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Sound Design: Lady Gaga 'The Edge of Glory' Bass Synth

Richard Lainhart on Jul 19, 2011 in Sound Design 1 comments

Lady Gaga has taken the pop world by storm over the past few years. Learn how to re-create (in Logic or your DAW or synth of choice) the bass synth from her hit single "Edge of Glory".

In this Quick Tutorial, we'll be looking at how to reproduce a synth sound from a recent pop hit, Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory":


In this case, because it's a fairly simple sound, we'll be using Logic's ES 1 softsynth to recreate the heavy bass synth sound you hear at about 1:05 into the song. Let's get started.


Step 1 - Set Up the Logic Project

Open Logic, and start with a new empty project containing one empty Software Instrument track:


Click and hold on the default EVP88 instrument at the top of the channel strip and choose 01 Logic Instruments > ES 1 Subtractive Synth from the pop-up menu...


...to open the default ES 1 window:


Step 2 - Analyze the Sound

Next, let's listen to the sound: it's a little hard to make out clearly, because of all the other layers in the song, but the bass plays simple whole notes (A-E-F#-D) using a fairly dark sound with no filter sweeps or wah-wahs, unlike many synth bass sounds. The attack and decay are short, but don't approach a plucked or percussive sound. Closer listening reveals that the sounds consists of two sawtooth or square waves an octave apart, with a slight chorusing, and that the notes are played legato, so that there are no gaps between them.


Step 3 - Create the Sound

So here's my ES 1 version: (click on the picture below to see a large version)


Check the settings closely and do your best to reproduce them as exactly as you can; if you do, you should hear a convincing version of the Lady Gaga sound.

Let's look at some of these settings in detail so you can understand what's going on:

  • First, the Sub oscillator is set to a staircase wave, which is a little richer than a sawtooth. 
  • We're using a straight sawtooth for the primary wave, which plays an octave higher than the Sub oscillator. 
  • Note that the Oscillator Mix slider is set so that we hear a bit more of the Sub than the Primary. 
  • Next, Drive is all the way up, to add a little more edge to the sound.


  • The Filter is set to 24 dB, with no Resonance. 
  • The Cutoff to about 11 o'clock or so, to darken up the sound. 
  • Key is set to zero, so the filter stays at the same level throughout the keyboard range, and... 
  • Amplifier is set to Full to give us the maximum level. All the other modulation settings are set to zero, as we don't want any vibrato or tremolo in this sound. 
  • For the same reason, the Mod Envelope is set to zero. 


  • Next, note that the ADSR is set to a short Attack and Release, although neither are set to zero, which would add too much "snap" to the sound. 
  • The Decay is also fairly short, while the Sustain is set to its maximum, so the sound level doesn't drop off after the attack.


  • Below that, Analog is set to 100% to add a little richness to the bass, and 
  • Voices are set to Legato, so to be sure that there are no gaps in the sounds when it's played. 
  • We've also added a little Chorus to add just a little motion to the sound.


The Result

Here's what it sounds like:


Note that this is played legato, that is, each note is held down while the following note is played, so there's no performance gap between notes, and I'm playing this starting on the "A" an octave and a third below Middle C. 


Check out The Logic ES2 Exposed tutorial to get a handle on synthesis in Logic and the Live 8 Designing Sounds for Dance Music and Live 8 Making Electronic Dance Music by Olav Basoski to give you a head start in sound design for the electronic realm of music.

Richard Lainhart

More articles by this author

Richard Lainhart is an award-winning composer, filmmaker, and author. His compositions have been performed in the US, Europe Asia, and Australia, and recordings of his music have appeared on the Periodic Music, Vacant Lot, XI Records, Airglow Music, Tobira Records, Infrequency, VICMOD, and ExOvo labels. His animations and short films h... Read More

Discussion

RobertS.
Thank you for this great tutorial! Beside the way that it shows that the ES1 still can generate modern sounds its also good to see that the professionals also work with simple sounds and not every patch needs to be overloaded with modulations, fx or anything else.