Freeform bass is a new genre of bass music that is taking over the Americas. From an outsider looking in, it can be hard to define precisely what this buddy blend of genres exactly is. But for an artist, as entrenched in the scene as Mersiv, what makes Freeform Bass so special is clear as day.
So we decided that there is never a better time than now to bring the artist on to explain everything that you've ever wondered about Freeform Bass and answer all of the most popular questions I know you are asking about America's hottest genre dance music.
Mersiv is a famous electronic touring artist known for Pretty Dark Loud, the title of his debut album released in 2021. Since he's toured nationally with Liquid Stranger and is preparing his cross-country run on The Mersiv Experience Tour. Grab tickets here.
Not From The Editor: The following is an Op-Ed from Anderson Gallegos, better known as Mersiv, on the origins of the Freeform Bass genre and its existence today.
Where does Freeform Bass Music originate?
The roots of Bass music originated from Jamaican Soundsystem culture due to artists like Lee "Scratch" Perry, later influenced by the Grime and Drum & Bass scenes in the UK. Freeform Bass expanded in the Electronic scene after Bass music had grown widely appreciated in the States post-2010.
Freeform Bass emerged in the U.S. after DnB, Dubstep, Trap, and other veins of Electronic music continued to find a home and grow here. After all, these genres had grown to be embraced more through live events, particularly at music festivals.
Regional influences of Hip-Hop, Rock, and other live music began to evolve Bass music into a melting pot of styles.
What artists/movements have helped create the community and proliferation of the genre?
There's a lot at play when discussing what's helped create community, both sonically and socially.
With its inherent acceptance and involvement of LGBTQ communities and many different cultures, the growth of rave and festival communities allowed for a more inclusive and welcoming environment for people to create. The utilization of modern technology to create immersive audio/visual experiences has promoted these styles of electronic music even more.
Liquid Stranger is a pivotal figure as the founder of WAKAAN, which has served as a label and platform for Freeform artists to create. My label, MorFlo Records, was created in a similar vein, empowering creatives to find their flow and their unique way of expression through sound.
Other influential figures are artists like PEEKABOO, Break Science, Pretty Lights, GRiZ, Manic Focus, and KOAN Sound.
How Foes Your Pretty Dark Loud Sound Encapsulates Freeform Bass?
The "Pretty Dark Loud" idea was built over several years, but part of the actual record was written during the COVID lockdown. This gave me a rare break from shows to truly explore how I wanted to express myself.
Together, a wide range of time and emotions in life reflects in the art. It's about letting loose, not putting barriers in the music, and pulling from all sorts of inspirations.
Pretty Dark Loud communicated to people in meaningful ways through a wide range of sounds, vibes, emotions, influences, and tempos that didn't put into a box. Its ability to connect with people and pull from numerous inspirations places it under the banner of Freeform.
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What BPM Is Freeform Bass?
As mentioned, Freeform is an open range of tempos taking inspiration from multiple genres. Much of the music is blendable with other bass genres and fits well for hip-hop acapella use when mixing it live.
This usually lends to bpm signatures in 65-75 (130-150) bpm, 80-90 (160-180) bpm, and even sometimes glitch/mid-tempo/and house tempos in the 100-130 bpm range.
Differences in various styles of Freeform (Melodic vs Heavier?)
Like my album Pretty Dark Loud, Freeform Bass music ranges from very melodic music to the more hard-hitting, chaotic sounds one might think of when they hear the term dubstep.
Freeform bass's versatility of styles comes from a broad spectrum of human emotion expressed through it and resonating with it. The space between the polarities of pretty and dark, subtle and loud, are explored throughout the genre.
Freeform music takes inspiration from all that came before while also exploring avenues for consciousness to manifest and reverberate as we explore the growing pains of moving into a new era of higher global consciousness.
