Trap and Crunk Synth Beats
If you want to produce Hip Hop - in particular, if you want to produce crunk or grime - you’re gonna to have to master synth skills. Crunk music in particular makes widespread use of classic synth timbres, using clean sine, triangle, and square waves for melodic leads, while reserving harsh, overdriven sawtooth sounds for basslines. Grime is slightly less choosy - blending a wide variety of synth sounds within a single up-tempo production. To explain how to achieve synth sounds that have become popular in hip hop, crunk and grime, we use Arturia’s Minimoog V: a near-perfect emulation of the classic 70’s synthesizer used by Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Herbie Hancock, and many others. In this article, Hit Talk shows you how to use a synthesizer to create a bone-crushing bassline similar to what you hear in songs like Lil Jon’s “Put You Hood Up.”
1) Set the Perfect Sawtooth
To the left is the Minimoog V’s oscillator section. The oscillators are part of why the Minimoog V is an outstanding soft-synth. Sure, all soft synths have oscillators, but many use wavetable synthesis which generates a constant, static waveform from a file, or a piece of digital code. The Minimoog V oscillators are mathematical re- constructions of the original Minimoog oscillator circuitry, giving the waveforms a colorful warmth unmatched by conventional digital synthesis.
Now, let’s look at the ideal settings for an aggressive synth bassline. On the left side of the diagram, are the range knobs, which set the pitch range of each oscillator. We’ve set oscillator 1 and 3 to a tenor octave, letting oscillator 2 handle the bass frequencies. Each oscillator is set to sawtooth, indicated by the right-angle triangle above the waveform knobs. The sawtooth waveform has the harshest, most intense sound of all waveforms in the Minimoog V canvas. This is the beginning of a nasty crunk synth bassline.
2) Ear-Pleasin’ Soft Clipping
In the first diagram above, note that in the mixer section, each oscillator switch is in the “on” position, and the volumes are up. This ensures every oscillator is audible. In addition, we’ve switched on and turned up the external output volume to ensure that the overload circuit activates when the output signal of the mixer section reaches its limit. We’ll explain why.
The overload circuit is another extremely well-emulated part of the original Minimoog’s circuitry that produces a satisfying and unique timbre. You can activate it in the Minimoog V’s output stage. In the diagram at left, we’ve left the “modifiers” at their default settings, however we’ve enabled the “soft clipping” button. The soft clipping button tells the overload circuit to limit the amplitude of the waves
coming out of the mixer section, giving the Minimoog a very characteristic tonal modification that can add a nasty edge to any bass melody. Since it takes a lot of calculation to emulate the overload circuit, Arturia recommends keeping the Minimoog V’s unison and polyphony switches in the off position (as in our second diagram above).
3) Crunk-Style Chorus
Our final adjustments to this unique sound occur in the effect stages of the Minimoog V. If you click anywhere along the top of the Minimoog V, it opens up and displays several effect and modulation settings. An extremely popular synth effect in the genres of crunk and grime is chorus.
When programming a bassline, tactfully refrain from extreme chorus settings. Above, we’ve set a slow rate, low depth and mostly dry signal. Reserve heavier chorus settings for lead synth sounds. You can select the type of chorus using the buttons at far left in the chorus diagram. “Type”, in this case, refers to the density of the chorus, or how thick it sounds.
Now that you’re familiar with most of Minimoog V’s signal chain, you’re free to experiment. Together, crunk and grime ultilize a vast array of synth sounds, it would be impossible to cover them all in one article. Experimenting in the three areas we’ve explained above - oscillator waveforms, distortion in the synth output stage, and effects - will give you access to many of the sounds you hear in all genres of crunk, grime, rap and hip hop. Arturia Minimoog V renders them all with excellent emulation, adding the vintage vibe of a true analog synthesizer, and giving you a professional-sounding edge that will leave other producers cowering behind the console.