Modern plugins for leading-edge bass guitar
2. Stacks of tone
One particularly effective bass production technique is to run the instrument through a guitar amp to create a bright, overdriven tone that’s free of any real bass weight – then stack that up with a fat, rounded bass amp tone.
The thing is, this is really just an old-school equivalent of what we’d today term multiband distortion – so why not use actual multiband distortion and sidestep all the routing headaches?
Fab Filter Saturn is one of our favourites for this, as it has some great amp-like distortions. First dial in your bass amp sim for a typical clean but rounded bass guitar tone, then place Saturn after it. One band covering 300Hz upwards is a good starting point, excluding the fundamental frequencies that can otherwise dominate the distortion, making it fuzzy. Pick a distortion style – they’re all fair game – then set the Drive as required. Use the Mix control to blend the dry and dirty signals together. Heavy distortion mixed in quietly sometimes works better than 100% light distortion. Adjust the band controls to refine the effect – try pulling the top crossover down for smoother treble.
3. Characterbuilding EQ
With the fundamental frequency of the bass guitar’s low E lying at 41Hz, boosting this should make it super-beefy, right? Well, yes – but only for that note. As you play further up the neck, the fundamental will sound relatively weaker. D’oh! But how about an EQ that follows the pitch of the note being played? That’s Sound Radix’s Surfer EQ 2, which is an extremely useful tool on bass guitar, an instrument which benefits greatly from note-to-note consistency.
4. Buzz cut
Obnoxious treble content in bass guitar can cause harshness and unpleasant metallic artefacts. If we apply EQ to attenuate those sounds, the treble bite can be lost, too.
Multiband transient shaping can overcome this. Activate one band, then solo it and adjust the crossovers to focus on the artefacts. Pull Sustain/Release down to minimum and adjust any Sensitivity controls until the attack of each note sounds as usual, but the body of the note is quietened. Turn off solo and adjust Sustain/Release to reduce the harshness.