Bass Music - Sound design & Arrangement

Whatever “bass music” is considered to be, I’m here for it.

Pole’s 1 helped me re-read backwards from Basic Channel and Chain Reaction to roots dub, esp the studio works of Scratch Perry and King Tubby, and come full circle to Rhythm&Sound even with the artists. I had LP1 on vinyl, I think it was the literally heaviest 12" I ever owned. I don’t know if it’s Bass Music capitalized, but definitely bass music :level_slider:

Also bring me to London real dubstep sound anytime with Tempa, Hyperdub, DMZ etc. etc.

Mala will refresh your memory

and even closer maybe to this “Bass Music” description given above starting from Eprom and others, the one and only Zomby!!

Indeed, where were u in '92?

For what it’s worth, I have discovered that I tend to add WEN (e.g. EPHEM:ERA; Commotion EP; Time II Think; Carve + Gaze) and Visionist (e.g. I’m Fine parts I and II) too to the playlists In which I have Eprom.

Thanks for good list @crunchydrums, many unknown and interesting names in there (e.g. Bleep Bloop, Tsuruda).


keen for radio show/DJ links…
highly recommend Benji B BBC Radio 1 show

Always admired Lil Silva’s work. His melodic vocal tracks are really solid, but his funky bass tracks are my favorite:

Lil SIlva - V1

Lil SIlva - Drumatic

I agree wholeheartedly that Noer The Boy should be more of a house-hold name. I still return to his unbelievable “SPILLEDNOISE EP” with some regularity. It is so wonky and knocks hard on the brain-pan…

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i’m learning so much from this post thank you all!
i’m currently digging egoless who maybe you all know it very well, but as new with this genre, i think is pretty fantastic.

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Lots of research in front of me now. Fun!

That said - looking at the title of the thread - anyone want to take a stab on identifying common attributes in terms of arrangement? How do you know you’re listening to a Bass track? (Other than hearing the bass obvs):joy:


Snare and Bass drum rolls seem to be prevalent. But I am anxious to hear what others think as well.

I tend to think of “bass music” as having a great deal of high amplitude sub bass, intended to be reproduced on a club PA (or other high power speaker system) in a way that will shake your skeleton and the rafters (or the trunk of your car).

Which is why I asked earlier how producers make this music while also having neighbors and families. It’s a sincere question, if anybody has an answer…

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Gonna take a shot at both of these. I actually don’t own real monitors due to living an apartment complex and producing mostly at night… Typically produce/mix in cans and test in the car - not that anything I make is of profound quality. Honestly, idea generation on laptop speakers can be really productive imo, forces focus onto composition rather than slipping into mixing on accident. In general Im a proponent on producing with whatever you have.

How do I know I am listening to a bass music track? I think it’s a bit of a misnomer, but I don’t really have a better way to describe the family of genres that result from the merging of hip hop/ electronic music, and then the dominant factor of the track is some sort of sub frequency voice and its perceived overtones.

I would call this track (Listen to depression [free] by Dr. Derg on #SoundCloud bass music, even though it features other “leads” including a vocal sample and some weird frequency shifted sound design, the focus (imo) is clearly the 808 sub.

Arrangement, on a macro and micro level, I think is a lot of A/B structure with heavy emphasis on call and response. Building and breaking down of energy from bar to bar, measure to measure, motif to motif. This isn’t unique of this family of genres, but a featuring factor I would say.

Mostly, as with any genre/ family of genres, I think it ultimately comes down to vibe, and the topic matter of the track, obvious or not.

Edit: But I think this should be inclusive, not exclusive.

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It seems that the conversation isn’t getting as technically minded as the opening post (and title!) suggested.

I wonder if this has something to do to how the subject is being constructed – that is, broadly. Creative sound design (esp. in music) is (at least partially) self-taught more often than not, and so outside of the “big” and obvious techniques (FM, side-chain, feedback – those words we all know), it can be really hard to tell what someone is doing. Further, just because the results are similar, or the songs might end up on the same playlist, doesnt mean the same techniques are actually being deployed. These two factors taken together make it really, REALLY hard to talk about a broad topic with regard to its sound design.

Ex: lightbath and cool maritime: similar gear, totally different techniques, definitely operating in the same “genre” (constructed as broadly as the one discussed in this thread).

