How To Create Lazy Square Wave Portamento Bass

How To Create Lazy Square Wave Portamento Bass

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to create a square wave bass that slides from one note to another (portamento). I’m calling it “lazy” because it sounds like that due to slow’ish portamento slide time. You’ve probably heard this kind of bass on several electro house tracks. Deadmau5 stuff for example.

Here’s a sound preview:

Ok. Let’s get on to it.

First thing to do is to load 3xOsc (very good little synth for simple and pure bass sounds as you may have noticed in my earlier tutorials). Select Square Wave as the oscillator shape for each three oscillators and set the Coarse Tune to -24 semitones for each.

3xOsc Oscillator Settings

Next we need to ‘sculpt’ the sound a little with filter envelope so head to the Instrument Properties -tab (INS) and from there to CUT -subtab an enable the filter envelope by clicking the ‘Use envelope’ box. Leave the envelope curve to as is and tweak the ‘Modulation amount’ knob to something like shown in the pic below.  This kind of filter envelope makes the wave sound a kind of percussive which is exactly what we want.

3xOsc Filter Envelope Settings

Now go to the Miscellanous Properties -tab, enable the Portamento by clicking the ‘Porta’ -box (under the Polyphony) and set the Portamento Time -knob to 1:14. Enabling the Portamento will make the 3xOsc to slide from one note to another. Portamento Time will control the speed of slide. Leaving it to something relatively slow adds that sort of lazy feel to the bass sequence.

Enable Portamento

Head to the Piano Roll -view of the 3xOsc and create a sequence. Notice how the pitch slides from one note to another.

For better ‘articulation’ between the notes, shorten the note end time slightly (hold down ALT and drag for bypassing the snapping). This’ll cut the sound a bit before the next note.

I’m using a following sequence:

Portamento Bass Sequence

Ok. Now assign the 3xOsc to a free mixer track and drop a Soundgoodizer to it’s fx slot (to beef it up, yes) and leave it as is or tweak some more/less if you want. If you’ve been following my earlier tutorials you’ve probably noticed Soundgoodizer is my favourite solution for fattening things 🙂

Also, if you want, use the Mixer Track EQ to boost the low end a bit.

3xOsc Mixer Settings

Alright. The bass sounds quite usable already:

It sounds pure and modern and with sidechain compression, would fit nicely to electro house/house genre.

Now, for some easy build ups try automating the Modulation Amount -controller. Head to the 3xOsc Channel Settings and go to the ‘Instrument properties’ -tab and ‘CUT’ -subtab and right click on the ‘Modulation amount’ (AMT) -controller and choose ‘Create automation clip’.

Automate Modulation Amount

For the a rising build up, edit the automation envelope to look something like this:

Modulation Amount Envelope For Simple Build Up

Moreover, if you want to make the bass sound a bit more ‘gritty’, try Fruity WaveShaper (wave distortion effect). WaveShaper is great for achieving that extra-abrasive sound. I don’t fully understand the technique and all the mathematical functions behind it yet, so cant explain it more in-depth for now, but try a following settings:

Switch on the Bipolar mode, set the Pre Amp to 130% and draw a envelope like this (and dont be afraid to experiment with different envelope forms as well):

WaveShaper Settings

Now listen the sound:

Fruity WaveShaper is something to really look into. Perfect tool for ‘destroying’ otherwise too tame sound.

Check the video below:

That’s it for now. Hope you found this tutorial helpful!

Download FL Studio 10 Project File For Square Wave Portamento Bass


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  1. Very nice and affective sounding bass o.O

    Will have to try this with some house / electro 🙂

    Thanks Petri!!!

  2. Hey everyone, i am definitely sure it does not fit here, but i was not sure where to put so here it is:

    I am 4Chord, and i have followed your tutorials quiet a long time. Now i want to find some tips on my new song because i am not sure about the mastering stuff and so on.

    This is my new song and i would be very interested in your opinion about it, does it sound good?, is it as good as in clubs?, am I totally wrong?.


    P.S.: I am from Germany *g 🙂

  3. Max Golovanov on

    Now I’ve caught it – lazy square wave bass is MADE FOR electro house! Time to build some extreme splines in Waveshaper!

    THX for tutorial, Petri!

    BTW, you’re right – FL Studio’s Help tells practically nothing regarding concept of WaveShaper.

    Quote: “Fruity WaveShaper is a wave distortion effect which maps input (horizontal axis) to output (vertical axis) values using flexible spline-based graph.” That’s not enough to catch the idea.

  4. Jonathan Figueroa on

    Dude your awesome!!! I wouldn’t know as much as I do without your help! You should put out some public stuff.

  5. James Hrivnak on

    Im confused… when I make this sound…it keeps reverberating, it doesnt stop and the notes bleed together. Im an FL n00b so im guessing this is probably a novice mistake. But the clean, short sound you have here, im not getting.