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Bass sound dilemma

Postby Demious » Wed Dec 18, 2019 7:01 pm

Ive ben having trouble creating a decent bass sound, ever since I started playing bass, about 30 years ago. I tried all kinds of basses and amps and almost everything can do what Im looking for, a little boost at 130-150, twice that boost at 750 and ajust high and low it sounds to boomy and a get a great growling bass sound, but..! Only at 90+ dB.
Ive been using hardware amps, Ive been using virtual amps and speakers and everything works fine, but only at 90+ dB. Lower than that and Im left with a weak and wooly sound, all detail and brightness is gone.

Ive been reading around, Ive been watching tutorials on youtube, Ive been talking to people, butnwhen talking non-heavy rock/metal, everything is boomy and wooly and talking heavy rock/metal, everyone is talking about boomy low-end and a high-end that buzzes like a distorted guitar.

Can someone point me to some information about how to create and record a growling bass sound, with a lot of RRRRRRR!!! that works on a volume people useally listen to music and keeps up in a full mix?
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 18, 2019 7:26 pm

Assuming a decent instrument and a decent player, all I normally use after the DI is a virtual amp for low end, a bit of simulated valve distortion for definition... Balance the three elements up and... purr without boom.

Maybe start cutting instead of boosting. Use an HPF to cut the boom.

And turn down to sensible levels while you're creating your bass sound - if you start loud you'll never be happy when it's turned back down, and your ears will also lead you to poor decisions - as seems to be happening to you right now.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby CS70 » Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:14 pm

Demious wrote:Can someone point me to some information about how to create and record a growling bass sound, with a lot of RRRRRRR!!! that works on a volume people useally listen to music and keeps up in a full mix?

I've read your description a couple times, but it's hard to understand what exactly you mean. Do you have a song with an idea of the bass sound you're looking for?

Take "Smoke on the water", "Daddy Cool", "Ace of Spades", "Sultans of Swing", "Every Breath You Take" etc (any song with a clear bass line, that is) - which timbre are you after?

There's a few things that make a bass line groove while being clearly audible - the playing technique, with a clear and nice attack, the position of the pickup(s) and where you pluck the strings, the freq relationship with the kick, the balance with the guitar (not only in level and frequency but in the actual playing, often a bass line is clearer because the guitar lower strings double up or get out the way), and then distortion and compression.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Demious » Wed Dec 18, 2019 10:05 pm

The Elf wrote:Assuming a decent instrument and a decent player

CS70 wrote:the playing technique, with a clear and nice attack, the position of the pickup(s) and where you pluck the strings

Been playing for 30 years, done conservatoriun for a couple of years. I use different playing styles, mostly plucking with fingers, from controlled jazz style to heavy styles with lots of 'klang', hard and tight at the bridge to round and full at the neck, plectrum if needed for sound. Ive been playing about everything, from pop covers to jazz, classical, rock and metal.
Im using a Warwick Streamer Jazzmann and Corvette FNA, over Glockenklang amps, using either one, or a combination of Bassart and Soul preamp. On the computer I either use Bias Amp2/FX2, with 3rd party IRs, or Torpedo Wall of Sound plugin's multi-speaker IRs, or the Bassart into Wall of Sound plugin, using the tube power amp from Wall of Sound. I can make dozens of cool sounds, thats not the point, I dont get to that one sound Im always looking for myself. Unless I pull 90dB out of the speakers, that is... ;)

The Elf wrote:And turn down to sensible levels while you're creating your bass sound - if you start loud you'll never be happy when it's turned back down

I mostly play at low level, around 60-70dB and I always start at that level when working on my sound, but when I get the low-end en growl, I loose the high-mid and highs and when to get those back, I have to cut into the low-end untill the sound is thin and empty.

