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"Metal" bass

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by Nukular!, Apr 7, 2009.

  1. Nukular!

    Nukular! Member

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    Hi guys!
    I have some questions about setting up a "metal" bass tone. Being a guitarist (more pretending to be one :erk:), my main focus was always on the guitar tone. I didn't even realize how much the bass affects the sound of a guitar in a "mix". Now as I started to make some simple recordings the main problem is to find a bass, that fits in and doesn't change the character of the guitars in a negative way (which actually happens atm).

    Honestly, I don't even know if there is a "metal" bass tone. Personally I like this full and kind of warm "clean" tone but on the other side I like some distorted tones too. Dilemma?
    I personally don't know a "metal" bassist - former bandmates were more rock, jazz or funk oriented. That was always a problem when playing metal songs, but thats another story...

    Maybe I'm not the only one with these issues. I have searched the forum and found here and there some tips and hints... but mainly related to some bass hardware I don't have. I'm aware about the following points (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!):

    - The main contribution to a decent sound comes from your fingers (ok first problem, I'm no bassist)
    - The quality of your equipment (I have a VERY cheap bass and no bass amp/cab) is very important. I think this is the same as with guitars, guitar amps and cabs.
    - Different styles, different personal tastes == different tones (But they all have for sure something in common)
    - The overall sound depends on if you play rythm oriented or if you "double" the guitar riffs

    Please keep in mind, that I have no amp to use - all I have is gearbox and (free) plugins. BTW Gearbox comes with a lot of presets but even with hours of tweaking I didn't get good results... I'm sure doing something wrong. So here are my main questions (if someone has other questions - post 'em here :)):

    • Which pickup do you use or how do you blend them? Are there any rules as for example its common to use only the bridge PU for distorted rhythm parts in metal?
    • How to pick a bass correctly? Do you play with palm mutes?
    • What are the main or really important frequencies and ranges where a bass has to be present and where not? I know that this depends a lot on the actual mix and that there is no magical "superhero bass sound" button. Maybe some starting points.
    • What about dynamics? I read a lot about compressing or even limiting a bass but unfortunately a) I have no reference tone or b) the articles/threads handle different styles. Do you know where to find rough guides and hints? Don't get me wrong, I have tried different things which worked in one area and then failed in another.
    • What about distortion? I've read about splitting the signal and distorting one side, high pass it and blending it with the undistorted lowpassed signal. I've tried this with little to no success. Do bassists change the amount of distortion during a song?


    This thread is not intended to be something like "give me exact settings for a monster bass tone" - I just need a direction for my way to the best tone I can achieve with my possibilities. I hope the questions are not too stupid...:zombie:


    Also I'd love to hear some examples of what you like or use.

    Long post, I know... but maybe it's also helpful for others. Thank you in advance.:kickass:
     
  2. thedonutman

    thedonutman Member

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    I'm mainly a bassist, and I play metal. But I've only recently got into recording in general.

    - The choice of pickup depends on the bass really. Some basses don't even have a bridge pickup, others don't have a neck pickup. On my basses I usually just use both pickups full on or the bridge at 100% and the neck at 75%.

    - I usually play with my fingers, but when I play with a pick I play very hard and towards the bridge. I find this works well for metal. Palm muting can be used for effect, but it gets a bit boomy if you palm mute everything.

    - I like a lightly overdriven tone, because IMO it cuts through the mix better. All out fuzz isn't very useful, unless you're only using it as an effect and not a central part of your tone. Signal splitting+distortion can work well, but isn't always necessary. Unless a song has has a mellow break in it or a bit that has lots of effects I usually run the same bass sound throughout.

    Some examples of metal bass sounds that I like would be

    - Rex Brown from Pantera, cuts through dimebag's thick guitars very well.
    - Both Rob and Jason (live, when you could actually hear him) from Metallica. I believe "grind" is a good way to describe the tone. A combination of new strings, aggressive picking/plucking near the bridge and light distortion.
     
  3. xFkx

    xFkx gain induction

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    I'd write this down as an equasion:

    You take 1 good bass - music man stringray, ibanez srx, fender deluxe.

    connect it to 1 good bass preamp - sansamp rbi, for most cases

    record, compress, eq. viola.

