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Tips for Programming Bass Lines (Part 2)

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Tips for Programming Bass Lines — Part 2
Tips for Programming Bass Lines — Part 2 - youtube Video
Matt: Hey, what’s going on, guys? This is Matt Weiss, and I am here with a special guest. This is my good friend, and amazing producer, Samik Symphony.

Samik: Amazing?

Matt: Amazing!

Samik: Wow!

Matt: And we are going to talk about a little follow up to the last video, which is making your program bass sound convincing, and when I say convincing, what I mean by that is —

Samik: Making your fake shit sound real.

Matt: Making — Yes. [laughs]

Samik: Making your fake shit sound real, that’s what we’re into.

Matt: But not just that, it’s also having the feel.

Samik: Right. Super important.

Matt: Yeah. So, well, what the heck? I mean, you’ve played this bass line 80 times.

Samik: 80 times. But it’s all good! Let’s just play it.

[bass and drums]

Samik: You’ve got to have your head nod right. If you nod —

Matt: I’m a very white person.

Samik: No, I saw, I was like, “Oh, okay, cool. That’s how Matt’s going to do it. Alright.”

Matt: So let’s — first of all, when you’re figuring out your bass part, what to you is like, the most important, quintessential thing to get right, right off the bat?

Samik: That shit’s got to sound dope. That’s the real of it. It’s got to sound dope. If your shit don’t sound dope, then it’s not going to work. It’s not going to sound as good.

So Omnisphere, or like, Komplete Scarbee Bass are two basses that sound real, because they’re really sensitive to the touch on keys.

Matt: Yeah, they have different articulations based on how hard you hit it, but I mean, that still applies to things like Massive and stuff like that.

Samik: Right, yeah, you can do that with synth basses too.

Matt: Yeah, it’s like, I — when I’m — I tend to use Massive a lot when I’m doing bass line stuff. I find that having a good keyboard with good weighting helps to make it still have feel. It’s not going to be believable, it’s going to sound like a synth, but…

Samik: Right, exactly. Weighted, semi-weighted keys or something like that. If you’ve got an Axiom Pro for example, which we have here, super dope keyboard. Very sensitive, so.

Matt: So let’s talk about the idea of perfection, and what that really means in a record.

Samik: Um, perfection, I mean, I think it’s kind of more — for a record like this, it’s all about groove, and there’s no set rules in how you have to have things. You don’t have to have really quantized drums, or it doesn’t have to be perfect. I mean, having mistakes in your playing sometimes even adds to what you’re playing, so it’s all about feel, especially for a beat like this or a song like this. We made the bass — I made sure the bass line has that kind of a feel. A loose, non-quantized feel.

Matt: Right. Let’s just do a quick demo. Let’s play it quantized, and then play it without the quantization.

Samik: Okay, so this — let me grab this part. Grab it from here. Pause.

[bass and drums]

Matt: You beat me to it.

Samik: Yeah, sorry!

Matt: Alright, well this trackball is not working.

Samik: Not working, so you might want to use that.

Matt: Give me this. Alright, let’s take the quantize off and now play it.

Samik: And now life is so much better!

[bass and drums]

Samik: And this helps! If you’re doing this, it makes — it’s got to be off the beat a little bit. You know, the bass line is a little bit off the beat. It’s got swing to it. Swing is super important.

Matt: I mean, it’s sort of — that’s where the heart of it all kind of comes from, and it’s one of those things where it’s not a huge difference, but it’s a pretty profound difference at the same time.

Samik: Yeah, yeah, I mean, definitely. Quantizing things sucks. Don’t do it. Stay away from it. It’s bad. Bad for you.

Matt: Yeah, I mean, not even if you’re really doing most four on the floor stuff.

Samik: Yeah, no, fuck that! Non-quantizing shit, that’s where it’s at!

Matt: But how do you really feel? [laughs]

Samik: I mean, I’ll tell you how I feel about it. We don’t have the time, though.

Matt: I want to pick out some of the articulations, because you talked about messing up, and there’s actually, in the second bar, you kind of —

Samik: We kept it.

Matt: Yeah, we just kept it.

[drums and bass]

Matt: That really short note, you had meant to play the whole thing, but it ended up — and there’s actually — you can articulate bass notes that way, and you can even do it without making the note ring at all, and it’s something that kind of acts like a little percussive ghost note kind of a vibe.

