How to design a bass


While searching for a complete in-depth tutorial on how to create a bass sound, I figured it would be nice to have a threat on the subject here. A bit like this one one kick drums Kick drums & basslines from sine oscillators, LFOs and envelopes. I am not looking for a specific bass sound (plenty of tutorials), but more for a getting started guide that gives inspiration for experimentation.

Since I would like this to be an interactive threat, I have made a list of questions - with or without answers - instead of just facts. If you have anything to add, please do comment, I will update the post accordingly. Extra questions are welcome as well of course.

If your source of knowledge is anything else than your own wisdom, please add the source.


What does a typical bass sound look like on a spectrum analyzer?

The harmonic content of a ‘natural’ electric bass consists of all harmonics, up to a certain frequency.

What techniques for bass generation techniques do exist?

The simplest, most basic bass wave is a sine wave. This wave can be augmented by other waves, or other techniques that add harmonic content to add some bite and character. Examples of these other techniques are distortion and FM.

Subtractive Synthesis

Wave stacking

Wave augmentation

FM Synthesis

What would a schematic overview of these techniques look like (SOS style)?


Which waveforms should I use?

Either a single waveform or multiple waveforms can be used. When stacking waves you can tune them an octave or a fifth apart. Some potential combinations are:

  • Sine
  • Saw
  • Square with different pulse widths
  • Stacked squares
  • Sine/tri + saw/square
  • Square + saw

How should I tune these waves?

If stacked, detuning the waves slightly - maximum a few cents - can create a thicker sound.

Does the upper part of the spectrum need a stereo sound? How can this be done?

Which VCO’s are most suited?

Judging by the broad range of suggestions on the www, I conclude it doesn’t really matter as long as the basic waveforms are available.

  • Vult Bleak
  • SL EV3
  • SL Saws
  • Lindenberg Woldemar
  • EvenVCO
  • PalmLoop
  • BogAudio FM-OP
  • Valley Dexter
  • Valley Terrorform


Which techniques can be used to enrich the original wave?

Which wave shaping units work well with bass sounds?

  • Vult Debriatus

Where should wave augmentation be placed in the signal chain? Before the filter? After the envelope?


Which filters are most suited for bass sounds?

  • SL Stairway


Are different envelope generators and other modulation sources used for every wave?

Which envelope type is used where and what are its characteristics? With type I mean convex, concave, linear.


Amplitude envelope


Do you use the same envelope for cutoff and resonance?

Filter cutoff envelope

Filter cutoff modulation

  • Audio signal from the highest square wave.

Filter resonance envelope

Filter resonance modulation

Pulse Width

PW envelope

PW modulation


Pitch envelope


Is it a good idea to add a little bit of noise to get more attack and fullness?


Abbreviations: SL = Squinky Labs


wonderful topic

to me the most clear way to achieve punchy basses is FM, bogaudio fm op and the valley Dexter is my bassic bass set up


fm op and Dexter are great but have you tried Terrorform? It’s one of the Dexter operators seperated out but much more extensively featured.

edit for clarity and also to say that video is interesting.


I saw it but I not use it yet, I m reading the manual , could be used the second Voct input as fm to rise the pitch?

I found out that feed FM Op FM input with Seven Seas using complex wavetable some octave up can give very modern bassline

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As far as I remember both inputs are identical. I’d tend to use a separate adder to combine two pitch values myself. It’s definitely correct to read the manual first, some of the functionality is very complex.

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sure it will work, try feeding the second Voct with a fast envelope and you will see

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here’s more or less what he was doing, with FM-Op

2020-11-18.vcv (74.1 KB)

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I admit that I don’t really know how FM is supposed to work on the Terrorform but I’m sure there’s a separate fm input.

It actually has not just one or two but rather four separate FM inputs at the bottom left and right of the panel. :grinning:


Nysthi also have a few operators and dx 7 inspired things. TZOP and TZEN are the most recent but there are also the micro operators and DX7 Envelope.

and the one I use all the time:

edit: for some reason the micro operators look much wider than they are; 1hp wide.

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Hello to everyone on this thread, I have been making bass with some of these methods above and the only way I have got any movement in the track is by using Frozen Wastelands BPM LFOs, I know I am missing a trick here. Would sequencing and quantising the bass modules give it some rhythm and irregularity. Otherwise I just end up with a drone but that gets a bit soul destroying; when I am trying to put some rhythm into the track. Any help much appreciated. Nearly Christmas, whoopee!

Really interesting thread! Got me messing about making probably the world’s worst additive bass patch ever.

Really Bad Additive Bass.vcv (28.3 KB)

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‘FOR a few chortles more’ the hamster also produces additive bass, the hamster should have a show on TV. Thanks I’ll see whose bass is worse, mine or yours! Let’s have a bad bass off! Merry Christmas to all hamster kind, stay safe.

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