There’s a general rule in music production that low bass frequencies should be kept in mono. This is still largely true as it provides compatibility with multi-speaker club systems and prevents the stylus from jumping off the record if your music gets cut to vinyl.
However, future bass, house and drum and bass genres all often feature super wide sounding stereo bass sounds, so how’s it done?
The trick? Layer your bass
The real trick to this is in layering tracks.
In the past I’ve used up to 4 separate layers to get a bass sound to properly sit in the mix. Most of the time this is unnecessary and 2 layers is enough. Layer 1 will be mono and contain all the low bass and sub frequencies, layer 2 will be stereo and contain upper bass, mid and high frequencies.
Let’s look at how to quickly set this up.
Step 1: design your bass sound
The type, style or genre is up to you. This tutorial is about production not sound design so I’ll let you decide on the sound and the midi pattern that plays it.
Step 2: duplicate the whole bass track
The first track will be the mono sub bass and the duplicate will be the stereo bass.
Step 3: change track one to mono
On the first track put a utility plugin and in the width section, pull the 100% down to 0%. The track is now in mono.
Step 4: add an EQ to the mono track
Put an EQ8 after the utility, right click on the top of the plugin and select ‘oversampling’ from the drop down menu.
Choose a low pass filter from eq band 8 and bring the frequency down to the bass region. The sweet spot for the frequency will depend on the sound, tone and key of the bass line and you’ll have to use your ears (adjusting both mono and stereo tracks) to find it but somewhere around 100hz is a good starting point.
Step 5: add an EQ to the stereo track
Step 6: add a stereo effect and/or width processor to the stereo bass track
We now need to add a stereo effect and/or width processor to the stereo bass track. There’s a long list of plugins that can create this and you really need to experiment with one or with a chain of effects to fit the style you’re going for.
Any modulation effect like a chorus or flanger can add stereo modulation, a very short reverb or delay could add a sense of space. For even more width we could use utility, vinyl distortion or frequency shifter to push the stereo image out super wide.
One of my favourites is the stereo enhancer from PSP’s Stereo Pack.
Here we’re using ableton’s frequency shifter with the wide function enabled and spread at 1.37Hz.
Now you have 2 channels, sub bass in mono on track 1 and super wide stereo bass on track 2.
Playing both channels together should sound like the whole bass line is bursting out of the side of the speakers but actually all the power in the bass is safely in the middle with the kick drum.
You can now experiment adjusting the frequency slightly on both eq’s as well as the volume of both tracks.
You could try adding saturation/distortion to the stereo track to make it more aggressive. You could also try shifting the midi on this track up an octave or adding a second oscillator to the synth with the pitch shifted up.