1. Keep the melodies simple. Coming from a keyboard player perspective, playing in numerous bands (especially funk) it took some adjusting when it came to producing this type of music. I was used to creating elaborate bass melodies and when I translated them over to this dance genre, it didn’t quite transfer so well. Most dubstep basslines are very simple note wise and often stay on a single note and are often sustained notes with modulations on them. Try holding a sustained bass note for 4 bars and don’t worry about it sounding too simple. Modulations will spice it up.
2. Let the modulations be complex. In most bass driven music, it is the modulations that give the oomph and ear candy this genre delivers. A basic wobble is controlled by your LFO which can modulate many different parameters depending on what synthesizer you’re using. You can modulate pitch, cutoff, resonance, frequency, volume etc. to create dynamic rhythms. Think of these rhythmic modulations like you would drums. Sometimes I’ll tap out rhythms with my hands, rapping on a desk or something and come up with some great sounding modulated rhythms. Remember, since your melodies are simple, the modulations can make or break the song.
3. Use different synthesizer patches to create dynamic sounds. An easy way to create dynamic sounds is to use several different bass synths so each part of your bass line will be in a different voice. This can sometimes save time on modulation by hand and will bring a complex sound to the listener’s ears. I’ll use up to 6 different synth basses and maybe a couple mid-frequency and high frequency synths to accomplish this.
4. Call and response. This technique is used in many types of music but I almost feel that this genre of dance music uses call and response much more than most other musical styles. If you listen to a bass track, you will hear what I mean. 4 or 8 counts of a bassline will be played in a certain voice and then you’ll hear another synth play another 4 or 8 counts followed by another. These call and responses will sometimes be broken up by fast arpeggiated synth patterns too. This is a technique that you can easily hear and follow.
Keep listening to your favorite artists and keep working on improving your music and you will get there one day!