Making the beat: Travis Scott’s Sicko Mode


Gather ’round children, cause this tutorial is com-pre-hen-sive.
Sicko Mode has a lot of contrasting features and this tutorial covers four tracks: two basses that magically get along, hi-hats that create a ton of bounce and whatever that organ ditty is.

If you’re interested in a particular track, here are the timestamps:
1:14 – Growl Bass
6:46 – Sub Bass
11:48 – Drums
14:18 – Organ-ish

You can download presets, midi files, and logic session right here and as always, feel free to join us over at the forum if you want to talk, or more precisely, type.


Welcome to Making the Beat. Today we’re gonna recreate Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.” In the description, there’s links to download midi files, presets, and for you Logic users, the Logic session.

There’s four tracks here: drums, two different basses, and a kind of organ-ish sort of sound. And if you’re only interested in one of those, you want to jump ahead to it. In the description, there’s also links to different times in the video.

Now, I’m gonna start with the basses ’cause there’s two of them, which I find really interesting. Usually, you don’t have two sounds occupying the low end. Two basses would typically fight a lot. It would create a lot of mud, but these work cause they’re very different. You’ve got a sub-bass, and then you’ve got this growl bass. All right, so this is up in the mids , the sub is just below. So they play well together.

All right, so let’s start with the growl bass. I’m gonna turn our volume down a little bit, and the notes are real simple. It’s just several D’s. Now by default, Massive has this little bit of decay on their amp envelope, let’s get rid of that, so we have a solid envelope.

Okay, first thing’s first, we want a saw wave, and we actually want two of them. Except the second one’s gonna be an octave lower. All right, good start. Now we’re gonna send them both to filter one. And this is where we’re gonna get the EEOWWM We’re gonna take an envelope, we’re gonna modulate the cutoff of a band pass. So it kind of goes ‘eeowwwm’ like that.

Let’s take an envelope here, route it, turn it up, and we want to go all the way down with that. Now, for a band pass we really want to hear the filter, the ‘eeowwm,’ we want to give it kind of a juicier sound, so we’re gonna increase the resonance. There it is. Let’s turn it up a bit. All right, so that’s the decay. It’s taking the cutoff, starting it here and moving it down.

Now, we can make this linear, which means it’s gonna hang out at the top a little bit. And I actually found that sounded closer, and I kind of like the linear shape ’cause- since it hangs at the top more, it gives the sound a little bit more fatness almost, the note’s there a little bit longer before it sweeps down. As opposed to the curve version, which kind of lingers at the bottom. This sounded more like the sound.

All right. Now, at the end of this longer note, you hear it lingers at the bottom, and you get this kind of ‘whoom,’ this sort of jump in the low end. Listen, that ‘whoom.’ We don’t want that because there’s a sub-bass, right? We don’t want any low-end in this bass patch, otherwise it’s gonna butt heads with the sub-bass. So, we’re gonna make this serial, which means filter one is now gonna run into filter two.

We’re gonna grab a high pass, and we’re just gonna take some bottom end off. Turn us up to about here. Huh, it’s gone. Listen. There it is, I had to set this to mix two. When it was here, I was hearing both some of this filter and some of this filter. We just want to hear filter two. The oscillators go into filter one, then two, and that’s all we hear. All right, listen to filter one . Hear that ‘hughn?’ That’s gone.

Good, all right so now this sounds really puny. We need distortion. So I went with tele tube, crank this and crank the drop. There it is. Now that sounds pretty good until you compare it to the original Way nastier. It’s ballpark. I tried out some other ones, classic, brauner, but tele was the closest, so I was like, how can I make this nastier.

Well, come down to this insert and we can layer in another distortion. And I found if I had hard clipper all the way wet, listen to what happens. That gets us. Now, here’s what’s interesting about this hard clipper. If I turn this off, let’s turn them both off in fact. And turn this on, it’s not that much of a difference. Off on It just sounds a little bit louder, but it makes a huge difference when this is on. So hard clipper off, tube on. Hard clipper on. Oh, the combination of these two is really nice. So let’s hear it. All right, maybe a little more of this. And that’s our growl bass.

