Getting Bass Guitar to Glue to the Sound and Feel of a Record
So in this tutorial, what I’m going to show you is how to get your low end to be working really well up front in this sound design phase, so that when it comes time for the mixing, it’s a lot easier for everything to come together. Of course, sometimes we have complicated low ends, and that’s just part of what we do when we mix, but in this case, I’m going to show you production from the ground up using a bass guitar and what I do to make that bass guitar glue into both the feel of the record and the sound of the record.
Alright, so let’s play it all together here.
And here’s where we’re going to end up.
So obviously, it’s a much darker tone, and it also sounds a lot more like a synth. Both of those things are on purpose.
Now, obviously, it doesn’t have the same bigness and presence that the original bass had.
[mix, original bass]
But there’s something about the original bass that isn’t really that flattering.
So let’s breakdown what’s going on here. So I’ve got two instances of this program called Surfer EQ. It’s by Sound Radix. It’s a really, really cool EQ, and what it does is it tracks the fundamental pitch, and it moves your center bands based on the movement of your fundamental pitch.
So with the bass, you’ll see that as the bass notes change, where these bands here are centered will also change.
[mix, with Surfer EQ]
So what’s really cool about this is this very center one here actually has this harmonic function so that you can change how the band works.
We could do a normal band, or we could do this harmonic band, and it has various settings where the harmonics are distributed differently, and this one I find is really nice for bass guitar. It just brings out those first partials.
[mix, before Surfer EQ]
[mix, after Surfer EQ]
And what I find is that this brings up the — like, the harmonic quality of something is tonally speaking what allows you to identify an instrument as a specific instrument, so when you bring out the harmonic quality of something, you’re effectively making the bass more bass-like in an interesting way.
So this is part of what starts to make this sound less like a bass guitar, and more like a synth, because it’s cleaner on its harmonic pronunciation than a bass guitar normally would be, naturally.
So that’s my first move, to just emphasize that harmonic structure of the bass itself.
My second move, Surfer EQ again, this time, I’m customizing the tone of the bass, and what I’m trying to do here is get rid of some of the brighter tones and the third harmonic tone, and focus mostly on the first partial, second partial, and fourth partial, and the reason that I’m doing that is because those partials, those overtones, are all actually the same notes, so if I’m playing that fundamental A, then my first overtone is also an A, and my fourth overtone is also an A.
So this is part of making the sound significantly cleaner. Before, then after.
[mix, before and after Surfer EQ]
Right, and it starts to sound a lot more synth like. It starts to sound like a much more rounded sound, and it starts to sound like a more focused sound, and it sounds more like a synth.
Now, mind you, sometimes we do not want a guitar to sound like a synth, we want it to sound like a bass guitar. There’s about a million genres and a million instances where we would not want to do this at all. We would be doing possibly the exact opposite.
But in this case, I wanted it to be something that has the inflections of a human player, because I played it, but has the quality that you would hear in, like, a club dance kind of track, or a dance hall kind of record. Specifically what I’m going for in the sound design world.
The last thing that I’m going to do is use Melodyne, and I’m doing it with two things in mind. The first is that I’m centering the pitch. So, before…
[mix, before Melodyne]
[mix, after Melodyne]
Which again, going to the same idea. Making it sound more like a synth.
Now, the pitch was not off. My bass was in tune, and so when I’m making these adjustments, it’s not like I’m doing a humongous change, but there is a little bit of variation within a few cents of the center of the pitch, so there is some degree of change happening, mostly, it’s just keeping the tone a little bit straighter. There’s a little bit less bend in the inflection.
And the very last thing that I’m doing with Melodyne is this really cool, harmonic structure arranger, where I’m taking out the third and fifth partials in the different harmonic sections, and I’m also changing the formant a little bit.
So I’ll take that out first, and I’ll just show you what’s going on with the harmonics.
[mix, with and without third and fifth partials]
One more time. That’s really subtle, but one more time.
You hear that it opens up, it sounds cleaner, and once again, going back to that same idea, it sounds a little synthier, and then the last thing here, the formant shifting.
[mix, formant shifted]
Now, the formant shifting is a little different. It sort of — without getting into the details of what exactly it is doing, it is changing the harmonic structure as well, and focusing it more — it’s leaning it more toward the low end harmonics, so it’s making the sound a little bit darker, and it’s making the bass feel like it’s a slightly larger bodied bass, if that makes sense.
One more time.
[mix, before and after formant shifting]
So all of these are not necessarily the largest changes in the world, but they really do add up quite a bit.
[mix, before and after processing]
And when I’m done, everything kind of fits together and feels a little bit more homogenous, it feels a little bit more like what I would be going for for this record in particular.
So this is the way that I’m taking an acoustic instrument — well, an electric acoustic instrument — and turning it into something that the listener is not going to really know if it’s a guitar, like a bass guitar, or if it’s a synth, but they’re going to know that they like it.
Alright guys, hope that you learned something. Until next time.