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Best Instruments and Plugins For Freeform Bass Production
Because of the nature of Freeform Bass, those looking to produce music in this genre should rely on a wide range of plugins, tools, and instruments. Freeform Bass has a diverse sound palette, and pulling synthetic sounds and pairing them with acoustic tones and found percussions can yield some exciting results.
Use VST Synths To Precise Sound Design
Synths like Massive, Serum, Phaseplant, and Omnisphere are necessities when shaping the sounds of Freeform Bass. Digital synths like these allow for precise automation moves, highly customizable sounds, and many other features that allow you to dial in the exact sound and vibe you are after.
Drums (Both Synthesized and Live)
Much like the VSTs mentioned above, Freeform Bass production can be taken to the next level when you pair synthetic drums' digital and hyper-sound-designed hits with the dusty, warm hits of live percussions.
Layering the two styles of recordings and samples allows you to get the best of both worlds and helps arrive at a unique sound; giving you a better chance of having your music get noticed as the genre becomes more popular (and thus oversaturated)
Juxtaposed against the digital precision of VSTs like Serum or Omnisphere, using live instruments in your Freeform bass tracks can elevate your productions to new heights.
Recorded instruments have a unique texture, sample timings, and numerous other qualities that VSTs simply can't replicate. So whenever you have the option of having instruments on the track, take advantage of everything they offer.
Whether you're using a clean and dialed-in bass line or a warm and distorted bassline, your low-end needs to be knocking, after all, it's called Freeform Bass!
But unlike genres such as dubstep, the entire focus of Freeform bass doesn't necessarily have to be on the bass. This gives producers tons of creative freedom in their sound design, good selection, and mixing!
Make sure the bass is enormous, and you'll be on the right track.
How to Produce Freeform Bass
Producing Freeform Bass music, in my opinion, requires a firm foundation in music theory, sound design, mixing, and arrangement. Once you understand these principles, you must try new things and break your boundaries to tap into your flow-state to allow universal energy, thought, and emotion to manifest through your art.
At its basis, you're creating music that people can dance or flow to, so look for an auditory flow, rhythm, and "push and pull" effect within the journey of the song.
More Tips On Producer Freeform Bass:
Many people knock on YouTube tutorials and say there is too much false information online when it comes to music production.
You can learn anything you need to produce top-level Freeform Bass on YouTube, and I think it's one of the best things for the music-production community.
Go To Shows
Find inspiration in live events and the world around you. Remember that Freeform Bass is meant to be danced to, and the best way to see and hear what works in a live setting is to get out into the wild and experience it yourself.
Make Your Music Move
Utilizing EQ-ing, filtering, and automation to enhance the flow of the track. This is the best way to make your music move and maintain interest over the length of a song.
It's the secret sauce to turning a song that sounds super 'loopy' into a living, breathing piece of music.
Resampling is a powerful weapon that most producers don't start experimenting with until later in the game.
Being able to design a sound, flip it, rework it, and reprint the audio opens up new levels of creativity that standard MIDI instruments can't achieve.
Use Space To Create A Vibe
Manipulating vocals and synths through modulation, especially with effects like reverb and delay, can be an excellent way to enhance the emotion and space of the track.
A track that feels empty and boring might just need a couple of layers of super-dialed-in reverb to feel full and punchy suddenly.
It's All About The Details
The difference between an amateur-sounding track that no DJ plays and a fantastic track on everyone's USB are all in the details.
Utilize subtle amounts of foley and noise-type sounds to fill out each sound and the entire 3D frequency range. Pay extra attention to exactly how your automation is moving. Do a few more takes on your live instrument, so you have a ton of raw audio to resample and manipulate in the session.
Attention to detail will help you out astronomically in the long run.
Don't Do Your Mastering
Find a talented Mastering engineer to help you make your music presentable in the best way on extensive sound systems or any sound system.
Outsourcing this last step of the production process allows you to get an unbiased opinion on your final master and helps ensure that you get an objectively fantastic end result.