This month, we asked our expert panel how they get their bass to sound huge, organic, distinctive, or all three. Reach out to us by your
favorite means with topics and names of artists you’d like us to interrogate.
(Recoil, Depeche Mode | recoil.co.uk)
I favor real bass guitar slides mixed with sequencer parts,
with the electronic elements often derived from a Minimoog,
Oberheim, or Novation Supernova. A combination of electronic
and real can have a great effect, especially when the
boundaries are blurred, hopefully giving a sense of human
feel but also precision. On Recoil’s Liquid, I often sampled
Dean Garcia’s fret slides and used only those going into a
sequenced synth part whose root notes were doubled with
the real bass. Faster notes in between the roots might be
the sequenced synth only.
(Dragonette | dragonette.com)
Being a bass player, I like doubling real electric bass parts
with synth bass, or vice versa. If the bass guitar ends up
as the prevalent character of the part, then I rarely quantize
it as much. Instead, I do takes until I get parts I like.
When I double it with the synth, I’ll manually line up the
synth notes with the bass performance. If it’s the other way
around (the bass guitar added to an existing synth line), I’ll
chop up the bass guitar part, then quantize both parts
together, generally with about 90% strength. For mixing, I’m currently crushing on Waves’
Chris Lord-Alge Bass plug-in for both electric and synth bass. I like its distortion and compression
options, as well as its general character.
When you think back to the bass lines that Bernard
Edwards played in Chic, they not only moved the
track, but were very musical hooks. To apply that
approach to bass programming, I’ll sequence my
bass line into my Akai MPC, standalone. I know there
are MPC-style quantize templates for all DAWs, but
I like the imperfect feel of the hardware. Then, I’ll fly
the sequence into Logic or Pro Tools and line it up
against the grid. For sound sources, I gravitate towards
Spectrasonics Trilogy, my Studio Electronics SE-1X,
or my Access Virus TI.
(Jaytech | jaytechmusic.com)
I usually layer a clean sounding
synth, such as Logic’s ES1, with a
syncopated riff in the lower midrange
from Native Instruments Massive,
which adds a snarly or gritty element.
Keep your bass pattern relatively
simple if your melodic elements
are complex, and vice versa.
The simplest answer is to play the bass line
on a keyboard and deal with quantization, velocity,
MIDI note length, and automation afterward.
This is more likely to give you an organic
result than hours of trial and error on a computer—
even if you can’t play very well. As with
melodies, there’s something more organic when
you sing or play compared to moving “Lego
bricks” around on your million-dollar flat screen.