Subharmonic bass- and kick synth layering techniques

WhiteNoiz

';...;'
Overall I think I completely failed taking control of the lowend of this track, it's all too muddy still. Listening to another example from Mick Gordon for comparison made that very clear to me:



When you listen to this from 1:55 to about 2:25 you can hear plenty of very tight bass sounds. To me that sounds like more than just layered kicks or one of those regular subharmonic synthesizers. Any idea how this is made? Is this something that might be achievable with triggering very (!) tight and short kick samples from a drum trigger that is fed a lowpassed detection signal?
Tried to make an impression of that. Check the attached mp3.

What I hear is a lot of mid-low mid presence with maybe rolled off highs. It sounds somewhat dry with a tighter foundation. I'd say more like "weighty" 'cause I fon't feel there's enough presence for such dry sounds (more like width or proximity). I feel like the "bass" is more around 140 hz or so and the body at about 240-666. :P

Other than that, I feel like there are a lot of time based and shaping fx (there could be saturation, vocoding or wide (or oscillating) filters, granular fx, pitch modulation or dissonant harmonics, many voices/chorusing, time stretching, portas/glides on the leads, strong attacks or snappy sounds on the rhythms and amp sims, overdrives etc). You should also probably play around with EQs a lot. THat's my take at least...
 

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visiblenoise

Active Member
@MartinH. Great job on the mockup! The general mood was spot on - what did you use for the atmospheric bass synth sound?

I do think more could be done to the guitar tone to make it fit in better. It has an unpolished, midrangey, metal-song-demo kind of sound, and so the bass frequencies seem to take a back seat. Whatever bass tricks you tried aren't coming across strongly enough.

On a side note, what is your guitar signal chain? Did you use mics? Was just playing around with VST amps today, so it's on my mind...
 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
As far as percussion you can do the same thing enforcer does a number of ways... Layering kicks underneath percussion, electronic kicks tend to do well, (A lot of trailer composers do this). You can use something like XLN's Addictive trigger or a similar drum replacer to trigger and add a kick or percussion layer... I tend to prefer a Kontakt patch of short punchy kicks I have, and copying MIDI, but a drum replacer on a duplicate track would do the job.

The trick is to use short kicks. Tight punchy kicks will get you a lot more mileage than long kicks, as the tails of the percussion and a long kick are bound to have a non-harmonic relationship, creating unpleasant frequency clashes... The kicks also tend to be centered higher, 70-100 Hz... This lets the deeper percussion and sub bass rule the stuff down around 40-50.

You can also add a small imperceptible delay to the percussion (5-10 ms) so the kick hits first. It's subtle, but the transients of the short kick will cut through a little better... (Depending on the track, there've been times where I've delayed everything but the percussion by just a few milliseconds so the percussion rides the mix. Totally depends on the track though of course..)
You were so spot on with this, and I found the perfect example in the Doom soundtrack! Check this one kick + braaam at 0:48


I've made a screenshot of the waveform in Reaper:

1598174970032.png


The area that I've marked, where the kickdrum is played before the super bassy synth plays, that's 180 ms long! And it's the perfect example of one the effects I'm looking to recreate.

I've gone through some old sample collections that I bought for neurofunk and psytrance and listened to and looked at the waveforms of over 300 kickdrum samples. This one sharp peak right at the beginning is a big part of what I was looking for and that's not lowend at all. I was thinking I need more or better lowend to give the lowend the impact that it has in the Doom OST, but I think I rather need more specific highend that supports the lowend, and less lowend in other places to create that contrast and dynamic and make the lowend feel impactful.
And then at the end most likely some better mastering.



@MartinH. - The patch works best in the C0-C1 range, but it was thrown together rather quickly ;)

Xfer LFO tool is useful for shaping low end via sidechain, you can get really precise and tight results with it.
Do you mean this one, or an LFO feature inside Massive?
I'm not very familiar with Massive but I think I should learn a bit more about it. Seems to be one of the least cryptic synths that I have in my collection, but still fairly powerful. I was sticking with albino so far because afaik Massive can't do the stereo hardpanned and detuned sine waves without using two instances of it, and I wanted it in one synth instance for easier tweaking.

