In this lesson, you will get many essential tips how to make a sub bass in FL Studio with the 3x Osc & Sytrus. The 3x Osc & Sytrus are native FL Studio plugins, so you should always be able to access them.
What is a sub bass?
A sub bass is the lowest effective frequency of a sound, usually between 60 and 30 Hz, that you will typically find in kicks and/or basses.
How to make a sub bass with the 3x Osc
You can easily make a sub bass by using the 3x Osc synthesizer. To open it, click “Add” in the FL Studio menu and select “3x Osc”. Then, make sure to select sine waves for all oscillators and set the “Coarse” of the first oscillator to 0. For oscillator 2 and 3, set the Coarse to 12 and 19 respectively, but for now disable them by closing the “Mix level”.
Understanding your synthesizer is absolutely critical if you want to take your productions seriously. That’s why; start now with the Sound Design for Beginners guide by clicking this link.
Play a note
Next, go to the Channel Rack and right-click on the 3x Osc channel to select the “Piano Roll“. Then, draw a 1-beat or 2-beat note around G3. This can be anywhere from E3 to let’s say C4. Sometimes, it can be E2 to C3 depending on your synthesizer octave settings.
Optionally, go to the Playlist and drop the Pattern with your note on there. Now, press the “Play” button to listen to your sound. Thereby, if you don’t have adequate speakers, you will not/barely hear a sub bass. So, don’t follow this lesson on poor speakers.
Shape the sub bass
Then, open the 3x Osc again. On the 3x Osc, click the gear icon, select the “Envelope” tab and then the “Volume” tab. Now simply fully open the “Hold”, close all other parameters and set the “Rel” to about 4 steps. This will give the sub bass a more natural motion. Learn more about envelopes in the Sound Design for Beginners guide.
A sub bass is very deep and you can barely hear it loudly. Rather, you feel its presence by the pressure.
Send your sub bass to the Mixer
Next, send the 3x Osc to a free Mixer Track (e.g. Insert 1) by giving the “Target mixer track” box a number. Then, open the Mixer, select the right track (e.g. Insert 1) and use one of the empty slots to add an analyzer. For example, pick the EQUO or Parametric EQ 2 which contain analyzers. An analyzer will show exactly which frequencies are being played and how loud they are.
Generally, don’t make a sub bass lower than the fundamental frequency of a sound. If you go below ~35 Hz, it will not help your mix.
Create a richer bass experience
Theoretically, a sub bass only consists of the lowest frequency. Hence it’s name “sub”. However, practically you can add bass frequencies on top of it to create a richer bass experience. This way, having multiple musical frequencies that go together are called “harmonics”. Adding harmonics to a sub bass will give it more fullness and heaviness.
Now, if you’re currently struggling to understand what harmonics are or how musical notes work, don’t worry. You can simply start with The Ultimate Melody Guide by clicking this link. It will teach you all the essential music-theory basics that you need to know, without any unnecessary over-complications.
How to get a fuller bass
To create a fuller bass, open the 3x Osc and use the remaining oscillators to simply add them. Of course, just use sine waves and Coarse values of 12 and 19, as we’ve selected in the beginning of this lesson.
Then, open their corresponding Mix levels a little bit. You see, each oscillator on the 3x Osc has a Mix level function that you need to determine the relationship between them. Thereby, it’s key to find a good balance between all the bass harmonics. That’s also why: always use an analyzer.
The benefit of sine waves
By using sine waves like this, you can generate single frequencies per oscillator, level them, and put them on top of each other, almost manually. The 3x Osc now plays three bass harmonics: the first, second and third. But if you want more than that, you’re out of luck. The 3x Osc only has 3 oscillators that you can use. Of course, there are strategies around it, but for now, this is all you need to know.
Look at your sub bass on an oscilloscope
Additionally, you can also add an extra analyzer, called an oscilloscope, to look at the waveform. Therefore, go to the Mixer, click on an empty slot and select “Wave Candy”. Wave Candy is an analyzer tool included in FL Studio. When you use it, make sure to select the oscilloscope, preferably with the slowest update rate, so that the entire waveform will fit on the screen.
How to know what to look for?
Now, play your sub bass and look on the oscilloscope. Thereby, knowing what the waveform of the sub bass looks like is very important. It should be tight and centered for it to sound balanced and powerful in a mix. This allows for an “as loud as possible” bass in your song, without eating up unnecessary headroom. That’s why; if your sub bass is not centered and symmetrical, you have some work to do to fix that.
Typically, unmodified synthesized waveforms are naturally centered and tight. Again, learn more about the essential basics of synthesis by getting the Sound Design for Beginners guide by clicking this link.
How to make a sub bass with Sytrus
An even more powerful way to make sub basses is by using Sytrus. Open Sytrus by clicking “Add” in the FL Studio menu and select “Sytrus”. On the Sytrus, begin with a default preset. If you start with the “Default” preset instead of the “Default subtractive” preset, the knobs in the Matrix are already set correctly.
Next, click the “OP1” tab and set the “SH” (shape) slider to a sine wave by fully moving it down. Then, make sure to click on the “OSC” tab of OP1 (the tab is located to the right a little bit) where you can literally draw harmonics.
Thereby, each bar in the field represents the next harmonic, starting with the lowest on the left. The first bar is the lowest fundamental frequency of the sound. Use it to produce the sub bass by simply moving the bar all the way to the top. Then, half-open the next bar to add a 2nd harmonic. This way, add more harmonics by moving each next bar up, of course depending on your desired outcome.
Listen to your bass
To hear your bass, draw a note around G2 on the Piano Roll. Again, open the Piano Roll by right-clicking on the Sytrus channel in the Channel Rack. Press the Play button and look on your analyzer. Thereby, watch if the lowest frequency nests around 35 to 60 Hz. If not, put the note an octave higher or lower. When the sound is pitched correctly, go back to the Sytrus and draw additional harmonics on top of the sub bass. By that, keep the first harmonic the loudest.
Use analyzers and your ears
Now, the example shown in the video is for demonstration purposes only. In reality, you will have to find a good balance between all the harmonics you wish to use. To do that, you can look on analyzers to see the shape, position and amplitude of all the harmonics involved. You may want to match that with a kick/bass you like. For example, from your favorite artist.
Pick the strategy that works for YOU
So, being able to add many harmonics on top of the sub bass, allows you to create a heavy, tight, loud and complete bass to get a powerful song. Therefore, use these effective strategies for your kick and/or bass building. Thereby, there is no better or worse method. It all depends on what you want to create, how it sounds and which strategy works best for you.
WARNING: don’t let two or more (sub) basses collide in your mix. This will eat up too much headroom, creates musical imbalances and ultimately crushes your song.
Finalize your sub bass by making it a sample
Once your bass is ready, you can make it a sample, so that you can use it in your projects. To do that, go to the Master track on the Mixer and open Edison on an empty slot. Then, use Edison to record your bass sound.
Therefore, simply hit the “Record” button in Edison and press the “Play” button in FL Studio. When the sub bass waveform is visible, press “Stop”. Then, use Edison to normalize and clean up your sample, so that only the sub bass waveform is maximally present.
Finally, click the floppy disk icon to save your bass sample to your drive. Store it in your library and it is now ready to be used in your projects.
Your music is merely a reflection of your skills
If you found this lesson challenging to follow, don’t worry. Simply start at the beginning and first focus on the essential basics of music production.
You can easily do that by getting my well-received books. They’re specifically designed for beginners and new music producers who want to take a quick shortcut. If that’s what you also want, just click the link below and start immediately with the topic you wish to learn more about.
I’ll see you there.
(Music producer, author & creator of Screech House)