The mas­ters of soft­ware am­pli­fi­ca­tion have poured their mod­el­ling ex­per­tise into this vir­tual bass gui­tar – have they strung it up right?

Computer Music - - Contents - www.ik­mul­ti­me­dia.com

For the com­puter mu­si­cian look­ing to use elec­tric bass in their pro­duc­tions, the only op­tions to date have been to ei­ther record the real thing or fire up a sam­ple-based in­stru­ment. With their new al­ter­na­tive, IK Mul­ti­me­dia are claim­ing a world first: eight years in devel­op­ment, Modo Bass (VST/AU/AAX/ stand­alone) puts phys­i­cally mod­elled em­u­la­tions of 12 clas­sic elec­tric bass gui­tars at your fin­ger­tips, along with the tech­niques a bassist would em­ploy to play them. The big ques­tion, then, is whether the mal­leabil­ity of phys­i­cal mod­el­ling in this case comes at the ex­pense of sonic re­al­ism…

A la Modo

Be­ing a synth, Modo Bass doesn’t re­quire any­where near the hard drive space de­voured by the av­er­age muilti­sam­pled li­brary – the in­staller is a svelt 170MB. The ma­jor­ity of the in­ter­face is taken up by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive graphic of the bass be­ing mod­elled, or the amp and ped­al­board, or the keyswitch­ing lay­out, de­pend­ing on which of the six tabbed pages you’re on. The con­trol ar­ray at the top changes to re­flect the cur­rently se­lected tab – MIDI CC-as­sign­a­ble pa­ram­e­ters in the Con­trol tab, for ex­am­ple, or pickup and tone shap­ing op­tions in the Elec­tron­ics tab.

At the bot­tom of the GUI, the in­ter­ac­tive fret­board and key­board en­able moused play and show the left hand fin­ger­ing and string plucks in real time. You can let Modo Bass make left hand string/fret choices for you, or use the keyswitches at the top of the key­board to force your own.

Modo Bass in­cludes a size­able pre­set li­brary, so get­ting busy with it can be as sim­ple as load­ing one and trig­ger­ing it from your MIDI key­board or pi­ano roll ed­i­tor. Three keyswitch­able play­ing styles are on­board – Fin­ger, Pick and Slap – while the other con­trols in the Play Style tab let you ad­just the ‘touch’ strength, fin­ger­ing (in­dex, mid­dle or al­ter­nat­ing), pick di­rec­tion (up, down or al­ter­nat­ing), slap style (all slap, all pull, or slap with au­to­matic pull for notes over a spec­i­fied ve­loc­ity), left hand fret­board po­si­tion­ing, slide and re­lease noise, amount of string mut­ing ap­plied and more. The right hand play­ing

“Modo Bass doesn’t re­quire the hard drive space de­voured by the av­er­age muilti­sam­pled li­brary”

po­si­tion, mean­while, is shifted be­tween the bridge and neck by drag­ging the or­ange marker on the cen­tral graphic.

The 14 keyswitches (tog­gling many of the Play Style op­tions, plus Ghost note, Ham­mer On/Pull Off, Har­mon­ics, etc) are an­no­tated in the Con­trol tab on an in­ter­ac­tive graph­i­cal key­board. While the keyswitches can’t be edited, the as­sign­ment of MIDI CCs to Bend, Slide, Mut­ing, Pluck Po­si­tion, Vi­brato and other per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters can, mak­ing MIDI con­troller link­age a straight­for­ward, pain­less process.

Bass in the place

When you want take ad­van­tage of the phys­i­cal mod­el­ling en­gine to de­sign your own bass, the first thing to do is se­lect one of 12 gui­tars in the Model page (see The dirty dozen). This in­di­vid­u­ally mod­els the body, strings and elec­tron­ics of the cho­sen in­stru­ment, the last two of which are ed­itable in the Strings and Elec­tron­ics tabs.

The strings can be set to four (with drop D op­tion) or five in num­ber, switched be­tween round and flat wound, and light, medium and heavy gauge, and even aged – Old, New or Bro­ken In, in­flu­enc­ing sus­tain and bright­ness. The ac­tion can be set to three heights, too, for tonal and fret noise vari­a­tion.

Each bass model comes with its own bridge and neck pick­ups (as well as a piezo un­der the bridge), but both are freely swap­pable in the Elec­tron­ics tab for any from the full list of 20 sin­gle coils and hum­buck­ers, and in­de­pen­dently po­si­tion­able any­where be­tween bridge and neck. The Tone knob of­fers ba­sic fre­quency tilt­ing, while turn­ing on Ac­tive cir­cuitry un­locks the Bass, Mid­dle and Tre­ble EQ knobs.

Fi­nally, Tube and Solid State amp mod­els are avail­able in the Amp/FX tab, each with its own EQ and other con­trols, along­side a se­ries of four ef­fects ‘ped­als’, each host­ing your choice from seven pro­ces­sors – En­ve­lope Fil­ter, De­lay, Dis­tor­tion, Oc­taver, Graphic EQ, Cho­rus and Com­pres­sor. The am­pli­fied sig­nal is mixed with the DI sig­nal at the fi­nal out­put.

Highs and lows

Modo Bass squarely hits the mark when it comes to re­al­is­tic fin­gered, picked and – to a slightly lesser ex­tent – slap bass em­u­la­tion, sound­ing eas­ily close enough to the real thing as to be in­dis­tin­guish­able in the mix, right down to the fret and string noise, The well-de­signed in­ter­face makes tweak­ing sound, re­sponse and in­stru­ment char­ac­ter­is­tics easy, and pro­gram­ming or play­ing au­then­ti­cally ‘hu­man’ b-lines quickly be­comes in­tu­itive, thanks to the ex­cel­lent per­for­mance con­trols and keyswitch­ing setup. On the down side, the mono cho­rus and de­lay ef­fects are a tiny blem­ish; fret­less and six-string con­fig­u­ra­tions would have made for tasty ic­ing on an al­ready de­li­cious cake; and it’s quite a lot more ex­pen­sive than the av­er­age sam­pled bass li­brary.

Ul­ti­mately, though, even the most cyn­i­cal of mu­sic pro­duc­tion tra­di­tion­al­ists would be hard pressed to find fault with Modo Bass’ su­perb elec­tric bass mod­el­ling, which, when pro­grammed and ma­nip­u­lated prop­erly, is ev­ery bit as son­i­cally ef­fec­tive as its mul­ti­sam­pled equiv­a­lents, and far more ver­sa­tile. IK may just have changed the low-end game.

“Modo Bass squarely hits the mark when it comes to re­al­is­tic fin­gered, picked and slap bass em­u­la­tion”

Modo Bass gives you two mod­elled amps and four ef­fects ped­als as part of the pack­age

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