Are you betwixt on boosting the bass for your next song or beat? Maybe you don’t know how to write a bassline. Does every song need bass even? In this article, we’ll look at how bass impacts a track and if/when you should add some.
Does Every Beat Need Bass?
A beat isn’t required to have a bass part but, depending on the genre, the track may feel empty or weak without one. The track’s genre will strongly influence how important bass will be for the final mix. Furthermore, the way that you add bass will differ as well.
Beats done in the style of hip hop (including lo-fi), will often feature a bass instruments. But it doesn’t have to be a bass guitar. Synthesizers and 808 samples are very common stand-ins.
Does My Song Need Bass?
You probably want some bass in your song if it’s expected of the style. But you don’t need a dedicated bass instrument if you don’t want it.
In calmer indie styles, bass is less necessary. Some tracks (both songs and instrumentals) will be devoid of bass instruments entirely and will instead focus on harmonic instruments like guitar or piano. Genres where bass is less common include:
- Indie folk,
- Acoustic guitar Lo-Fi (think Shiloh Dynasty),
- Piano-based pop
Most music includes some kind of bass element, but that does not mean you have to add a bass guitar to your mix. There are several other ways to add bass, such as:
- Piano (if it’s an acoustic piano track, you can easily fill in the lower register with the instrument’s bass register),
- 808 (many styles of music simply duplicate the kick drum notes with an 808 synth, with the notes
Why Does Bass Make Songs Better?
Bass frequencies have a neurological impact on humans. Research studies have shown that low-frequency rhythmic sounds can cause the neurons in your brain to synchronize with the frequency of the music. One study found that the brain also responds quicker to bass frequencies than to treble.
In short, our brains are hardwired to match a beat and we are naturally prone to doing it with low frequency noises.
That means adding bass to your music can actually entice listeners to stay and synchronize with your music.
Should The Bassline Follow The Melody?
No, most basslines follow the harmony (chord progression) rather than the melody. At least, they do in modern genres like pop, rock, and hip hop. Bass instruments are more likely to double the melody in classical music.
Your bass will most effectively support the rest of your track when it:
- Keeps or complements the rhythm of the drums, and
- Follows the tonic notes of the chord progression, or
- Creates a countermelody that doesn’t distract from the rest of the music
Bass is meant as a support unit in most music. It ties together the harmonic content of the chords (guitar, piano, etc) and the rhythmic content of the percussion (drum kit).
You can still create a countermelody with your bass, but it should not clash with the harmony or rhythm. A solid bassline should not over-complicate the pulse of the drum beat.
Likewise, a bass riff that is too busy may muddy the rhythm of the entire song or distract from the lead vocal. After all, bass frequencies command a lot of attention from our neurons already.
Does LoFi Have Bass?
Yes, most LoFi music includes bass in the mix. But it may not use the same kind of bass instruments as you would find in other forms of modern hip hop.
Styles like cloud rap and trap lean heavily into aggressive 808 bass samples. LoFi is meant to sound more laid back, so a super buzzy 808 may sound out of place.
Of course, LoFi is more than a single genre and crosses into many different styles. LoFi can sound closer to pop, jazz, hip hop, R&B, or even classical depending on the artist.
LoFi tracks closer to the classical end of the spectrum will have less emphasis on bass than those on the hip hop side.
What Kind of Bass Do You Use in LoFi?
For a LoFi beat or song, a good bass part can be played on a:
- Bass guitar (or a VST of one), especially emulating a jazz style of playing
- Sine bass (any synthesizer can produce a sine wave; set your synth to monophonic mode though)
- Double bass (or a VST of one) (if using an orchestral sample library, go for a “pizzicato” bass preset)
- 808 (but a soft one without a lot of distortion, perhaps tone back the attack if you load it into a synth’s sampler)
- Acoustic bass (or a VST equivalent),
You can also mix and match these options. For example, an acoustic or double bass can sound quite nice with a sine sub-bass layered with it. A restrained 808 sample, when loaded into a synth sampler, works well with a slow-attack, long-release sine.
Bass provides support to the chords and bridges the harmony to the rhythm. It also has a neurological effect on your listeners. Because of all that, your music may be received more positively if it includes some kind of bass part.
But not all music styles use the same low-end instruments. Soft or folky songs can get away with no bass at all. Use your own creative discretion when determining the best way to accompany your music.
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