Reese bass is an often-confused term that crops up in dance music production, usually within Jungle and Drum’n’Bass circles. There are countless YouTube tutorials on creating the perfect Reese sound, commonly built up of stacked super-saw oscillators with numerous parallel band-reject filters being modulated, drenched in unison detune and clipping distortion.

Of course, this modern flip is a perfectly valid sound, and can be heard in tracks from Noisia to Limewax, Technical Itch to Spor and many others. However, the original term actually refers to a sound sampled from a 1988 techno track by Kevin Saunderson under the alias Reese:

Reese’s Pieces

On the original pressing there were a number of different mixes, in particular the third track on the A-side. Colloquially known as the Bassapella, it had the bassline isolated without drums making it ripe for sampling:

The is a wavy low-passed bass sound easily achieved with basic subtractive synthesis. Often mis-attributed to a Roland Juno 106, Kevin actually clears this up for us in a recent Music Radar
interview, claiming the sound came from a Casio CZ-5000.

The patch has a nice, subtle movement to it and some harmonics in the mid-range and has plenty of bottom end. These characteristics made it perfect for lots of dance music. Kevin had this to say about it:

I created the Reese bass from that [Casio synth], and drum ‘n’ bass DJs have used it over the years… I’d be getting into the oscillators, but it was trial and error. I didn’t know a lot about that kind of stuff, but I knew it affected the way the original patch sounded. You just messed around with every button! …So there was no real theory behind it, besides experimentation to make something happen differently to what was was already there… I can usually tell when I have it right just by how the impact of the sound feels when I play on the keyboard, whether it’s a deep Reese bass or any other type of bass.

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