How to create a bass drop

Ever want to make those bass drops that you so often hear when you are watching movie trailers? The ones used to create some dramatic effect?

Such as . . .

Feel free to download and use that one but here’s a way to make these on the fly.

My go-to platform to create sound design is Pro Tools and I’ll share my way of doing it using a production session for Kygo – Firestone. Rest assured that the same effect can be created easily in almost every DAW.

When determining the part where you’ll need your bass drop make sure you select the length and add a couple of milliseconds to give the tail of the drop some room. See how it stretches slightly passed the bar mark?

Next, you need a sine wave. In most DAWs you can search under plugins and try to find something that is described as a ‘tone generator’ or ‘signal generator’. Once you have opened up the plug-in make sure it’ll produce a sine wave signal (the smooth, rounded wave-form) and set the frequency to anywhere around 100 Hz or lower. For this example I listened to the last note of the music that comes right before the bass drop to make sure that the drop starts in the same key as the music.

Add a tape stop effect. I have used Varifi (which is an AudioSuite plug-in that comes with Pro Tools) but there are plenty of free plug-ins available on the internet that will do just as well. In most DAWs there’s usually an effect like this included. When the effect is applied the tone that we’ve generated before will start at 96 Hz and will gradually drop down until it is inaudible.

The meat of any bass drop is in the sub frequencies (roughly anywhere below 60 Hz). But with a tape stop effect applied that’s exactly where the volume starts to drop away. Up next is (in my example) a plugin that adds sub harmonics to a signal. Most Waves Bundles come with a plug-in called R-Bass. Open up this or a similar plug-in, drag the frequency slider all the way to the left and hit ‘process’. As you can see and hear, around 32 Hz there are harmonics added that boost the volume.

It is standard for any terrestrial transmitters to cut off any frequencies below 40hz. This means that anything you’ll produce in your studio, with better speakers that have better low-end than most, you’ll hear and feel the sub boom more strongly than plenty of listeners will. To make sure that even the people listening on the tiniest / crappiest speakers will ‘get’ the effect, add some saturation. Otherwise known as distortion, saturation takes all the frequency information in a signal and will add higher harmonic information to it. In essence this will make your sub boom sound slightly brighter . . . but this is what we want. Higher harmonics added to a sub frequency will trick the ear into believing that there is more ‘low end’ that you can hear without it actually being there.

Boom… et voilá. On to the next effect.

The trick with creating your own sound design is to NOT try it out when you are under any time constraints. Maybe you can find 10 minutes before you start your Monday workload and try this out until you are happy with the result. Once you repeat the process, it’ll be become part of your ‘bag of tricks’.


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