If we were almost getting used to techno, house, and linearity in electronic music during the 1990s, our era is characterized by a long-awaited flow of innovative and groundbreaking sub-genres. Future bass is part of them. Drawing inspiration from UK garage and dubstep, it is a genre we would almost not characterize as one, given the number of influences we can associate with it. In the war of categorization, this umbrella term is probably related to the human necessity of always characterizing everything.

However, even if future bass is an “umbrella” or “buzz term”, there are a certain amount of elements which make future bass what it is. With heavy bass-lines, astutely filtered soundwaves, quirky vocal chops, exciting samples, rhythmic percussion and unheard of effects, it successively makes electronic music fresh and scintillating again. In this article, we will analyze the fusion of elements that characterize future bass, the reasons for its popularization in recent years and focus on the elements and the technique behind its making.

To sum it up, we will provide the answers to the following questions and recommendations:

  1. What is future bass?
  2. How to make future bass?
  3. Our recommended artists (Soundcloud)
  4. Our recommended Youtube channels

In 2014, Flume’s “tennis courts” announced the arrival of future bass. With oscillated soundwaves, astutely filtered sounds, rightly processed vocals and quirky effects, this track became an instant classic of the genre. 

Considered by some as a sub-genre of trap music, future bass borrows iconic trap elements such as 808s and, hi-hat or snare rolls. The sub-bass and the art of the 808 are big parts of a successful future bass tune and when used intelligently it can be a very effective element. However, the difference with trap is that future-bass is much more melodic. This is reflected through stabby chords and in particular chord progressions that tend to end in the group of 3s and 7ths. In general, the melody is a quintessential part of future bass, as uplifting chords are combined with rhythmic drum sounds (snares, cowbell, toms) to deliver a hooking end result.

Jai Paul’s BTSTU, an iconic track with future bass elements

Therefore, it can be seen as a blend of progressive house and trap, with square, saw-based or filtered sine and triangle wave synths as the main focus of the track, but also more original elements that make it less dull than the former sub-genres. The addition of FX or original samples like vinyl crackles, water droplet, chants and other unexpected sounds makes it also more quirky. In addition, the name of this genre in itself can be seen as a wink to bass music (it doesn’t have to be solely based on bass), in the sense that it is forward-looking, borrows from other styles but still retains some bass elements. Having mentioned the trap influences, it is also worth noting, that the BPM (Beats per minute) ranges from 100 to 160 and gives it a further point of comparison to trap music.

Modulation (see article) is also an important aspect of future bass. Present in most modern-day electronic music tracks, modulation provides variety and prevents the linearity of a song by automating parameters such as cut-off, pitch or distortion. Another recurrent element is arpeggiators or arpeggiator chords, the glitchy ones, mono and poly legato ones. There really is no shortage for originality in future bass, as long as there is energy, bass, and melodic uplifting harmonies.

[Future Bass] – San Holo – Victory [Monstercat EP Release]

In terms of structure, future bass carries a hip-hop feel. The 808 bass line usually carries the listener into the drop. Interesting chord changes and polyrhythms constitute the core of the track. The difference with trap, for example, is that melodies are usually carried throughout the track and don’t just appear during the breakdown. The whole end-product is unique in the sense that it builds on a diverse collection of sounds: blips, blops, chirps and pitched vocals. Coming back to our original question: what is future bass? It is a sub-genre of electronic music and its precise definition depends on how far you are willing to categorize the genre. In the end, does categorizing really matter as long as the music is good?

Originally, future bass appeared around 2006 and has broad geographical influences from the United Kingdom and the United States to Japan, China, and Australia. At the time, however, the genre was mostly underground and it is only in the mid-2010s that artists such as Flume, Rustie, Wave Racer, or Cashmere Cat popularized it. The reason we talk so much about future bass currently is because 2016 marked a surge in its popularity with more and more artists (even mainstream ones) such as Marshmello, the Chainsmokers or Martin Garrix who incorporated some of its elements in their tracks.

