Reese Bass: What It Is & How to Make One

Reese Bass: What It Is & How to Make One Reese Bass: What It Is & How to Make One

If you've ever stumbled upon that thick, swirling bass sound that seems to be the backbone of so many drum and bass tracks and thought, "What in the world is that and how do I make it?" you've come to the right place.

That, my friend, is the legendary Reese Bass .

It's versatile, powerful, and absolutely essential in genres like drum and bass and dubstep. In this guide, we're going to explore a brief history of the Reese bass, how it became such an iconic sound in electronic music, and how you can make one with tools you likely already have at your disposal.

A Brief History of the Reese Bass

Let's start by taking a quick trip back in time to the roots of the Reese Bass.

We can trace the sound back to 1988, when Kevin Saunderson, under his early side project named Reese, dropped a track called "Just Want Another Chance." Little did he know, he was about to make history with a thick, growling bass sound crafted on a Casio CZ-5000 phase distortion synth . This sound would eventually get its name - the Reese Bass.

Strangely enough, it took years for Saunderson to get the recognition he deserved for pioneering this sound, though the community eventually traced it back.

Not long after, British DJ and record producer Ray Keith, a legend in his own right, sampled a Reese record for the Renegade jungle classic, "Terrorist." Not only did this track use the iconic Reese bass from the early Detroit techno producer, thrusting it into the spotlight, but it also spearheaded the entire UK drum and bass movement.

From there, the Reese Bass got a VIP pass to every UK rave, making its mark on garage and several other electronic music subgenres. Take Burial, for example, an artist who brilliantly wove the Reese Bass into his sound on numerous occasions.

Of course, the journey didn't stop at the UK's shores. The sound of the Reese Bass would eventually find its way into the heart of modern genres like Neuro and Dubstep, proving that some sounds are just too good to fade into obscurity.

What Is the Reese Bass?

So, clearly, the Reese Bass has its legendary status, and if you've ever got your second wind in a DnB club at three in the morning, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But what exactly makes up this iconic sound? Let's break it down.

At its core, the Reese Bass is characterized by its thick, rich texture and detuned quality that gives it its unique sense of depth and movement. This sound is typically created by layering two or more sawtooth waveforms that are slightly detuned from each other. This detuning creates a phase cancellation effect, known as "beating," which results in the signature wobble and richness that makes the sound stand out.

The unique thing about the Reese Bass is that despite the myriad of ways it can be manipulated and the various effects that can be added, its essence remains remarkably consistent. Whether it's passed through distortion for added grit, filtered for a sweeping effect, or modulated for dynamic movement, the fundamental character of the Reese Bass stays the same. This inherent versatility is what makes the Reese Bass a go-to sound for so many electronic music producers.

How to Make a Reese Bass

Once you're ready to dive in and create your very own Reese Bass, you can start by grabbing your favorite synth. Virtually any will do, but those with good modulation capabilities are a plus.

Step 1: Choose Your Synth

Start by loading up your synthesizer of choice. Some of my favorites for this sound include Native Instruments' Massive and Xfer's Serum. If you have Ableton, you can use Operator too.

Step 2: Initiate the Oscillators

Next, you'll want to set up two oscillators, both with sawtooth waves. The sawtooth wave is key to getting that rich harmonic content right from the start.

Step 3: Detune the Oscillators

Slightly detune the oscillators from one another. You can do this by adjusting one oscillator up by a few cents and the other down by the same amount to create the central phasing effect.

Experiment with the amount of detuning to find the sweet spot. Too little might not give you the movement you want, and too much can sound dissonant.

Step 4: Low Pass Filter

Next, route the oscillators through a low-pass filter. Start with the cutoff frequency relatively high, and then adjust to taste. You want to preserve some of the high-end brightness while still emphasizing the low-end warmth. I'd also recommend adding a slight resonance to accentuate certain frequencies.

Step 5: Add Some Movement

If you wan to make your Reese Bass more interesting, you can introduce some modulation to the cutoff frequency of the low-pass filter. LFOs (Low-Frequency Oscillators) or envelope modulators are perfect for this. Set the LFO rate to a slow tempo for a pulsing effect or faster for more of a wobble.

Step 6: Fatten It Up

If your synth has a unison mode or a way to spread the sound stereo-wise, now's the time to use it. Adding unison voices can make your Reese Bass sound wider and fatter. Just be careful not to overdo it, as too much stereo information in the low end can cause issues in your mix.

Step 7: Distortion and Saturation

To add a little bit of edge to your Reese Bass, it's a good idea to apply distortion or saturation. Start with a mild setting and increase until you find the right amount of grit without losing the fundamental tone of your bass. One of my absolute favorite tools for the job is Soundtoys Decapitator.

Step 8: Final Adjustments

Once you have the basic sound, you can tweak the ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) settings of your oscillators and filter to fit the context of your track. A longer attack can create a swell effect, while a quick attack and release can make it more percussive.

Final Thoughts - Locking In That Classic Reese Bass Sound

Early rave producers knew they struck gold with the intense Reese basses in early dance music subgenres, and with the rising popularity of house music and glitch hop, Reese basses are becoming more frequently heard than they have been in years. There are even some more aggressive variants of the almighty Reese in genres like dubstep and neuro.

Electronic music is about constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible, and there are few realms of music in which that sentiment rings true. Start experimenting today, and who knows? Maybe one day, the dance community will name a synth after you!

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