    If you don't have a really good bass amp/cab i wouldn't bother with mic'ing anything, just line in.

    you might check out ampeg svx, it's a very good simulation of ampeg amps/cabs.
     
  4. mr.L.

    mr.L. Member

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    Ok those are a lot of questions and a lot of info on most of these can be found by using the search on this forum. Just some general tips:

    1. A good bass will get you better results a lot easier (especially if you're going for a rather clean tone)
    2. Recording an amp is definitely not necessary (although there is little that matches up to a nicely miked up SVT), there are lots of great bass recordings around where the bass has been recorded using a DI. Sansamp Bassdriver DI is a great way to get a good recorded metal tone for fairly little money, but a clean DI with some proper compression, EQ-ing and drive can also get you a long way. I don't know about gearbox for bass as I never used it.
    3. Picking with a pick will get you a more consistent and agressive tone (especially if you're not a very good bassplayer)
    4. When tracking guitars and bass it's always good to keep in mind that these two will complement each other in the mix. Some guitarists have the tendency to want to dominate the low end, but often it wil sound much more aggressive and clearer if you leave some more room there. In addition it will make mixing in the bass a lot easier if its not constantly fighting with the guitars.
    5. The amount of compression and/or limiting you are going to need is gonna depend on how consistantly the bass has been tracked. In modern metal you generally do not want lots of dynamics in the bass so many people crush it quite a bit.
    6. Distorted mid range can give a bass more presence and growl in the mix. One thing that works well for a lot of people is running an additional bass track through a distorted guitar amp (or ampsim) but some pedals also work great for this (I personally like the Proco Rat, Coron 15 and tubescreamer pedals for these purposes). You can cut some of the low end on the distorted track if it becomes to rumbly/nasty sounding. Some roll of as high as 700/800 hz. It's always good to have some drive on the bass but you can go with everything from a little dirt to high gain.
    7. As far as EQ this again depends on where you want to have the bass in the mix but areas where I occasionaly have some EQ going on are 50, 100, 180, 500, 800, 1500, 3500hz. In addition it is often a good idea to use a lowpass filter on bass (somewhere between 5000 and 8000 hz usually works for me).
    8. If you want some good examples of great bass tones try to get a hold of those guitar hero multitracks that float around the internet

    I see that my response was a bit slow and some of the guys above have already gave some good answers to your questions ;)
     
  5. abyssofdreams

    abyssofdreams knows what you think.

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    I'm too lazy to read this right now :lol:

    The sun is shining :D
     
  6. myownsilence

    myownsilence The Influenced

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    ive heard of recording the bass in stereo having a distorted line in the middle, can anyone give any examples as to whether they have heard or tried this and in what ways it works.

    And example of it can be found on Katatonia's the Great Cold Distance. This has one of the smoothest bass sounds I know IMHO (but I am a guitarest)
     
  7. Nukular!

    Nukular! Member

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    Thank you guys!! :kickass:
    That's all very very informative... I will definitely try the things you suggested.

    You're absolutely right! There are many posts but the info is scattered all over the forum and often an interesting thread takes a completely different direction. So maybe (at least for me) this thread could be a resource where the info is a bit more clustered.


    Hahaha, yes that's what I would like to do - being outside and enjoy the sun. Unfortunately I'm at work. Good on you! :D


    Ah... one additional question on topic. I know that there are some bass cab impulses. Is there a different setup than with guitar IRs? What I achieved was ... weird sounding.
     
  8. VINCENT DEATHCULT

    VINCENT DEATHCULT Onirik Guitarist

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    If anyone have preset from gearbox or Pod in general please help us :worship:goggly:
     
  9. siegfried

    siegfried Member

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    Is it possible to get decent bass sound by pitch-schifting the guitar? If so, how are you doing it? Thanks!
     
  10. RiF

    RiF Member

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    I would like to draw your attention to this thread on this forum. We need a bassist to record a simple track for the sake of this community! Read the tread and dive in.:headbang:
     
  11. Nukular!

    Nukular! Member

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    If I remember correctly there was at least one guy who did this...

    Great Idea. Just read you recorded a bass line by yourself...
    So that's another resource to learn something about bass tones and mixing.:)
     
  12. RiF

    RiF Member

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    Yes, I did, but as I said, I am no bass player, I have to bass rig (my Toneport does not count) and my track is not meant stay there. It would be great to have a REAL bass player participating!
     
