To celebrate the release of the long awaited Drum & Bass 2 sample pack, we’ve done an extensive Q&A with the producer of the pack. 15 questions to give you an in-depth look into what inspired the producer when creating the pack, what techniques he’s applied giving you many useful tips & tricks on Drum & Bass production. Looking to step up your game? It’ll be worth the read!
Download the full pack here: Drum & Bass 2
1. Who or what inspired you when creating this sample pack, and to what extent does that show in the pack?
“When I started creating this pack, me and my partner had just started working on a new musical duo. Drum & Bass was the main genre in our sets and productions, so it opened up the perfect opportunity to create a Drum & Bass pack, that I myself would use as a go-to tool to get ideas down as quickly as possible on a regular basis. So, having that in mind, that really served me as the main inspiration while making the pack. The Songstarters have some vibes inspired by artists such as InsideInfo, Mefjus, Bou, Document One.”
2. It is often said keeping it simple is better. How do you, in the realm of DnB, keep your tracks interesting yet simple enough for it to appeal to your audience?
“To me, if I want to make a Drum & Bass tune one can dance to I would apply this approach in regards to the clarity of the sounds and rhythmical pattern of the bassline. Minimum reverb to avoid too much information to process for your brain. Use distinctive rhythmical patterns that are easy to predict, in a way. And of course, if the bassline is catchy and easy to ‘sing along to’, then it means that accompanied by Drums it’s simple enough to jig to too.”
“Important to point out that simple doesn’t mean boring. I think of simplicity as how easy it is for the brain to make sense out of what you hearing and on top of that enjoying it.”
3. What would you say is the most important element in Drum & Bass, and how do you make sure this element sounds good in your tracks?
“It’s actually two. First one is Drums and second one is Bass. Good Bass without good Drums isn’t gonna make a tune you’ll wanna play on repeat and vice versa.”
“I pay extra attention to the way these elements work with each other by sending these elements to one bus channel and compressing them together to bring that tightness in sound so It feels that they play in relation to each other rather than on their own – #teamwork”
“Also If these elements sound solid whenever you filter them in any direction, that’s when you know you got it. For example If your Kick drum sounds punchy on highs but nothing complements it on the low frequencies then you’ll feel that the energy is not right. So layering different kicks and making sure low frequencies of kick a present enough but also nicely side-chained so it doesn’t interfere with the sub of bassline is a good technique.”
“I also like throwing on stereo imagers and parallel process the signals with chorus effects to bring a good wideness to the sound, especially the Kick, Snare and Bass. If these three hit you like a baseball bat then you know you got the right energy!”
4. What are some ways to make the intro sound more interesting and tense?
“If it comes to tension then I personally like to use cinematic elements. My personal go-to at the moment is the use of brass instruments and atmospheric hit effects to give a sense that ‘sh*t is about to go down’. Think of using tribal drums as percussions for the intro so it sounds epic and hold the attention of listeners. Also that gives room for DJs to mix your tune in.”
“If you’re into Neurofunk then try using a 16-voice sawtooth wave oscillator, low-pass-filtered and triggered by envelope, so every time you hit a note a filter goes ‘down’, giving that analogue Moog feel. Write some epic 4 note arpeggio sequence and use another low-pass filter to gradually bring high frequency content as the sequence progresses. Classic, but always works for either intro or buildup. #strangerthings”
5. Bass is an important part of any DnB track, so how do you make sure your bass sounds powerful and cuts through the mix?
“When it comes to actual bass sound, I like it loud, so I love throwing massive amounts of compression and distortion to squeeze out all the juice from the sound. Couple of OTTs and Saturation on lower frequencies (from 100 Hz up) to bring out the harmonics of sub, that’s what gives that heavier spaceship-like substance to the bass.”
“I own SubPac which is a device that helps me monitor low frequency content at home. You put it on your back and it’s like a subfoower that makes you feel like you’re in club. Such a game changer tool because I can mix in my headphones with subpac and know what’s going on down in low frequencies. I find it crucial for making sure the bass is on point.”
6. What is your approach for creating your bass sounds and writing your bass lines?
“Most frequently I find myself building new sounds out of existing bass presets I’ve made. Let’s say in the Serum presets folder I’d usually change the wavetable of the sound I like, then change the movement of parameters. I like my LFO to trigger depending on what kind of idea I have. Then I just keep adding and changing until u come up with something unique. It’s simple but effective.”
“Sometimes I like to reverse engineer the sounds I like in other people’s tunes and want to understand how they where made. I’ll listen to the bass sound, try to dissect it in my head and what kind of wavetable and processing I can potentially use to get closer to the original sound and then bit by bit getting there. This is a great exercise to refine your sound synthesis skills and most of the times leads you to some amazing results.”
“When it comes to writing basslines in DnB I find that using legato with a longer glide and playing between lower and higher notes brings some great unexpected results, especially if you have plenty of movement going on in the bass patch.”
