Bass gui­tar in the box

Computer Music - - Make Music Now -

Fea­tur­ing four fat, chunky strings tuned to the notes E,A, D and G, the elec­tric bass gui­tar came to the fore in the 60s, back­ing up Mo­town hits and pop/rock tracks alike. Suc­ces­sive decades brought bounc­ing disco oc­taves, rum­bling dub subs, ma­chine-gun slap bass, and more. To­day’s bass gui­tar vo­cab­u­lary draws on pretty much the en­tire his­tory of the in­stru­ment. Bor­row­ing from the past, you have the retro vibes of Mark Ron­son feat. Bruno Mars’ Up­town Funk and Daft Punk’s Ran­dom Ac­cess Mem­o­ries. But look­ing to the fu­ture, we find the clank­ing, ma­chine-like bass of mod­ern metal acts, of­ten util­is­ing five-string (or more) gui­tars for ex­tended range, and even fanned-fret, mul­ti­scale de­signs to de­liver sta­bil­ity at ul­tra-deep tun­ings.

You can get all these sounds and more in your own pro­duc­tions, and there are two ways to go about it. First, and most ob­vi­ously: record a real bassist. Al­ter­na­tively, use a ROM­pler, bass gui­tar synth or sam­ple pack.

For record­ing, plug into your au­dio in­ter­face’s high-im­ped­ance in­stru­ment in­put – nearly all in­ter­faces have one. If yours doesn’t, use a DI/preamp to plug into a mi­cro­phone in­put.

The in­stru­ment should be fit­ted with suit­able (new) strings. The main va­ri­eties are flat wound (smooth, old-school sound), nickel round­wound (clas­sic, all-round tone), and steel round­wound (bright and punchy). The ac­tion (string height from frets) af­fects playa­bil­ity and sound: high ac­tion gives purer tones and greater dy­nam­ics; low ac­tion gives a per­cus­sive at­tack and nat­u­ral ‘dis­tor­tion’ as the strings buzz against the frets. Most basses have two pick­ups that can be com­bined and fur­ther shaped with the tone con­trols.

Most im­por­tant is the play­ing it­self. Ar­eas to fo­cus on for record­ing are con­sis­tent right- hand dy­nam­ics, and us­ing the hands to mute strings that aren’t be­ing played, to pre­vent back­ground ring­ing. How the strings are plucked mas­sively af­fects tone too, as demon­strated in the be­low tu­to­rial.

This fat-stringed funk ma­chine pumps out bas­sa­li­cious riffs, and you can make them for your­self in soft­ware

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