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What is the most effective way to produce wobbling bass lines, such as that you might hear in the "dubstep" (a.k.a. techno-bass) genre?

My current idea is to generate a linear sine wave that goes from frequency 60 to 20 and make a duplicate logarithmic version. Playing them side by side produces a wobble effect, but I need a more flexible way to make bass lines; like something that I could tweak the sound of.

Can anybody provide an example of how to do this without using existing sound clips?

I'm using the latest version of Audacity, 2.0.2.

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good question. have an upvote. now you should be able to post in meta! –  ObscureRobot Jan 4 '13 at 3:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

While you could create a wobble in Audacity, you might go insane trying.

Instead, download pure data, and work through the tutorials. You don't need to get into much advanced stuff, just learn how to create an OSC~ and a DAC~ and a bit on filtering and FM. Then you can hook up as many oscillators as you want and modulate them and the filters. That's pretty much how you wobble.

Once you've made a PD patch that wobbles nicely, record it. Next, slice that recording up in Audacity and arrange the pieces as you please.

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That's really helpful, actually. In my quest for good audio editors, I never thought of using a language for it (other than Nyquist, but I don't like Nyquist/Lisp). By the way, I would be able to post in meta as soon as I accepted your answer, I think. Sorry for being troublesome. –  Stop forgetting my accounts... Jan 4 '13 at 4:43
    
No trouble at all. The nice thing about PD is that it is really easy to drop in UI elements. So you can tweak the virtual knobs very quickly. It isn't as nice as a modular synthesizer, but quite a bit more affordable! –  ObscureRobot Jan 4 '13 at 6:38

The basic idea

The characteristic "wobble" bass popular in mid-late 2000s dubstep is frequently (but not always) created by sweeping a lowpass filter over a harmonically-rich sound of some kind, usually some oscillators. The filter cuts out the higher harmonics, creating an effect similar to closing your lips while saying "ahhhhh. By moving the filter cutoff up and down rhythmically, you create the basic wobble.

There are a million variations on this as well, such as using distortions, different filter types and settings, simultaneously bending the oscillators' pitch, and using frequency modulation (FM) synthesis to change the harmonics around instead of a filter. If this is an area of sound design you're interested in, it's worth experimenting as there are a lot of interesting sounds to discover.

Practical Considerations

Audacity does not, as far as I know, support modulating an effect's parameters over time, so there is no way to move a lowpass filter rhythmically.

A very common approach to doing this in software is to use a software synthesizer, usually a plugin in a larger DAW program. The immediate advantages to this are that you have a very straightforward way to play musical notes on it (most of them support MIDI), automate your filter (either via the DAW's automation features or a synth's low-frequency oscillator), and record what comes out.

DAWs and synths are not the only solution however. As ObscureRobot pointed out, you could use a programming environment like Pure Data or Csound, or anything else you can come up with. Your idea of using a pair of low-frequency sinewaves and relying on their beat frequency seemed very clever, for example, and there's surely something you can do with that too.

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