7. Do you layer your bass lines, and if so, how do you layer them in an effective way?
“I find layering bass lines (and all other important sounds) brings so much more depth to your tune, it’s crazy. I tend split the content of my basslines between Low, Mid and High frequency bands. Patches could be different, yet accompanying each band that when played together (and balanced right) absolutely fattens the sound.”
“First I’d take a sound that I’ll consider to be a ‘face of bassline’, that’s the sound that is the most distinctive. The other layers will be used to complement the main sound. If your Reese bass is gritty and sharp made of sawtooth waves and plentiful of distortion, then you can try putting a nice smooth sine wave sub that will serve as a soft cushion for the sharp sound on top.”
8. How do you get your sub nice and warm, and how do you get it to fit right with your bass line?
“I like to throw a saturation plugin on my sub to bring up the harmonics, when mixed with the bassline it really pushes out this lower frequency content to an audible level, so when you are listening in the headphones you’re not missing out.”
9. In DnB the leads are quite aggressive, what are some sound design tips for making those scorching synth leads?
“Plentiful of compression and distortion to bring the sound straigh ‘in yo face’.”
“When the word ‘aggressive’ is used I picture using 2 sawtooth oscillators, 1 of them is 1-voice, another one is 16-voice but a bit quieter, to bring wideness and detuned content. Then, for the oscillator’s wavetable mode of the second OSC you can choose ‘Sync’ and throw an envelope automation on it so that when you hit a note your sound will go almost screechy (note: easy to overdo). Then throw the same envelope automation to the filter unit. In processing use dimension expander to widen the sound, distortion and compression, and you have a cheeky lead. Sound being detuned with more than 1 voice matters a lot in DnB as it gives a more human character to a sound. Back in the day that’s how they’d create a movement in the sound, by playing two notes close to each other together. #themoreyouknow”
10. What are some ways to get your kick to sound strong and to really punch?
“1. Making sure kick’s and bass’s fundamental frequency are in tune
2. On top of regular side-chaining I like to use EQ to side-chain specific frequency ranges of sound, in this case the sub area and the “click” sound area of kick. Same principle as regular side-chain: when kick hits, the selected frequency area of bass will be reduced in volume and will be brought back when kick is not playing.”
Check out our blog post on our favourite side-chain plugins here.
11. How do you go about programming your drums, and in particular your hats?
“I like to use a drum machine so I can play different variations of hats with slightly different parameters like pitch and attack times.”
“My favourite trick right now is throwing any LFOTool type of plugin on my cymbals section with a bpm synced rate ranging from 1/4 to 1/16, to give that cool solid groove and a sense of openness in the mix. I actually made a tutorial on this topic for this pack which you can find on YouTube or Facebook. Type in Groove Drum & Bass 2 Sample Tool by Cr2.”
12. What processing do you use on your Drums to make them crisp and punchy?
“First, I personally throw on OTT to make them loud, then saturation if needed. Then I’ll send the drum sound into a corresponding bus (Kick sends to Kick & Snare bus; Snare the same; Kick & Snare bus send to Drums bus; everything else sends to Drums bus). On the Drums bus I’ll throw a glue compressor with soft clipping enabled to trim the peaks (I like it loud). And then I’ll go back to drum sounds and see if there is a need for any transients and If there is then I’d layer some clicky short sounds on top of kick/snare (or whatever you need) and glue them with some sort of transient shaper plugin.”
13. How do you use FX in a creative way to build and release tension throughout your tracks?
“I like to use white noise uplifters and downlifters a lot. A Crash cymbal on the first hit of the drop also brings more power to the section. When the drop ends I like to put an impact sound that has a long tale on it, throw an LFO Tools type plugin and automate the rate (unsynced) of the LFO from quick to slow to give the effect of slowing down.”
14. When starting a new track, where do you usually start and what helps you to get/stay inspired?
“I personally found that going with the flow is the best way for me to enjoy what I’m doing. Browsing though samples in my sample library looking for something to catch my attention, throw that, add some drums, then go through more samples until u have built up some picture in your mind and then start developing a bassline. As long as you don’t force the process but just focus on making the next right thing after next right thing then gradually you will realise, ‘oh wow what did I just create’.”
“Life experiences is what keeps/gets me inspired. Making sure your life is diverse as possible really helps you grow as a human being as well as a music producer. Have you tried meditating? If not, try it and then write a tune based on the vibes you get while you’re meditating”
15. What is your no. 1 tip for producing Drum & Bass?
“My number 1 tip for producing DnB, just like with any other genre, would be to just go with the flow, be true to yourself. If you feel like going Liquid – why not! If the Neurofunk side of you starts to come out – welcome it! Blend stuff together, experiment, stay creative. And a bonus tip is – grab a copy of the Drum & Bass 2 pack, it’s small enough to not mess with your data storage crisis and definitely contains some good bits any producer could use.”
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