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How to Make 808 Basses in Serum – A Step-by-Step Tutorial

How to Make 808 Basses in Serum VST

The booming 808 basses have transcended Trap and made their way into pop music, becoming a staple in modern music production. Originating from the Roland TR-808 drum machine, the iconic 808 bass sound has become synonymous with deep, resonant low-end that can be felt as much as heard.

This distinctive sound has found its way into a variety of genres, from hip-hop and EDM to R&B and even chart-topping pop hits. The versatility and impact of the 808 bass make it an essential element for producers aiming to create tracks that resonate with today’s listeners.

Achieving the perfect 808 bass requires more than just a simple sine wave; it involves precise modulation and sound shaping to get that punch and rumble that cuts through the mix.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to use Xfer Records’ Serum, a powerful and intuitive software synthesizer, to make those signature 808 basses that fit perfectly into your tracks.

Here’s our step-by-step tutorial on how to craft the perfect 808 bass in xFer Serum:

Step 1: Setting Up the Oscillator

Serum 808 Tutorial OSC Settings

  1. Select a Sine Wave: Start by setting OSC A to a sine wave. In Serum, click where it says “Default” to open the menu with the wavetables. Serum synth comes with 144 factory wavetables, but for this task, we’ll use a simple sine wave found in the “Basic Shapes” under “Analog.”
  2. Adjust the Octave: Set the “OCT” value to -1. This adjustment ensures that if you play the bass on a MIDI keyboard, you won’t need to play too low on the keys.

Step 2: Configuring the Volume Envelope (ENV1)

Serum 808 Tutorial Envelope Settings

  1. Sustain and Attack: ENV1 is the default volume envelope. Turn the sustain all the way down, as a real bass drum doesn’t sustain its note. Set the attack to just above zero milliseconds to avoid clicking sounds.
  2. Decay and Release: The decay is crucial as it determines the length of your kick drum sound. Set the release to under 20 milliseconds for a short tail.

Step 3: Pitch Envelope (ENV2)

  1. Envelope Settings: Select ENV2 and configure the envelope with these settings: Attack = 10 ms, Hold = 0 ms, Decay = 135 ms, Sustain = 0%, and Release = 15 ms.
  2. Modulation Assignment: Drag the cross in ENV2’s title to the “CRS” field in OSC A to link the modulation. This controls the pitch modulation essential for the 808 sound.

Step 4: Adjusting the Modulation Matrix

Serum 808 Tutorial Matrix Settings

  1. Matrix Setup: Navigate to the Modulation Matrix (third tab between “FX” and “Global”). Here, you can adjust the modulation amount and direction. You should see the link we created, with ENV2 modulating “A CoarsePitch.”
  2. Set Amount: Adjust the “Amount” to around 20%. Click the double arrow under “Type” to change the modulation direction if necessary.

Step 5: Set Monophonic Mode

  1. Voicing Settings: To ensure that the bass notes don’t overlap, set Serum to “monophonic” mode. This is done in the “Voicing” section at the bottom right by enabling the “Mono” field. This prevents muddiness and keeps the bass tight during fast note sequences.

Step 6: Applying the Filter

  1. Low-pass Filter: To keep the bass sound in the low frequencies, activate the filter and leave it at the default “MG Low 12” setting.
  2. Cutoff and Drive: Set the “Cutoff” to around 300 Hz to cap the high frequencies. Increase the “Drive” to 40% and “Fat” to 25% to thicken the bass sound.

Step 7: Adding Distortion

Serum 808 Tutorial Distortion Settings

  1. Distortion Effect: 808 basses often sound great on small speakers due to heavy distortion and saturation. In Serum’s FX section, choose “Distortion” from the ten available effects.
  2. Adjust Drive: Activate the effect and gradually increase the “Drive” knob until you achieve the desired sound.

With these steps, you’ll be able to create a powerful and punchy 808 bass using Serum. By following this guide, you can craft an 808 that not only rumbles through any track but also stands out with clarity and impact.

For even more inspiration and to expand your sonic palette, consider investing in the 808 Serum Presets by Hex Loops.

These presets provide a fantastic range of ready-to-use Serum 808 sounds that will seamlessly integrate into your productions, giving you the edge you need to create professional-sounding tracks.

Also read: What Makes Xfer Serum One Of The Best Software Synthesizers

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