  13. somecallmejack

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    I find the best way to get a nice grinding bass sound, is to do the opposite of what youd do with a guitar's EQ for a metal sound. In other words, DONT SCOOP THE MIDS. You want to give a huge boost to everything between 500 - 800 Hz, & cut everything above about 1000. It doesnt hurt to add a little drive aswell, but not so much that its noticeably fuzzy. Now, when you do that, it wont sound amazing on its own, but try it in the mix before you write it off. Pan your rhythm guitars hard left & right, as far as the overheads, or maybe just a little less, & have your bass dead center.

    Play the track, & adjust the bass's volume so its cutting through, but not swamping things. Now turn up your monitors to a fairly loud level (if they arent already). Does the bass have balls? If you can hear it, & it has a nice tone, but doesnt have any weight, try giving a gentle boost to the 100 - 200 Hz range, keyword being gentle. If you boost that too much youll find your track quickly becomes muddy. Also, on another note, 100 - 200 should be scooped on the guitars to give the bass some space.

    For an idea of the kind of sound you can get with this, listen to Obzen, by Meshuggah, or Words that go unspoken, Deeds that go undone by Akercocke.

    A couple of other tips, turn the tone control on your bass up all the way, & when you play fingerstyle, hit *hard*. Itll be difficult to do it with stamina at first, cos you arent a bassist, but if you can, you want to be hitting so hard that it almost sounds like slap bass in terms of attack. As for pickup choice, both of my basses have soapbar style pickups which can be blended as opposed to one being chosen over the other, I tend to have the blend dead centre, because it gives me the cleanest sound, but really that whole thing is a matter of personal choice, just use whichever pickup sounds best to you.

    hope that helps :)
     
  14. -Noodles-

    -Noodles- 3 Initals Mixer

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    I don't think it's possible to give the low end that a bass can give, by using a guitar.

    [imo!]
     
  15. jex

    jex Member

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    +1
    You can pitch shift a guitar, but it just isnt the same....by a longshot really. A real bass is really characterized by more than pitch alone. Theres the frequency response of the pickups, the strings, etc.
    I wonder if impulses could somehow be used to make a guitar sound more bass-like.
     
  16. -Noodles-

    -Noodles- 3 Initals Mixer

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    Could be possible, but a bass is characterized by the physical wavelength of the strings and resonation of the body. It's tone has far greater possibilities than that of a guitar, imo, due to it being easier to add smaller wavelengths to a signal digitally - but a lot harder to reproduce it the other way around!

    I'm not entirely sure that could be reproduced all too accurately - but definitely worth a look.
     
  17. Metaltastic

    Metaltastic Member

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    Umm...gotta disagree on the second (a noticeably fuzzy bass track can often sound fucking AWESOME, that SVT-style grind) and strongly disagree on the first; there's a lot of important musical stuff as far as the attack goes above 1k!
     
  18. Joematthews

    Joematthews Member

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    +1 to the above. I would put the cut at more like 4-8 khz if not higher. What you have described would give ultimate mush when combined by boosting the stuffy mid area.

    Joe
     
  19. lolzgreg

    lolzgreg Cereal Shipping Sneapster

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    +3

    Not to shoot you down, but I'm not going to agree with this. If you boost everything between 500-800 Hz you're going to have the wooliest bass sound in the universe. Most guitars lack in the 400hz frequency (which sounds miserable in all guitars). It doesn't sound bad for bass: If you're playing fingerpicked, 400hz is the one to boost. Start narrow and around 6db, and sweep it around to find out where it works best. On the second half of that I would NEVER EVER cut above 1000. That is where ALL the attack lies. 1.7khz is the crucial frequency point for grind/pick attack on bass. That you'll want to boost drastically, hence you'll hear the articulation of the strings.

    Compressing heavily with a high ratio helps. A lot of this is in the hands of the player (pun intended). If you play TOO dynamically (due to the unbalance between strings) you'll have a bass sound thats jumping all over the place which even a compressor won't fix.

    I would get a sansamp paradriver bass DI and add a little drive. NEW STRINGS ARE A MUST. PERIOD. If you try to track a bass with old strings, it will sound AT LEAST 1/2 WORSE than if it had new strings. You can audibly distinguish when bass strings are starting to crap unless you're deaf.
     
  20. somecallmejack

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