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Default Sample Music's (Sam Leigh) Synth Tutorials Volume 1: 80s FM Slap Bass

Hello, today i am going to be doing my first in a series of synth sound design tutorials.

The first sound i'm going to show you is a simple but effective staple of 80s bass, the classic slap bass sound!


Im going to be using sytrus to demonstrate with, but you can use literally any 4 op fm synth to do this.

STEP 1. Operator 1 should be at 0.500 in pitch, although this only matters relative to the pitch of the others, this is going to be the carrier operator. I usually leave the volume envelope alone on this one, but if you want to adjust the volume for this one i recommend doing so after all the other steps.

STEP 2. Operator 2 is going to be modulating operator one. This operator is going to also be at 0.500 in pitch, so in ratios that would be 1:1 carrier/modulator. Set the vol envelope to a short, plucky decay with no sustain (I dont usually bother with release for this type of sound). Crank up the modulator signal going into our carrier (operator 1) on your modulation matrix (or equivelent thing) until it sounds a bit like a finger picked bass sound.

STEP 3. Operator 3 is going to be modulating operator 2, this operator is going to be 11.3333 in pitch, although any pitch between 10 and 13 sounds ok, 11.3333 was just a sweet spot. So the ratios so far are 1:1:12 roughly. Set the operator 3 vol envelope to be similar to the envelope of op2. Carefully crank up the level feeding into operator 2 until you reach a nice level.

STEP 4. Operator 4 is going to modulating operator three. So op2 modulates op1(carrier), op3 modulates op2 and op4 modulates op3. The pitch of operator 4 is going to be 0.500. so the final ratios are gonna be: 1:1:12:1. you don't need to play with the envelopes of this one, just adjust the volume feeding into op3 until it sounds like a convincing slap bass.

The final thing you can do to make this sound even better is to use a subtle early reflections style room reverb with a chorus on top. ;)

Doubts about how to emulate a specific sound? Ask directly to Sam!