Electronic music made up of many genres and sub genres which have their own characteristic arrangements, melodies, rhythms or sounds. In the past, certain sound design techniques have been used time and time again and have become associated with a certain genre or sub genre. For example an 808 Kick is associated with Hip Hop, Lush Pads with Trance, Wobble Bass with Dub Step and Reese bass with Drum and Bass. 

This article and tutorial aims to give you an insight into the Reese Bass, where it came from and how to design it in using multiple techniques in different synthesizer types.

What is the Reese Bass?

The Reese bass is that Iconic bass sound you hear in many Jungle and Drum and Bass tracks, sometimes also described as a hoover bass. Its characteristics are usually rich in harmonics either using distortion or Waveforms such as saw Waves and includes movement or phase modulation which speeds up when a higher pitch is played.

There are many ways sound designers approach the Reese bass, but its fundamental sound is traditionally created using 2 Saw tooth Waveforms which are de-tuned against each other to create rich harmonic rhythmical phasing. Some sound designers will add a 3rd oscillator, use different waveform types, modulate a filter using an LFO, or layer a sine wave sub underneath to keep the sub more static and controllable. Obviously this all depends on the producer, the tools, the track, or what’s best for the mix.

The Reese Bass sound can also be achieved using non subtractive synthesis techniques, more and more producers are looking for a more unique sounding Reese Bass using FM synthesis, or increasingly popular wavetable synthesis technology, such as Xfer Serum, Arturia Pigments and Vital.

Please see more detail on how to create a Reese Bass using different synthesizer methods and synthesizer types below

Origins of the Reese Bass

The Reese Bass is iconic to Drum and Bass and Jungle, but it’s also used in many other genres including Dubstep, Techno, Grime, Garage and House Music. Although iconic to drum and bass, the Reese bass originated in House and Techno music and named after one of Kevin ‘Reece’ Sanderson’s aliases ‘Reese’. The track ‘Just want another chance’, released in 1988, this was the first track to feature the Reese bass which was designed on the Casio CZ-5000.

Kevin Sanderson’s Reese bass sound was later sampled on the 1990’s classic Jungle track ‘Terrorist’ by Ray Keith, this was a staple track in the Jungle and Drum and Bass scene and shaped the Reese sound into how we know it today.

How to create a Reese Bass?

With a subtractive synthesizer the principle is the same no matter which one you use, you would need a synthesizer with at least 2 oscillators capable of generating a saw tooth wave form. Any modern day synthesizer should have this capability.

Reese Bass method 1 - Most popular

As a starting point I would recommend trying the following settings.

Osc 1 = Sawtooth waveform tuned to - 30

Osc 2 = Sawtooth waveform tuned to + 30

The more you detuned the waveforms the faster the rhythmical phasing/modulation will be. Please experiment with the detune setting until you reach your desired modulation speed.

Different waveforms can be experimented with instead of a Sawtooth however the less harmonically rich the waveform chosen the less movement you will get with this sound.

Amp envelope = Sustain at 100%. Attack, decay and release can be set to taste

FX  = Distortion to make it  sound even more dirty, can also use a phaser or chorus for more movement.

Filter = High pass to tame make room for other sounds in the mix and add extra movement.

Reese Bass method 2 – An simple alternative using 1 oscillator

Waveform  = Sawtooth with 0 detuning. You are welcome to experiment with other waveforms here

Unison = Using the Synths unison setting to create 2 or more voices and detuning these using the unison spread to detune the voices. 

Amp envelope = Sustain at 100%. Attack, decay and release can be set to taste

FX  = Distortion to make it  sound even more dirty, can also use a phaser or chorus for more movement.

Filter = High pass to tame make room for other sounds in the mix and add extra movement.

Reese Bass method 3 – Using a Filter and LFO

Unlike the 2 methods discussed so far, this technique uses a filter and LFO to create movement rather than detuned oscillator phasing. Because of this, the waveforms don’t have to be harmonically rich so I am going to leave the waveform type up to you, however nothing stops you from incorporating modulation phasing as per the methods above.

Oscillators - Routed to the Filter with any Wave form and 0 tuning, 

Filter type – BandPass, Scream or Comb filter

Key Tracker – Routed to LFO Hz/Speed. This create faster movement for higher pitched note.

LFO – Routed to Filter cut off

General Reese Bass Sound Design

For all the patches above I would recommend monophonic and portamento to glide between lower and higher pitched notes.

These 3 methods will give you a good place to start and they are all very adaptable, don't be afraid to experiment and make the sound your own.

Reese Bass Video Tutorials

If you prefer a video demonstrations, Stanjah uses the Massive to create a great Reese Bass as well as the FM8 to create drum and bass style rave sounds.

Sounds good shows you how to make a heavy Reese Bass in Wavetable Synth Vital

I hope this helps you understand the fundamental principles surrounding the Reese bass.

Happy Sound designing.