The following tutorial comes courtesy of Soundfly’s free online course, Synth Bass for Bass Players. Feel free to check this and our other free series, Demystifying Synths, to deepen your knowledge of how synthesis works.
So, we’re going to take a listen to a classic electroclash track from Fischerspooner’s debut album, #1, and break down the patch parameters so you can figure out how to rebuild similar sounding timbres on your own synth. First, here is Fischerspooner’s “Emerge.”
Specifically, we’re going to focus in on the synth bass line from about 0:52–1:06 right after the mini-drop. Let’s get started reconstructing the patch they use.
- Step 1. We can get that sharp sound by using one sawtooth wave for your oscillator waveform. If you want, add a second sawtooth waveform, ever so slightly detuned from the first, at 50% volume for some chorusing width.
- Step 2. Open the low-pass cutoff filter about halfway. Turn up some resonance to get that nasal, forward tone.
- Step 3. We don’t really need a filter envelope here, but you can experiment with it if you’d like. Start by trying an immediate attack and a short 50–100ms decay with 50% sustain for a fun articulation.
- Step 4. Set the amp envelope settings. Attack should be immediate, or as close to zero as you can get it to give it that punchy sound. Decay we can ignore, as sustain is at 100%. Release can be short, around 100ms.
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But how do we play it?
Let’s take a look at the notes and how to play it. Here’s what it looks like notated, below there’s a keyboard video instruction.
First, start slow. This song is played at a super fast tempo (148 BPM), but it’s all about getting it under your fingers at a slow tempo first and playing the line smoothly before bringing it up to tempo.
Pinky-thumb those octaves. It’s okay to play with two hands (if you have them), but if you can nail the line with one hand it can open you up to do more filter work or play another part.
Assuming you’ll perform with the left hand, the way to play this line is starting with the pinky on the low F, and alternating on each note between the pinky and the thumb. Warm up by just alternating on the two Fs before moving on to the full chord progression.
Watch the jumps. The trickiest part of the line is nailing the transitions between chords smoothly. However, the way to play this line is a little bit staccato, which gives you a little breath between each note to make the jumps (especially tricky are the low-F to high-B♭ jump and the high-C to low-F jump).
Once you’re comfortable, bring it up to tempo. I’d start this line around half-tempo — 74 BPM — and then steadily increase the metronome in 5–10 BPM increments until you’re flying at tempo!
Check out the notes on the keyboard below. You can adjust the playback speed to play it at half-tempo to get started. Just click the gear icon on the bottom right corner of the video player to adjust.
We’ve provided the MIDI of the bass line below if you need some more guidance. Once you feel comfortable with octaves, try to play it yourself at speed! If you want, make a short recording of yourself playing this section, and share it in the comments below! Or, join the free course and learn more of the tips and tricks of the synth bass world.
Download: “Emerge” Synth Bass Line
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