This sounds great but.... it has no low end? I thought you wanted to create one of those sub basses :)
You're right, I noticed that too when I uploaded it, but I thought layering another low sine in is easy and the thing about the sound that I found interesting wasn't in the lowend. You're asking very good questions though, and it had me thinking about this a lot the recent days. I've analyzed parts of the Doom Soundtrack through a different lense and gained some new insights from it:

It's not only about mixing, but about the sonic intention. You're looking for that tight low end, right? That's just as important IMO as finding the right chords and writing the proper arrangement to evoke... something. Ah, I don't know, I'm digressing.
You're right! Feel feel to digress any time, it's great food for thought. I think I was basically asking the wrong questions from the start more or less. I was fascinated by the energy and impact and thought I need more bass for that, but it's almost the opposite. When I listened to the Doom OST with a 200 hz highpass filter and compare to the same parts with a 200hz lowpass filter, I realized that Mick found ways to always make the highend support the lowend and also "describe" what's going on in the lowend in a way, that would be perfectly audible even on a tiny speaker. There's usually some kind of resonant distortion/excitation/whatever-it's-called on the deep bass synths, that extends them into the high frequency range and generates that bbbrrrRRRRZZZZzzzttt sound that I asked about before in another thread. And the lowend is just super tightly organized with lots of breaks to let you breathe and create contrast.


More in the next post...
 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
Tried to make an impression of that. Check the attached mp3.

What I hear is a lot of mid-low mid presence with maybe rolled off highs. It sounds somewhat dry with a tighter foundation. I'd say more like "weighty" 'cause I fon't feel there's enough presence for such dry sounds (more like width or proximity). I feel like the "bass" is more around 140 hz or so and the body at about 240-666. :P

Other than that, I feel like there are a lot of time based and shaping fx (there could be saturation, vocoding or wide (or oscillating) filters, granular fx, pitch modulation or dissonant harmonics, many voices/chorusing, time stretching, portas/glides on the leads, strong attacks or snappy sounds on the rhythms and amp sims, overdrives etc). You should also probably play around with EQs a lot. THat's my take at least...
That's an awesome impression! I think you totally nailed the lowend. When I put the 200hz lowpass filter on it, I would believe it's from the soundtrack if you told me that's where it's from. I think the only thing missing is the highfrenquency sharp transients that I talked about in my previous post to accentuate the bass. You've got clicky stuff in there, but it's not in sync with the low bass synth, and when you put a 200hz highpass filter on it, you can no longer tell when the bass synth plays because it's missing that brrrrzzt sound in the highend that makes the shape of the low sinewaves audible in the higher frequencies.



@MartinH. Great job on the mockup! The general mood was spot on - what did you use for the atmospheric bass synth sound?
Thanks man! I hope the next version I'll post will be a lot better, but it'll take me some time to get there because I want/need to do some experiments in other projects first.

Do you use Reaper? If not, let me know at which timecode(s) the sounds play that you're interested in and I'll try to describe with screenshots what's going on. It's mostly different things layered.


I do think more could be done to the guitar tone to make it fit in better. It has an unpolished, midrangey, metal-song-demo kind of sound, and so the bass frequencies seem to take a back seat. Whatever bass tricks you tried aren't coming across strongly enough.
Yes, the guitars still suck for sure. The "creative processing" I tried on it, may even have been detrimental. And I really need to give more attention to the bassguitar in general. I just keep forgetting how much of that what my brain has filed under "great guitar sound", really is bass+guitar+(drums+)mastering.

I've found this really cool tutorial on using a waveshaper to emulate a guitar amp:


That made me finally download that free plugin bundle from Melda an there's some really cool stuff in there. That waveshaper alone offers a ton of options, but there's a bunch of other really useful things in there.