The Elf wrote:Maybe start cutting instead of boosting. Use an HPF to cut the boom

Thats where I always start, cut low-end, cut 250Hz and the sound goes in the right direction, but it never gets all the way there. With a little high boost at 1 and 2k Ive got the spectrum, but not the mass to get it growling. To get more growl without boosting and increasing volume, I have to cut into the low-end untill the point that the theres no mass left to fullfil the function of the bass, with the result that I have to add so much low-end in the mix (Waves RBass, Pultec low boost, on top of EQ boost), that the sound get boomy again and looses all detail from the growl.

CS70 wrote:Take "Smoke on the water", "Daddy Cool", "Ace of Spades", "Sultans of Swing", "Every Breath You Take" etc (any song with a clear bass line, that is) - which timbre are you after?

It took me some time to find a couple of good examples. It somewhere around what these guys have.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xdm9IaOehLs (31min in, John Myung)

And a little cleaner

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ8LFXSl3Qs

Its nothing new, cliché even, and Ive heard the sound plenty of times, over all kind of equipment, with all kinds of instruments, but its always on high volume. While these guys show it very achievable on low volumes as well.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Dec 18, 2019 10:47 pm

The two bass examples you give are solo with no band competing. Can you give examples of bass that you like in the context of a full band?
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby blinddrew » Wed Dec 18, 2019 11:10 pm

Does your dissatisfaction vary depending on what rooms you're in? I.e. practice room, studio, stage?
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby The Bunk » Wed Dec 18, 2019 11:26 pm

Demious wrote:
Can someone point me to some information about how to create and record a growling bass sound, with a lot of RRRRRRR!!! that works on a volume people useally listen to music and keeps up in a full mix?

Probably not the purist's answer this and, as others have suggested, a lot of it is down to the recording and technique but the Izotope Alloy 2 plug-in has a "Growling Bass" preset which I love and have used frequently, although sometimes with a bit of tweaking.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby CS70 » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:07 am

It took me some time to find a couple of good examples. It somewhere around what these guys have.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xdm9IaOehLs (31min in, John Myung)

And a little cleaner

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ8LFXSl3Qs

Its nothing new, cliché even, and Ive heard the sound plenty of times, over all kind of equipment, with all kinds of instruments, but its always on high volume. While these guys show it very achievable on low volumes as well.

I see.. I play the guitar but I've been doing bass lines in my demos for many years and I've come to respect how much the sound depends on how you approach the lines.

They do seem fairly reasonable bass sounds, as you say. The second video has quite different timbres, so not sure exactly which one you refer to, but John's snippet and the starting sounds in the second video seem fairly aggressive, there's a fair bit of mid and higher frequency content and the players use the strings sound to add even more zing to the proceedings. There can be some drive and compression, but just playing with the bass tone controls and pickups and the preamp EQ and drive.. shouldn't really need super loud volume to get it.

In a mix, it's a different thing as you often need to EQ the bass so that it has a quite different timbre than when soloed.

These kind of things are really hard to do without actually playing in the same room, alas.

I guess you've tried different strings?
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Demious » Thu Dec 19, 2019 4:41 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:The two bass examples you give are solo with no band competing. Can you give examples of bass that you like in the context of a full band?

Like I said, its in the first place for myself (when working with a band pretty much everything is based on compromising to make everything work and it differs per song, also), but when I get to these examples to start with, I know how to compromise to make the best of it in a mix. But I need a good starting point.
And John uses so many sounds I cant tell for sure what this exact sound would do in the mix, but I know Kristof's sound quite well, he's been playing for friends of mine, on recordings and live and I can always pick up on the character of the sound Im after, even in a full mix.

The Bunk wrote:Probably not the purist's answer this and, as others have suggested, a lot of it is down to the recording and technique but the Izotope Alloy 2 plug-in has a "Growling Bass" preset which I love and have used frequently, although sometimes with a bit of tweaking.

