you through any challenges that may arise. If this is not an option you can also look into online courses in both Udemy and Skillshare.
How do you learn progression on a bass guitar?
Learning all the scales and notes in a bass guitar is the first step for getting started. When you are comfortable with playing single notes in all scales, you can learn music theory to understand which notes go along when it comes to chords in a scale. Learning music theory is essential in further boosting your process of learning faster and more efficiently.
How can I teach myself bass?
You can teach yourself to learn bass under one condition. If you know music theory because of having played some other instrument in the past, you will have less of hard time when compared to someone who starts to learn bass by themselves. When you have music theory to back you up, it’s all about learning the positioning of the chords in the strings.
What is the saddest chord progression?
The taste of a chord differs from person to person; some might say one chord is sadder than the other, normally minor chords have a sad ring to them. This is because of the difference in the half step when compared to the major scales. Associating the chord feel to each triad at the start of your learning experience is important in progressing faster.
Is playing bass easier than guitar?
Every instrument has its difficulty. Bass guitar has its own set of struggles for beginners. The most important thing about bass is that you won’t be playing chords as you play in a normal guitar. In that way, you might find bass guitar a bit easier as there is the same learning curve for both bass and normal guitar.
How do you memorize bass notes?
There are so many short forms based on how your guitar is tuned. Instead of trying to memorize through a phrase or even by making a word out of all the notes, try learning the notes by learning actual songs using these notes. This is the most effective method as you will be able to associate each note with a particular song in a particular place of expression.
Bass is a very important instrument that adds grit in an audio production environment. It carries a lot of energy in a song. If you are determined to learn bass start by improvising chords. When you are good at improvising chords you can also work on your music theory. If you don’t work on your music theory to get it to a level where it is strong enough to handle all the notes you learn and associate them properly with a feel or time, it’s hard to get good at playing bass.
When you look at other instrument players, they can make small mistakes and can get away with them by improvising. When it comes to bass, since it’s a low-frequency instrument, you cannot easily get away with it. The vibrations generated are strong. This is one of the reasons why you can see bass players practicing a single note, again and again, to get it perfect.
The other side of this spectrum involves hard work and repetition to get better at this skill. You cannot win this by skipping over things or even calling things working smart. It’s hard to develop muscle memory. Developing muscle memory takes repetition and time to make it second nature. Playing bass has to become your second nature; it’s the one aspect of playing an instrument that is difficult. Everybody can learn music theory and they can grasp it about 80 percent without any issues.
The real test to their interest in bass comes into play when it’s time to pick up the guitar and practice. If someone can do that, they can be successful in playing or even learning any instrument. Understanding that repetition is everything in music production and in playing any instrument is a must. It’s a hard toil to get things perfect, this is why musicians with hours of practice and experience behind them are so highly respected no matter how little success they have achieved.