That youtube channel has some pretty cool guitar tones and he demos different amp sims with a mostly identical mastering chain and even uploaded the Reaper project for people to learn from. That was a bit of a revelation because in my journey to learning more about mixing and mastering I had gone back from having a bunch of Ozone plugins on the master, to having basically nothing on the master and trying to get it all right with just mixing. I think I need to put some effects back on the mastering chain to get my sound where I want it to be. Here's the video where he goes over his mastering chain:


I tried copying it onto one of my other projects and while some of the settings didn't quite work, I thought it's a lot closer to the sound I want. So I definitely need to spend some more time improving my metal mastering techniques.

On a side note, what is your guitar signal chain? Did you use mics? Was just playing around with VST amps today, so it's on my mind...
Do you have Reaper or should I make screenshots of the settings?

I was in the middle of switching over to a new guitar signal chain, adding bass guitar, moving some things around, orchestrating the elements that occupy the lowend range better, and trying out some Ozone presets on the master, but I have to go now, so I'll just export and upload it as is. Let me know if you think the guitars got better or worse and which version(s) of the signal chain you're interested in because they're rather different. You'll notice some distracting gaps in the riff now. I just edited some breaks in and wanted to place some highfrequency synth stuff there, but I don't have the time for that right now, so it sounds very weird...
 

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MartinH.

Senior Member
There was an article about the Doom 2016 soundtrack where Mick said that he didn't use subharmonic generators for the most part, unless it's something really slow.
Thanks for the info, that article sounds very interesting, do you remember where it was or have some kind of hint on how I could find it?
 

Joël Dollié

Active Member
Thanks for the info, that article sounds very interesting, do you remember where it was or have some kind of hint on how I could find it?
I tried to find it again but couldn't.. All I can remember is that it was a physical newspaper (scanned onto a website). Must be hidden somewhere, I must have looked for production oriented interviews.. He did so many. But I clearly remember him mentioning that.
 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
I tried to find it again but couldn't.. All I can remember is that it was a physical newspaper (scanned onto a website). Must be hidden somewhere, I must have looked for production oriented interviews.. He did so many. But I clearly remember him mentioning that.
Thanks for looking! I tried my luck as well but couldn't find it. What I did find though was a facebook post with an AMA that he held:


There's a lot in there, even what strings he uses on the Guitar.

@jcrosby: After you've mentioned OTT in the other thread I tried it, and it's exactly what I needed! Sound example of a first quick test is attached. Not perfect but the core of the things that I'm looking for is there.


The effect chain looked like this and I automated the drive knob of Head Crusher. All the Replikas have the mix knob at 1%. The screenshot shows the first OTT instance's settings, the others are a bit different.

1598449959141.png
 

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poetd

Senior Member
Try this on your transients (yes its a muppet), automating some silence in just before them can really help them stand out more.


 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
Try this on your transients (yes its a muppet), automating some silence in just before them can really help them stand out more.


Thanks a lot! This is a great idea, I have to try that. I think in Reaper I could even automate it via sidechaining. He says you can't because the sidechain compressor wouldn't duck the signal soon enough, but I believe in reaper I could use an inverted gate or a sidechained compressor that both have a pre-open / pre-comp feature to start ducking before the kick hits.
 

jcrosby

Senior Member
Thanks a lot! This is a great idea, I have to try that. I think in Reaper I could even automate it via sidechaining. He says you can't because the sidechain compressor wouldn't duck the signal soon enough, but I believe in reaper I could use an inverted gate or a sidechained compressor that both have a pre-open / pre-comp feature to start ducking before the kick hits.
You can actually achieve this with a compressor that has lookahead. Pro-C2 is simply incredible for this.

This also happens to solve two issues that can happen when sidechaning - The ducking is 'pre-reactive' as the puppet ( :P ) says. And it removes audible 'clicking' that can occur with heavy sidechaining. (We're talking HEAVY sidechaning... Attack at 0, 18 dB gain reduction or more. Which yes although extreme, is completely within the realm of sanity in aggressive genres of EDM like Drum & Bass...

And speaking of that audible clicking... It's actually a lot more destructive than you might think. That click is full-frequency-spectrum and happens on the grid with the kick which causes phasing issues. The phase interference can totally reshape the summed waveform of the kick and sub bass, causing visible phase rotation and an inconsistent low end.