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Sub bass, we’re gonna start with Serum, and again, we’re gonna use some raw saws. I’m gonna turn the volume down a little bit for now. What do we got. So this is also a bunch of D’s with one high D jump. And, what makes this one really interesting is that some of the ends of the notes bend up in pitch. Sometimes they bend up a fifth, sometimes they bend up an octave. I thought a great way to make sure you can bend it up a fifth and bend it up an octave using the pitch bend, is to first set the up direction for seven semi-tones, which is a fifth. All right, “duh-uuup” that’s our fifth.

Now here at the end I want to go “duh-ahh,” much higher, up an octave. So what I did is take the lower one, the downward direction, and make that up, whoops, one octave. So that way you can take your pitch wheel and either go up a fifth , or if you press it downwards it’ll go up an octave. That’s better than sending up to an octave and then trying to find the fifth halfway. This gives you precision. And this way you can record it in real time, not have to draw it in from the scratch, which I like to do.

So now, when I go up here, it’ll get up a fifth, and when I go down with my wheel here, you’ll actually go up an octave. Good, and what I did is I recorded with the pitch wheel and then I went in and just kind of tweaked it, made it bend exactly where I wanted it to bend.

Okay, let’s set ourselves to mono, and I’m gonna crank our oscillator volume here because we’re gonna drive this filter. I want as much going in as possible. Now, this is a sub-bass and you might be thinking, why aren’t you just using a sine? I love saws for sub-basses. I love taking the filter all the way down to get that nice rad sound. I can decide exactly where I want it, how much maybe like low-mids that I want in it that come from the saw, and I can drive it, and I just get a much nicer, warmer sound from a saw.

Whereas a sine can give you a little bit more of a hollower sound when you try to drive it and do things like that. So, we’re gonna do a 24dB moog-style filter. Turn it down here, crank the drive. Yeah, that drive gives it that nice, warm subtle growl. I’m gonna turn on key-tracking because we’re playing two notes an octave apart. That higher note’s gonna be a little rounder than the lower ones. Key-tracking will help even that out. Good, compare it to. It’s subtle, but it makes that higher note brighter.

Okay, and then I’m gonna boost the res just a little bit, just to make it a little less flat, a little more shaped. Yeah, there it is. Okay, amp envelope, I’m gonna turn up our attack just a touch, make sure we don’t get any pops and clicks, at least less of them. And then I’m gonna add a subtle decay. Right about here, and it’s really subtle. And now listen to it without it. Kind of sounds stiff without it. With it. It’s just kind of nice and almost, it sounds a little more like an actual bass. There’s just this subtle movement in it, give it just a subtle attack transient. That’s kind of stiff, this has a bit more life to it. Nice.

All right, finally, compression. We’re gonna even out the higher notes a little bit louder than the lower notes. This might help even it out a bit. And I actually like the default settings for this. Just kind of tweak the threshold, makeup gain. Compare it, little louder. We don’t want to distort. All right, sub bass!

All right, next we have the drums. This is a pretty standard trap sounding kit. This was Logic’s built-in one, Trapdoor. All right, what I like about this drum track are how the hi-hats are used. First off, you got two different hi-hats, this real sharp one, and this more muted one on the left side. And then there’s also an open one. And how these hi-hats all play together creates all of the bounce in this track. And it’s all about volumes and velocity, so I’m gonna mute the sort of soft one.

Let’s look at just this pointed one. If I highlight them, take a look at the velocities. So a lot of them are quiet. The ones on the &s of the beats are louder. And then even this little sixteenth-note roll here has different velocities, listen to this. Duh, da, da, da, duh, da. So you get this accent, pu-pah, bum. You may not think that makes a huge difference until you hear it… Until you hear it without it.

Let me just take an incredibly long time to click all these. Now, I’m gonna drag them up, so that they’re pretty much all the same. Look how stiff that it, da, da, da. Now listen to this. Bah, uh, it almost starts to phrase it. Puts all this bounce in it. And then when you bring in this quieter hi-hat. This one’s on the left side and it’s quieter. So you’ve got velocity with the right hi-hat, quieter with the left hi-hat. It’s just so much bounce, and then we bring in kick in the snare. All about those hi-hats. That’s the drums.