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Marshmello, a pioneer of mainstream future bass music

Without a doubt, it is the 2010s that marked the arrival of future bass on the scene. Popularized by labels such as Monstercat, it was also synonymous with the decline of dull EDM music with the same hook, buildup and drop. Simultaneously, the 2010s also signaled the emergence of more creative electronic music with the incorporation of more organic elements. Even though future bass kept the tools of previous popular electronic music (pumping bass lines, rhythmic percussive elements, and addictive melodies), it changed the structure and the style in which elements were presented.

Louis The Child, a Chicago-based future bass duo

Artists such as Flume, Louis the Child or Odesza helped popularizing the genre. Today there is even more variety in terms of sounds with Mura Masa or Sam Gellaitry. While we don’t want to put all of these artists in one bracket considering they have their respective styles and particularities, they all share one facet of their sound identity which we may classify as future bass characteristics (a thumping bass and addictive chords).

Oh Wonder – Body Gold (Louis The Child Remix)

The true reasons behind the popularization of future bass in recent years are innovation with unheard sounds (water droplets, original samples, and Macintosh chirps). Another explanation for future’s bass’s in vogue epoch is its versatility with a wide palette of unusual sounds and a unique sound design (low-filtered saws and rumble). Finally, melodies, rhythm and energy make future bass highly appealing to the listener. The fact that future bass is difficult to characterize, is probably also one of its strengths. It encompasses a variety of sub-trends.

In the end, Future bass’s addictive melodies and hooks will make you remember tracks, pumping drums and percussion elements will make your body vibrate and unforgettably aggressive supersaws will transmit an energetic vibe that will make you reach the seventh heaven.

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There are a number of software synthesizers that produce lushing pads, deep basses and aggressive saw waves. All of these elements are necessary for future bass. At this point, there is no software synthesizer that is really better than another. Some might be more suited to the creation of elements such as drums whilst other excelt at chords and leads. But, in the right context, they can all contribute coming one stop closer to the realization of a future bass track:

With the current shrinking of music-making requirements, there is no real necessity to buy additional hardware synthesizers to create future bass. Wobbling filtered sound waves can be achieved at an equal qualitative level on software synthesizers. However, if you’re looking for synthesizers that could help you create heavy baselines, fat saw sounds and juicy or chirpy leads, here are some good overall synthesizers (ranked according to capabilities).

3 Ideal Future Bass Synthesizers:

Making successful future bass music essentially revolves around the mastering of three main elements: chord progressions, sound design, and arrangement, songwriting and rhythm.

1) For chord progressions, there are a lot of 7th chords that are employed. Try looking into music theory to grasp the ins and outs of how these chords are composed.

2) Sound design matters in future bass as it does in any other electronic music genre. However, arguably future bass requires less sound design knowledge than dubstep or even techno.  To make simple future bass all you need is to understand how square and saw wave synthesis works. Making supersaws (a stacked saw sound) is only the beginning of the whole equation. For example, for the drop part of the song, you will notice that a lot of time, automation and the understanding of LFOs matter more to produce an interesting sounding track.

3) Inevitably, the last part in making a successful future bass track is the arrangement, song-writing, and rhythm. With competition, these days it gets harder and harder to make an unusual track. If sound-design is one way to achieve and produce a “different” song, song structure is often underestimated in this process. Future bass often utilizes intricate rhythms in percussion and utilizes triplets and swing. A great way to understand the structure of these type of tracks is to listen repeatedly to this type of music to understand what pattern, they use, how the intro, drop and breakdown is constructed and in general get a feel for the tempo and the rhythm.

Recommended youtube tutorials on how to make future bass:

The future will certainly be made of more fusions and sub-genres such as future bass. However, in the meantime let’s sit down and appreciate this forward-looking and innovative genre which doesn’t seem to have limits when it comes to blending elements from different electronic music genres. Future bass is here to stay but what will be interesting to analyze is its never-stopping evolution and how it will continue to borrow elements from different music styles.