Live's built-in compressor is especially bad for this... I've checked it using scopes, rendering audio, etc... Serious clicking that creates a weak/flabby Kick/Sub combo that can drift and be inconsistent over time... Pro-C2 with lookahead jacked up all the way however slices through sidechaining like a hot knife on butter.

Check out the screenshots below where you can see the result of sidechaining in Pro-C2 with Lookahead off, then Lookahead on.


No lookahead. (Pro-C2)
Screen Shot 2020-08-26 at 6.28.10 PM.png

No lookahead --- A waveform discontinuity, much like a bad audio edit... Soloing the bass reveals very audible "Clicking" Side Effects.
Screen Shot 2020-08-26 at 6.28.21 PM.png


Lookahead On - 20 MS (Pro-C2):

Screen Shot 2020-08-26 at 6.31.42 PM.png
 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
You can actually achieve this with a compressor that has lookahead. Pro-C2 is simply incredible for this.

This also happens to solve two issues that can happen when sidechaning - The ducking is 'pre-reactive' as the puppet ( :P ) says. And it removes audible 'clicking' that can occur with heavy sidechaining. (We're talking HEAVY sidechaning... Attack at 0, 18 dB gain reduction or more. Which yes although extreme, is completely within the realm of sanity in aggressive genres of EDM like Drum & Bass...
Wow, thanks a lot for another super detailed post! I think that lookahead feature must be pretty much the same as what ReaComp does, just by a different name. I tried to replicate your experiment:

1598527699066.png


With 20 ms lookahead and 20 ms attack it definitely sounds better and the waveform doesn't have these weird peaks.

Although I did notice a problem with reacomp that I don't understand: even at 0ms attack it doesn't start compressing right on the grid, it has about 0.5 to 1 ms delay till it kicks in. So those visible spikes there are less a result of the click the 0 ms attack produces, it's the result of varying degrees of phase alignment between the sub bass and kick at the time where the kick hits, because the comp kicks in slightly delayed. The lookahead fixes that of course. Maybe that just means I shouldn't use ReaComp with 0 ms lookahead at all and always use at least 1 ms. I wasn't able to determine whether this is a problem of ReaComp, Reaper, or my settings. I tried reducing the RMS timewindow, but that didn't fix it.


And speaking of that audible clicking... It's actually a lot more destructive than you might think. That click is full-frequency-spectrum and happens on the grid with the kick which causes phasing issues. The phase interference can totally reshape the summed waveform of the kick and sub bass, causing visible phase rotation and an inconsistent low end.
Ok, this is really interesting because I don't understand it. I'm unfamiliar with phase rotation, so I watched a video on it. If I understood coorectly, rotating phase means the waveform looks different but sounds the same, and in consequence that means summing it to another signal would give audibly different results for a rotated phase, even though the soloed rotated phase signal sounds the same as the original. Is that correct? I don't quite understand yet how that click specifically is a problem (unless of course you don't want to hear a click there). I definitely hear that it sounds better with the lookahead, but I can't tell what part of that is caused by the cleaner lowend that doesn't get phase interference from the two different low frequency signals overlapping out of phase (that part I understand), and what is caused by the lack of a the 0 ms attack click (that part I don't understand).


Live's built-in compressor is especially bad for this... I've checked it using scopes, rendering audio, etc... Serious clicking that creates a weak/flabby Kick/Sub combo that can drift and be inconsistent over time... Pro-C2 with lookahead jacked up all the way however slices through sidechaining like a hot knife on butter.

Check out the screenshots below where you can see the result of sidechaining in Pro-C2 with Lookahead off, then Lookahead on.
I couldn't find a second compressor in my collection yet that I could compare against ReaComp, they usually don't go down to 0 ms attack or can't sidechain. I googled pro-c2 and it seems like that plugin reports a fixed latency of 20ms, so that you can automate the lookahead between 0 ms and 20 ms, correct? ReaComp's lookahead (or pre-comp as they call it) goes up to 250 ms (I think you might even be able to type in higher values, but that's where the slider ends by default), but you probably shouldn't automate that.
 

