How to Make “Where Are Ü Now” Bass with Ableton’s Operator

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Hey guys, Ableton Certified Trainer Ian Gallagher, aka DJ IBG, here.

Today I’ve got a tutorial showing you how to dial in a quintessential deep house bass, a sound that got insane radio play in 2015 with Jack Ü & Justin Bieber’s massive hit “Where Are Ü Now.”

Whether you’re shooting for deep house glory, or just curious about how such a popular sound is created, this is a must watch tutorial.

As usual the rack built in this tutorial is free, simply enter your email address above and grab it!

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Working with Ableton’s Operator

First start by grabbing an instance of Ableton’s Operator. Because we’re using FM synthesis to get this sound, we will be choosing the algorithm where Oscillator’s B, C and D are directly affecting Oscillator A (Note: In FM synths like this, Oscillators can also referred to as Operators. For clarity in this post, when I say “Operator”, I mean the synth).

To get that character deep house bass we need to dial the envelope of Oscillator B to have no sustain, and give it a really quick decay. This creates a nice quick plucking bass sound.

There you have it, that’s really the core element of what makes this sound. Now create a rack:

  • Right or control click, and choose Group
  • Macro Map the Coarse knob of Oscillator B to Macro 1, and assign a color
  • Macro Map the Decay of Oscillator B to Macro 2, and assign the same color

Coarse is a really interesting parameter in FM synthesis. (You can read all about it in the Live manual or you can take Vespers’ Synthesis 101 course on to get a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of synthesis.)

Then just follow this same mapping process for Oscillator C and D’s Coarse and Decay settings. Now as you play with these Macros you realize there are limitless possibilities for creating new bass sounds, just by simply experimenting. You might also want to adjust the volume of the Oscillators to dial in the sound to your taste.

Completing the Sound by Adding Effects

After Ableton’s Operator we are going to add some effects:

  • Start by adding a touch of warmth by adding Ableton’s Dynamic Tube
  • Then add a filter Delay, panned hard left and right, to give the signal a bit of delay
  • Then Macro map the volume of the delay’s to a Macro knob labelled Space
  • Follow that with a Reverb to really emphasize the Space, and add the Dry/Wet of the reverb to the Space macro
  • Next in the chain we will add what is perhaps an unconventional EQ, but it allows us to put a bass boost on the low shelf, followed by a macro that is assigned to high shelf gain
  • This way you can really adjust the brightness in the patch and help your bass sound sit in the mix nicely, exactly where you want it
  • And finally a little bit of compression just to tame some peaks

There you go! That’s my basic approach to making a Deep House Bass. Make sure to download this rack and happy music making!

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producing with racksIf you liked this tutorial and want to understand, use and exploit every piece that makes up a Rack in Ableton Live, definitely check out my course Producing with Racks.


Producing with Racks gives you a diverse and flexible set of tools to work with essential audio effects, plug-ins and instruments. I have a whole playlist of free videos on the course page, so head here to watch them!