In Reason, the SubTractor Analog Synthesizer is a good instrument for writing a bass line. The SubTractor is a virtual analog synthit generates "pure" waveform tones that are very fat-sounding for bass and techno-acid parts.
The SubTractor has an advantage over typical sampler bass patches, which pitch-shift one audio sample across the keyboard. Instead, the SubTractor generates a new (fresh) tone for each note, so you don't lose high frequencies with low notes, or low frequencies in the high register.
The SubTractor generates very simple tones, then uses a host of controls to turn those simple tones into fat, expressive, and evolving sounds.
To create a SubTractor synth
Select Create > SubTractor Analog Synthesizer (Figure 5.1). A new device appears in your Rack: the SubTractor (Figure 5.2).
Figure 5.1. Create a SubTractor synth.
Figure 5.2. The SubTractor Analog Synthesizer
Press Tab to see the back panel and make sure that the SubTractor is now cabled to an open Mixer channel (Figure 5.3).
Figure 5.3. The SubTractor should be cabled to an open Mixer channel.
Press Tab to return to the front panel.
The SubTractor will initialize with a very plain-sounding default, or Init patch. We'll change this later; first let's write some notes so we have something to work with.
To write a bass track
In the Sequencer, make sure you're in Edit mode, and go to the SubTractor 1 track (Figure 5.4).
Figure 5.4. The Sequencer's Edit mode showing an empty SubTractor track
By default, Reason displays new SubTractor tracks in Key lane mode.
Click on the keyboard ruler to audition notes for this synth, and if necessary, use the scroll bars to pick a pitch range for your window. (C1 to C3 is a good bass range.)
Set loop markers for two bars and input some sixteenth notes (Figure 5.5).
Figure 5.5. Start basic and add more notes after you play it back.
Play your loop, and alter the notes until you're happy with your line (Figure 5.6).
Figure 5.6. In this example, note pitches were altered for melody, and velocity was edited for accents.
Loading a SubTractor patch
If you don't want to create your own bass sound, you can start listening to your bass part without further ado by loading SubTractor patches from the Factory Sound Bank.
To load a SubTractor patch
Click the SubTractor's Browse Patch button to open up Reason's patch browser (Figure 5.7).
Figure 5.7. The SubTractor patch browser
Pick a bass sound to use from the Reason Factory Sound Bank/SubTractor Patches/Bass directory (Figure 5.8). The SubTractor's patch display now shows the name of the patch you selected.
Figure 5.8. SubTractor synth patches from the Factory Sound Bank
Reason makes it easy to change sounds without stopping your music. With your bass line playing, open other patches or use the patch browser's arrow buttons to scroll through the current patch directory.
Bass Lines for NonBass Players
A good bass line should play important root notes, accent the rhythm, and still leave space in the song for additional tracks.
Here are some suggestions:
Use rhythms similar to the kick drum part, especially on strong beats.
Keep the line simple and sparse. Busy bass lines can sound great and driving, creating a lot of energy in a song. But they also make it harder to layer parts and keep "open room" for vocals. Simple bass lines and simple drum parts can create a foundation for powerful, catchy grooves.
Don't use too bright a bass sound unless you're sure it's what you need. In more traditional styles of music, bright bass parts can "hog" frequencies in a mix that are better used for leads or voice. Techno music breaks this rule often, using morphing bass sounds as leads.
Also, clipped repeating bass notes are often spread out among many voices as part of the rhythmic feel in goa and other styles that go for a synth-heavy sound. Even in styles that take this approach, there is usually one primary voice that "holds down the low end."