WhiteNoiz

';...;'
That's an awesome impression! I think you totally nailed the lowend. When I put the 200hz lowpass filter on it, I would believe it's from the soundtrack if you told me that's where it's from. I think the only thing missing is the highfrenquency sharp transients that I talked about in my previous post to accentuate the bass. You've got clicky stuff in there, but it's not in sync with the low bass synth, and when you put a 200hz highpass filter on it, you can no longer tell when the bass synth plays because it's missing that brrrrzzt sound in the highend that makes the shape of the low sinewaves audible in the higher frequencies.
Well, it's possible the bass parts have layers in a lot of frequencies. I did keep them separate (and didn't really sync them). Most bass sounds are high cut, so that's why the buzz gets lost. The high stuff is separate in general. I tried to selectively boost some mid-highs for the lower sounds, but yeah, it's cut a lot in the highs. It needed quite a bit of EQing to try to match it tbh. Maybe you could also use something that generates harmonics or an octaver or something? Then saturate only those frequencies. Or duplicate the channel, split the frequencies and use different processing.

Also, maybe try fuzz on the guitars.

Attached a take on the kick thingy too, check the attachment.

Mostly trying to emulate the process, not the exact sound. Some things to note: Use mostly ER on the verb and create the movement with delays, flanging, phasing, auto-panning, chorus, gating etc instead. Hefty amounts of EQ (and better matching). The noise, distorted layer on the pad uses bit reduction; it adds a nice crunchiness. You'd mostly need heavier modulated bass I guess.
 

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Living Fossil

Senior Member
I couldn't find a second compressor in my collection yet that I could compare against ReaComp, they usually don't go down to 0 ms attack or can't sidechain.
If it comes to such applications, Klanghelm DC8C is hard to beat. Just don't forget to turn the saturation off.
The only problem of DC8C is that it doesn't cost much more... :)

 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
Sorry for the late reply guys! I saw your messages and had hoped I can combine my answer with another audio snippit to post, but I got stuck on other stuff, so no progress to show yet, sorry.
I'm having a bit of CPU load trouble with my template too. All the fat stacks of FX plugins weigh heavily on my poor old quadcore and make working in the project a bit sluggish. I haven't found a good workaround yet, I'll probably have to start freezing tracks, which I strongly dislike doing and normally try to avoid at all cost.

Maybe you could also use something that generates harmonics or an octaver or something? Then saturate only those frequencies
I've had good results with using the Ozone Multiband Exciter for things like that. It's one of my favorite plugins.

You've nailed that tight kick sound!

Also, maybe try fuzz on the guitars.
Good idea, will do! You mean something like the R47 (RAT emulation) plugin? Where does it go in the chain, before the amp like an overdrive, or as replacement for the preamp? Combined with overdrive or without?


Also, Brainworx bx Subsynth is a great plugin!
Looking at an old project of mine, I rediscovered a plugin that I forgot I had:


It seems to work pretty well, but in one usecase where I tried out all the different variants of similar plugins that I have, I actually liked one of the reaper stock ones the most. Iirc it was called "Bass Manager/Booster".
 
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MartinH.

Senior Member
If it comes to such applications, Klanghelm DC8C is hard to beat. Just don't forget to turn the saturation off.
The only problem of DC8C is that it doesn't cost much more... :)

Thanks for the recommendation! I haven't tested it yet, but I downloaded "molot" today, because I saw it recommended somewhere and Mick Gordon used a Russian synthesizer on the soundtrack. I'm curious what kind of color this thing will add:

 

WhiteNoiz

';...;'
Good idea, will do! You mean something like the R47 (RAT emulation) plugin? Where does it go in the chain, before the amp like an overdrive, or as replacement for the preamp? Combined with overdrive or without?
Haven't used that particular one, but yeah, something in "pedal" form. Guess that will also depend on the rest of your processing and the source sound. Add it wherever it seems to fit best. Experiment. I'd probably say before the amp and as a replacement to the overdrive, but nothing's stopping you from trying different combos and see what you get (you could even use both overdrive + fuzz or filtering or saturation). You can try something like Distorque Facebender; I've found it handy (it's free). If you don't have some other accessible replacement that is or just wanna try things out.