Ex 2: william basinski and r beny: totally different gear, similar techniques, definitely operating in the same genre (and the same genre as above, even though basinski is using different gear AND different techniques from the first pair).

Opportunities I’ve had to sit down with the real sages have gone best when I’ve had a specific question or example in mind like: “what is this snare thing at [timestamp]?” Learning it like one learns any kind of music – hearing something specific, naming it, finding examples, and replicating it.

TLDR: maybe we’d have a more productive time going at this deductively rather than inductively?

Meta meta: it might be cool to have a “how’d they do it?” thread where people post tracks with specific time stamps and ask things like “what’s this chord change at [timestamp]?” or “why bass hit like that?” or “tf is this instrument?” Then thorough replies would include not only an answer, but a sound example, and we could all be little sound detectives together. The trick would be engagement from more experienced users – this sort of thing can be pretty challenging and tedious, and I get the sense most adept+ users have done a good deal of it in private (just like any other kind of music student – it’s called transcription).


I’d also like to point out that the gear-fetishist bent of the hobbyist electronic music community is often actively exploited by the market, as in – how many people saw that video of KAS with a bunch of Euro and heard Ears or The Kid and built a case, only to find out years later in her tapeop (I think that was the publication) interview that she didn’t own any of it and only consistently uses like two Euro modules lol. IRL it’s a lot of subtractive, Buchla, and software. What people are doing is often not what we as consumers are encouraged to believe they are doing.


I was recently revisiting the Making Music: 74 Creative Strategies for Electronic Music Producers book and I wound up doing a deep listening exercise where I analyzed the arrangement of a track I liked, making notes of what I heard each time the arrangement changed over the course of the whole track. Could be cool to try the same thing for something that exemplifies bass music to try to unpack the mechanics of the arrangement.

for those interested, here is my analysis of pye corner audio’s hollow earth (not bass music)

Hollow Earth

8 bar chord progression

1-8: plinky, heavily reverbed synth strums each chord at the beginning of each measure

9-16: 16th note hi-hat comes in quiet fades up slowly. an atmospheric synth with a long decay also walks down the chord progression. some additional more sparse percussion sound also plays

17-24: bassline enters

25-32: plinky chords drop and 16th note hi-hat drop out, burst of white noise through a low pass filter slowly closing, sparser percussion remains

33-40: snare/clap enters

41-48: hi hat pattern comes in, modulation on decay makes it sound like a hh/oh pattern. lead synth plays melody of mostly half notes

49-56: no big changes

57-64: white noise burst again, everything drops out, plinky chords from the intro come back and an arpeggio synth fades in by the end of the progression

65-72: the atmospheric synth comes back and gradually builds, there is a variation in the arpeggio pattern, soft 16th note hi-hat pattern plays

73-88: bass drum and bassline return

89-96: hi hat with modulated decay pattern comes back with snare, some variaton with the arpeggio

97-104: not much changes, but the last 2 bars, the arpeggio plays some extra notes that anticipate the next change…

105-112: lead synth returns

113-120: nothing really changes

121-128: white noise burst, everything drops except atmospheric synth, arpeggio and kick drum

129-136: atmospheric synth walks down the chord progression by itself one last time

Chord Progression

Fm E Bm G
Em/G Eb/G Bb F


I like this idea of deconstructing favorite tracks, moments, or bits of sound design to understand how it works! Do you have a piece you’re interested in starting with?

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they use what they have from what i’ve heard… i’m no expert, but i gravitate towards this music naturally(some (here in Oakland) rent space in warehouses as a live-in studio, threw events at night before the pandemic… others mix in the cans, then prove it on the floor, then adjust and create templates that allow them to match sound on their system at home to what they bring to the PA… and still others like to use ‘subpacs’(body-worn packs), though, they say that’s a last resort)… you don’t need to hear it full blast from what i understand, though… with good subs, you can hear a mix properly enough at low volumes(and it’s good mixing technique to make sure the mix sounds good at any volume anyways).


I need to get a sub. My monitors are very high quality, so I can hear the bass just fine, but I can’t feel it at all. I was just a bit worried that I’d start irritating folks, but I guess it’s just a matter of keeping it down until the need to test it. A few minutes of loud bass here and there never killed anybody.