I try to be as much of a purist as reasonable, but I mostly know when its time to compromise. We live in a digital world and techniques change...
But Purist or not, that isnt a bad idea at all. I can download the demo, have iZotope make its calculation and see what it comes up with. What I need are frequenties and ratios to find a starting point and iZotope can calculate what is either missing, or is to dominant in my setup.

blinddrew wrote:Does your dissatisfaction vary depending on what rooms you're in? I.e. practice room, studio, stage?

No, I heard the basic sound in many places, with the use of all kinds of instruments, from hard and soft wood, with all kinds of pickup variations and all kinds of strings, all kinds of amps, in all kinds of rooms.
Its not like Im after that exact sound of the examples, I know its pretty much impossible to copy a sound in every detail, even with the exact same gear. Or even simpler, what is perfect to someone's taste might even vary slightly from day to day. Its about that roughness in the sound, especially with the example from John Myung, with the drive on it, to keep up the clearity in the high-mid and top-end, without loosing too much low-end.
When I get the roughness and the low-end, on lower volumes the high-mid and top-end are lost and when I set up the high-mids and top like Im after, then the roughness and bottom decrease too much. Im constantly dialing over the middle ground, I guess. :P

CS70 wrote:They do seem fairly reasonable bass sounds, as you say. The second video has quite different timbres, so not sure exactly which one you refer to, but John's snippet and the starting sounds in the second video seem fairly aggressive, there's a fair bit of mid and higher frequency content and the players use the strings sound to add even more zing to the proceedings. There can be some drive and compression, but just playing with the bass tone controls and pickups and the preamp EQ and drive.. shouldn't really need super loud volume to get it.

The different timbres are the different pickup configurations. The first sound, for example, is a plectrum on the neck side, with the neck pickup, while the jazzy sound later on is plucking on the bridge side, with the bridge pickup. Of course, the plectrum and playing style are a big part of that first sound, theres a lot of rattle from the strings going on, that makes that aggressive sound. I know now to do that! ;)
Indeed, it should be pretty basic, playing style, EQ and compression, a little drive when desired, like the John Myung sound... Its all about hitting the right sweetspots.

But Im gonna see if I can get some calculating plugins come up with some frequenties and ratios to use as a starting point. Maybe that can get me on the right track.
Thanks for all the input guys! :)
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby blinddrew » Thu Dec 19, 2019 5:35 pm

Don't know if you've tried this already, but splitting the signal into separate hi and lo signals and processing them separately is worth playing around with.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Dec 20, 2019 3:31 am

Demious wrote:Ive ben having trouble creating a decent bass sound, ever since I started playing bass, about 30 years ago.

To have struggled for 30 years to get an acceptable bass sound sounds unusual.

Demious wrote: I tried all kinds of basses and amps and almost everything can do what Im looking for, a little boost at 130-150, twice that boost at 750 and ajust high and low it sounds to boomy and a get a great growling bass sound, but..! Only at 90+ dB.
Ive been using hardware amps, Ive been using virtual amps and speakers and everything works fine, but only at 90+ dB. Lower than that and Im left with a weak and wooly sound, all detail and brightness is gone.

Music often does sound "better" at higher volumes. For example at lower volumes bass instruments seem to lose bottom end. This is usually just human hearing at work. The formal name given for it is the "Equal Loudness Contour". it was formally described in a paper in 1933 by Fletcher and Munson. You might care to look it up.

So to expect things to sound the same at all volumes is unrealistic.

Also, different people prefer to hear their music at different volumes.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby SecretSam » Thu Jan 02, 2020 7:57 pm

Marcus Miller's sound is made with two audio paths in parallel (also see parallel compression and New York compression). One path has all the big bottom end, the other has the top end for clarity.

To try this, you could play around with the fx loop if it has a blend control, or with a small mixer in front of the amp.

Let me know how you get on.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri Jan 03, 2020 1:55 pm

Demious wrote:Can someone point me to some information about how to create and record a growling bass sound, with a lot of RRRRRRR!!! that works on a volume people useally listen to music and keeps up in a full mix?

