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Old 12-09-2008, 06:54 PM   #58
Human being with feelings
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,012

Listening to bass continued...

So far, we've just been listening, not making any actual *judgments* about the sound, nor alterations. In fact, we already stipulated that the sound is pretty good. Let's take a look at how some of our observations above might relate to judgments and alterations that we could make to improve the sound of the bass, or the way it fits into the mix.

Starting from the beginning, let's take another gander at that pick attack. Let's say for the sake of argument that we have a fairly clean, snappy, telecaster playing on the guitar track. If we put this bass track beside it, then the pick clicking could start to be a problem. For one thing, it's competing with the clean guitar attacks, and potentially confusing the waters up there in the highs. If the two instruments are not plucked in absolute lock-step, then the bass clacking around is apt to screw up the syncopation and feel of the guitar part. And for a whole lot of good reasons, it is likely that a good bass player is NOT picking on exactly the same nanosecond as the guitar player, because the bass takes more time to develop, and because the has an important role to play in relation to the dynamic decay of the drums.

So maybe we want to back off that initial pick attack a little bit. Compression or fast limiting might help, but maybe we start to lose some definition that way. Maybe we're better off trying to nail it with eq. That lets us keep some of the slower, midrange chunky rasp that actually overlaps nicely with the guitar. As it turns out, turning down the highs a little might also solve some problems in the "steady-state" portion, where the stringyness might be similarly fighting the guitar.

On the other hand, let's say that the guitar is not a clean, snappy tele, but a roaring overdriven SG. Now we have a whole nother set of considerations. Here, that little ghostly "chunk" might be completely blown away by the guitar, and those clicky, stringy highs might be just the ticket to cut through that wall of power and give some bite and clarity to a bass sound that could otherwise get drowned into wub-wub.

Simply cranking up the highs on the bass might not be the best solution though, since these are fairly small elements of the sound, and are apt to turn brittle and fizzy if over-played. Compression or other dynamics control might offer some help, but here we start to run the risk of mucking up the whole sound of the bass just to try and get the string sound to cut through. This might be a good time to get creative, and try a little sansamp or guitar distortion to get that saturated harmonic bite. Or maybe it's time to plug into the crunchy API or tube preamp or whatever. But that might also change our nice, transparent low end in ways that we don't like (or maybe we do). Maybe we could split or clone the track with a high-pass filter, and just raunch up the highs a little to give the right "cut" to the sound.

More in a sec.

Last edited by yep; 12-09-2008 at 07:29 PM.
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