Next up is that kind of organ-ish patch, and to be honest, I think it’s probably a sample. It sounds kind of organic, it’s got a sample vibe to it. But I thought it’d be interesting to try to recreate it using a synth here in serum. I feel like I got pretty close, maybe 90% of the way there, and it’s just interesting how we can get this sort of like trippy, organ-ishy, sample-y kind of sound using just a synth.

The first thing I’m gonna do is bring our volume down. And right now just short little stabs, but it rings out, right? So, I want some release, some nice long chords. And these are three-note chords, so make sure they don’t overlap each other and create mud. I’m gonna make our synth 3 voices, so that these three voices will ring out, and then when the next voices come in it’ll cut those old ones off.

Now, it’s two different chords, and by themselves it’s an F# minor, that’s inverted, and a C# major. But, the bass is playing a D. So really, it’s a little more complex than that, and it sounds pretty dissonant. So in reality, it’s more of like a D major 7 and a C# over D poly-chord, whatever. I doubt that, when they were making these chords, they were thinking about the analysis of the harmony. It was probably, they were just messing around on a keyboard, or, if these are samples, it could have been like the one hits off a sampler. Either way, the end harmony shows why it’s so dissonant and gives you that kind of vibe that it gets.

All right, so let’s look at our oscillator. I’m not gonna use a saw for this. I wanted something kind of organ-y, and really I just experimented until I found one that I liked. I ended up going with this cream. Good organ vibe. Unison. And it’s a narrow sound, down the center only.

And then there’s this really cool fluttering in it. So, I took an LFO to modulate the oscillator’s volume, and to do it really quickly. And I ended up switching to a, uh… sine. Really subtle difference, but the sine, since it’s curved, it spends a little more time at the top and bottom, so it give us a bit of a stronger flutter.

Okay, next, I want to shape it with the filter. Now, it’s got this really kind of shaped, super resonant, peaked kind of sound, so went with a band pass 24. And I’m gonna drive. Good. And to really get that peak to push out, I crank the resonance Yeah. And when I crank the resonance, I typically also turn up fat. That kind of makes up for any low-end you lose in your resonance. This is a band pass, so it’s not totally necessary, but it ended up giving us a nice volume boost as well.

All right, next we’re gonna make this thing super reverb-y, very wet. We’re gonna do that with a plate reverb because it give us a width option. Again, we want this to be in the middle, and we don’t want a wide sound . Yeah, and I don’t want any dampening or high-cutting or anything like that. Really want to let this reverb fully ring out. And pre-delay separates our dry sound from our wet sound a little bit with a little bit of time. I don’t want that either, I want this thing drenched. There it is.

Okay, so along with this flutter here, we also have this sort of slower like “whoa, whoa, whoa” tremolo. Normally, I’d route an LFO to our oscillator level, but that’s already being fluttered by LFO 1. So instead I’m gonna switch my filter to level, which just makes it like a volume knob at the end of the filter, and I’m gonna modulate that instead. Gonna go a little faster . And again, I’m gonna switch to a sine wave ’cause a triangle wave shoots down pretty quick, and I want this to start at the top, and kind of like how with Massive in the growl bass, we switched to linear as opposed to having it shoot down faster, this curves upward compared to this shot down. So we get more time at the top. It gives us a bit more of a prominent attack transient, a fatter.

Okay, now, there is one more thing I want to show you, and that is the second chord is brighter than the first. So I routed our mod wheel to the cutoff, just a super small amount, and opened the mod wheel, turned it all the way up as I played the second chord, giving it kind of like an opening wah sound. I love that. And that’s your organ style patch.

So all together. All right, I hope you found that helpful. If you want to request that I do this for a different song, or even just a specific patch, head on over to our forum,, and post your request there. While you’re at the website, check out our blog. There’s tons of videos and articles and stuff like this. And don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel at the bottom right corner of this video.