I find FL Studio to have a very different approach compared to other DAWs. What I really like is the way that the playlist works and how you can build patterns using it as opposed to the traditional linear, tape-style DAWs where you place your audio and MIDI tracks along the timeline. FL’s automation clips also add on this extra feature, which really allow you to carve out and design unique sounds through the automation modulation. Let’s take a look at how these features can be used to create a dubstep-style wobble bass effect.
I have programmed in a standard dubstep style beat and the project is set to 140 BPM. I’m going to be using the instruments and effects that are included with FL Studio so that you can follow along.
For the bass, let's add the 3xOsc instrument. This is a simple 3 oscillator synth that has been in FL for many versions now. To add it, go to Channel > Add One > 3xOsc. Also assign this channel to an FX track so that it can be seen in the mixer. I’ll assign it to FX track 5.
Rename the track accordingly in the Mixer as well. Click on the track, press F2 and rename it to Bass.
Let's use this synth to dial in 3 different waveshapes. On OSC 1, leave it as a Sine wave, and the rest of the parameters can stay the same as well.
On OSC 2, change the waveshape to a square wave. Dial the CRS down to -12 semitones. And increase the Fine to +12 cents to slightly detune this oscillator to Osc 1
For OSC 3, use a triangle waveshape. Drop the Vol to 25%, set the CRS to +5, and the Fine to -24 cents so that this oscillator is detuned as well to the others.
Right-click on the 3xOsc and choose Piano Roll. The Piano Roll editor window will come up. Now program in a simple bassline. Nothing too busy, just a simple line with some nice sustained notes as this will help when you start wobbling that bass.
At the moment it doesn’t sound too exciting. Let’s beef up this bass with some distortion and saturation. Open up the Mixer with F9. On Ins4 on the channel strip, let's add the Fruity Fast Dist, a great simple distortion unit. Set the Pre to about 75% and the Thres all the way up, the Mix to about 80% and the Post all the way up. This adds some nice distortion to the bass.
How about some more distortion? For some extra bite add the Hardcore guitar effects unit plug-in on Ins3. Select the Distortion stompbox and set the Dist to 60%, the Inferno to 30%, the Comb to 60% and the Glass to 80%.
Now that adds some heavy saturation to the sound, but this may be a bit much. On the channelstrip of the bass track next to effect plug-in, you have a mix level where you can choose how much of the effect you want to apply. Set the Hardcore to about 50% and the Fruity Fast Dist to 70%. That’s sounding good now.
After the Fruity Fast Dist, add the Fruity Parametric EQ 2. Roll off the low end, and add a slight boost in the 150 Hz region, and then increase the high-shelf at about 5900 Hz for a bit more sparkle on the sound.
Lastly, add the Fruity Chorus to widen the bass sound and add in some slight modulation. On the default setting that comes up, set the Delay to 8.2 ms and the Wet to about 20%.
To get that classic wobble bass, an LFO needs to be assigned to the cutoff frequency, and then we will modulate this to generate different wobble effects with the bass. This can be done quite easily with the 3xOsc synth.
On the synth, click on the INS tab, then select the CUT tab (this is the cutoff frequency). Now go down to the LFO settings. Leave it set to a Sine wave. Drop the ATT down to 0, and turn the AMT all the way up. Click on TB to sync the LFO to the tempo. Right-click on the SPD and choose ‘create automation clip’.
You will see the automation clip for the speed parameter now in the step sequencer. Rename this to Filter LFO.
And in the playlist rename this to Filter Modulate. You can now draw in node points on this playlist view. I have my node points set to Hold. This will draw in square node point that I can easily adjust to change the speeds. Draw in some node points and move them around to hear how the LFO modulates the filter on the synth.
You can also tweak the Filter on the 3xOsc for a different filter sound. I have chosen the Fast LP low-pass filter, and have tweaked the ModX and ModY parameters for a different filter effect.
What’s great is to go in and modulate some of the other parameters on the 3xOsc synth with the LFO as well. How about trying this on the Pitch? On the 3xOsc synth, click on the Pitch tab under INS. Now assign this to an automation clip.
Rename this to ‘Pitch Modulate’ in the Playlist window. Now create some node points to edit the pitch. I have added a pitch increase halfway through the bar and at the end of the bar. I have used the ‘Single Curve’ node point to create this exponential pitch increase curve.
The beauty with FL Studio is that it has a huge selection of different curve shapes that can be used on the automation clips, giving you numerous creative ways to draw in interesting automation patterns. Try these out for some subtle to crazy automation effects.
FL Studio really has some interesting ways to build up bass sounds and automate them in the playlist window. Get in deep with the 3xOsc synth and create some LFO dubstep wobble bass sounds. Assign the LFO parameters to automation clips and use the different curves shape to draw in interesting LFO modulations. And make use of the bundled effects to really beef up and saturate your bass sounds.
I hope this gives you some ideas of what is possible with FL Studio. Once you’ve worked your way around the 3xOsc synth, try out some of the other synths and modulate their parameters for other results.
Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the last 10 years, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary has been a devoted Logic and Ableton user for the last 7 years. He also dabbles in ProTools, and esoteric sound design tools, such as Max/MSP and CSound.