I do not play bass - but I have recorded bass more often than I have had hot breakfasts and I get a hot breakfast at least once a week. So here goes, how to get a good bass sound -

1. Get a good bass. As a recording guy, my heart lifts and flutters if I see the bass player pull out a Fender Precision or a Warwick Thumb. I remain very happy if he/she pulls out a Fender Jazz or a MM Stingray. My heart sinks a little if they pull out a Gibson and sinks a lot if it is a Rickenbacker. If they heave something from the Far East into view, I give up all hope of getting a decent sound - and yes, that includes the 'name' brands from Japan as well.

2. If they drag some old valve/tube amp or combo box into the studio, I am in luck. It does not even have to be a bass stack or anything special. Marshall, Hiwatt, Laney, it doesn't matter. I know as soon as there are EL34s in the damn thing, we can drive it hard and get all the sustain and growl we need. I get particularly happy to see an old Laney from the 60s - they are not much use at low volumes but driven hard on the end-stages across four EL34s, they sustain perfectly. An old Hiwatt is the best all-rounder and works at lower volumes. If the bass player insists on using a load of doofus effects simultaneously, I know we are in for a long hard session. If they insist on using a solid-state amp, I give up all hope of getting a decent bass sound. The very worst that can happen is when any guitar player brings out a digital amp simulator. Then I know that all hope of a decent sound is lost - that and he is going to faff about with the stupid thing for ages, wasting everybody's time and money - and he can't hear properly!

3. I mic-up the speaker, using a four-inch ribbon mic and/or a decent dynamic, such as an Audix D6 or an AKG D202 or possibly an old Sennheiser MD421. I might combine the four-inch with one of the dynamics or with a DI for more top end, but that is it. If I am using two different feeds, I record them separately and in a PA situation, they would go through two separate channels: more 4" for that ultra-low sound, for DI or small mic for growl and top-end. EQ to taste!

I know the sound you want - it's an Old School sound and you get it the Old School way. Less is more!

The more processing you add to a sound, the worse it gets!
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:19 pm

A four-inch ribbon?!
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:14 pm

If they heave something from the Far East into view

So you'd kick Nathan East out of the studio with his Yamahas then? Or Carol Kaye with her Ibanez? Seems a tad harsh!
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby SecretSam » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:37 pm

"My heart sinks a little if they pull out a Gibson and sinks a lot if it is a Rickenbacker"

I'm with you about Gibsons. I never found a Gibson bass that was any good. Chris Squire managed to wring a couple of usable takes from his Rickenbacker, though.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Thu Jan 09, 2020 2:46 pm

Lemmy and McCartney managed to salvage a few too over the years.
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby The Elf » Thu Jan 09, 2020 3:40 pm

"My heart sinks a little if they pull out a Gibson and sinks a lot if it is a Rickenbacker"
:wtf: :protest:
https://youtu.be/_w8SY_9yO8k
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 09, 2020 3:46 pm

I recall Chris Squire saying he could get all those Ricky sounds out of his Fender Jazz Bass (but not the other way around)
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Re: Bass sound dilemma

Postby BigRedX » Thu Jan 09, 2020 4:31 pm

IME A good engineer is able to get a bass sound that suits the band and their style of music whatever instrument they happen to be using.

The Red Bladder would hate me. Since I bought my first one back in 1981, I've used a range of weird and wonderful bass guitars, with never a Fender in sight. I did briefly have a Squier Jazz which I hated almost everything about - especially the sound which was horrible and weedy compared to the other basses I was using at the time. Currently I use either a Gus G3 5-string or a Burns Barracuda Bass VI depending on what I need to be playing.

None of the recording engineers I've worked with over the years have ever made any derogatory comments about my choice of instrument(s) and all of them have quite easily succeeded in getting exactly the right sound for the style of music I have been playing at the time. TBH nearly always, I plug in and there it is.
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