Samik: Yeah, this goes back to what I was saying before. You know, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You know what I’m saying? Like, something like that, you could probably — you could probably hear somebody doing that in a band. It just adds to it.

Matt: So, there are some other things that you were doing in there too. One thing that I noticed is at the very end, you dragged your finger across the keyboard. What’s up with that?


Samik: Okay, so a lot of times, since I don’t have access to a live bass player all the time or immediately, is I’ll play it enough so it sounds like a live player would do a gliss. You know, would take their finger and slide it up or down the fretboard of the bass. So what I did was this one section on the seventh bar, I believe… We’ll go into that.

[bass and drums]

Samik: This does a couple of things. The first thing it does is basically, you’re going back to the groove, the beginning groove of this, which is this. So it acts as a transitional thing.

[bass and drums]

Samik: It adds, like a…

[bass and drums]

Samik: Adds more of like a — like this is coming back to the main part again.

Two, it sounds cool as shit. And when bass players do it, it sounds even better. Like, when you see somebody do that at a show or whatever, you’re like, “Damn, I felt that part.” And that adds more feeling to the bass loop that we have going here.

Matt: Yeah, I mean, you work a lot of that stuff in. I mean, sometimes you do the little pickups where it’s like — I talked about this in the last video. Like, you want to do a quick demo of that?

Samik: So yeah, sometimes, I’ll even take the pitch bend wheel, and I’ll basically bend the note on the first note, or I’ll play…


But I’ll play more together. So that adds to the feel and the push, and what it would sound like if a bass player was actually plucking the string of a bass.

Matt: It’s like the difference between like…




Samik: Right, exactly.

Matt: Subtle, but it’s…

Samik: Is that like, let me clear my throat?

Matt: Aha, aha! Whatever. No, it was not.

Matt: Yeah, and the other thing that I thought was cool was you sort of — we talked about this before filming it, but you came to a spot where you were like, “I’m not totally sure what to do in this, but I know you wanted notes there.” You knew that. So what did you do?

Samik: Uh, one of the things — one of the techniques I do is when you don’t — [laughs] I can’t.

Matt: Sorry.

Samik: No, that’s alright. It might help, I don’t know. When I’m doing something like that, basically, if I’m looking for a filler, one of the techniques I use is a — I just octave that shit. So I’ll take a…


And I’ll do that instead of…


Hitting it all on the same run.


What this does is it adds more dynamic, it also adds — you know, it breaks it up, so it’s very much easier to — if you’re not having, you know, an easy time with a section, you can always just octave something, and that’ll lead you to another train of thought to maybe, “Okay, how can I finish this part?”

Matt: And that’s not just a cheap trick. Like, when I’m playing the bass, the octave on the bass is just you skip one string and go up two frets. It’s very easy to hold and hit an octave, so a lot of the times, bass players do that.

Samik: Yup.

Matt: Yeah, that’s dope.

Samik: It’s good filler if you want to call it filler.

Matt: I wouldn’t even call it filler, it’s just —

Samik: It’s just good technique.

Matt: Yeah, it’s just good, colorful playing, I think.

Samik: Yeah, don’t sweat the technique.

Matt: Don’t sweat it. Anyway, so yeah man, I appreciate you stopping by and dropping a little knowledge. I am the whitest person you’ll ever meet.

Samik: Dropping some knowledge bombs.

Matt: Dropping some knowledge bombs.

Samik: Right, can’t say bomb on the internet.

Matt: Hi guys, we’re dropping some knowledge bombs. [laughs] You have a sample pack?

Samik: I do have a sample pack coming soon. February 17th for those of you who are into samples, so I did something called “I’m a Problem.” It’s “I’m Opera-oblem,” and it’s all Opera based samples, and it’s dope as shit.

Matt: I have insider information, and it is — it’s really cool.

Samik: Yeah, so I’m looking forward to having you guys listen to that, and I actually use a lot of these techniques in some of those basses that I play on that sample pack, so.

Matt: Alright, well cool. Thank you guys for joining us so much. I hope that you learned something, I hope that you picked up a few new techniques that you can incorporate into your stuff, and I’ll catch you next time!

Samik: Yeah!

Matt: You’re just taking my moves? You don’t have your own sign off move? Alright, we’re out!


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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