Synth Bass Processing (audio included)
Old 15th August 2013
  #1
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Synth Bass Processing (audio included)

One of the most interesting tasks in mixing electronic dance music for me personally is adding character to simple synth sounds, especially bass. I know that every producer/engineer has a different approach to adding colour to synth bass. Some use subtle distortion, saturation, others use heavy compression, parallel amp simulators etc.

I was wondering if everybody could share some insight on what works for processing synth bass lines ITB. Plugins, techniques, that just sound good on bass. To make this more interesting, I have created a short simple bass line using a software synth. Nothing special, just a simple boring sawtooth bass exported to 24bit wav file:

Click here to download Raw Synth Bass (or right click save target as)

If you could process this, post your result and explain what you used and why. This way we can learn from each other and pick up some techniques.

I will start

Click here to download my Processed Synth Bass (or right click save target as)

First, I always duplicate my bass channel, so layer 1 is for tight bass, definition. Layer 2 is for the texture.

Layer 1 Processing:
Waves Kramer Tape - To softer the higher frequencies and add some saturation.
Waves Aphex Vintage Exciter - Very subtle, add some definition.
Nomad Factory COSMOS - This is my latest purchase. Use it to drive the low end slightly and a subtle exciter.
PSP Noble Q - Add higher mids.
Waves API 2500 Add punch (2db gain reduction)
Cytomic The Glue Add more punch (2db gain reduction)

Layer 2 Processing:
D16 Redoptor - Introduce some tube drive
DMG Audio EQulibrium - Cut lows and highs, add some mids.
RP Verb - Introduce small room ambience.
Tone2 AkustiX - Get creative with stereo imaging.
Fabfilter Pro G - Remove some of the tails for tightness.
Izotope Alloy 2 - Exciter to introduce more harmonics.
DMG Audio EQulibrium - Finetune the sound, clean up unwanted frequencies.

When I combine these two elements I add additional The Glue compressor and limiter to level the peaks.

This is more or less the tools that work for me on synth bass. The processing obviously depends a lot on the mix you are working. The most important is how it fits with other elements. But this is just a general topic of How you introduce colour to your synth bass?

Hopefully somebody will share their techniques.
Old 29th October 2014
  #2
Gear Head
 

Detune, Pan hard left and right
Old 29th October 2014
  #3
VST
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You're way overthinking it ED.

Making a good patch is 95% of the work. Some light eq and maybe compression and you're done.
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Old 29th October 2014
  #4
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Barfunkel's Avatar
 

If you need 15 plugins to make your synth bass sound good, there's probably something wrong with your synth.

Just sayin'.
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Old 29th October 2014
  #5
It is important. For me it was one if the more difficult things to become proficient at.

Seems like an awful lot of processing.

The biggest flaw I can see is that instead of turning to plugins to spice up a boring bass, work harder at the source to make a better bass patch. I'm not trying to spoil your well thought out and constructed thread, just being honest. I think a lot of people aren't very good at programming bass. Its not just a key on the left side, ya know?

An analog VCA made the biggest impact for me. Bam!! I can't get that same thing without a list of plugins like you have here.

That said, uHe Satin is always on my bass, analog, hardware VA, or software. I use it instead of boosting with EQ. It sounds better every time. Although, VOS Slick EQ GE....gotta be the GE, has this harmonic distortion button on the low shelf that sounds really good.

Then there is compressing bass. Totally depends on the length and frequency of note, so would take a while to talk about.

Ultimately mixing is also huge with regards to how it sounds. It will get better, just takes time. Its like people that pinch kicks out of tracks and then drop them in their own song. But if its not mixed as well, it wont sound nearly as good.
Old 29th October 2014
  #6
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The links are broken in the original post.

But like others have said, it sounds like you're overcomplicating things. If you get the sound right at the source, there's no real need to do anything to it.
Old 29th October 2014
  #7
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teknatronik's Avatar
 

I just play the right notes. E f d always sound good to me.
Old 29th October 2014
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by ED. View Post

Layer 1 Processing:
Waves Kramer Tape - To softer the higher frequencies and add some saturation.
Waves Aphex Vintage Exciter - Very subtle, add some definition.
Nomad Factory COSMOS - This is my latest purchase. Use it to drive the low end slightly and a subtle exciter.
PSP Noble Q - Add higher mids.
Waves API 2500 Add punch (2db gain reduction)
Cytomic The Glue Add more punch (2db gain reduction)

Layer 2 Processing:
D16 Redoptor - Introduce some tube drive
DMG Audio EQulibrium - Cut lows and highs, add some mids.
RP Verb - Introduce small room ambience.
Tone2 AkustiX - Get creative with stereo imaging.
Fabfilter Pro G - Remove some of the tails for tightness.
Izotope Alloy 2 - Exciter to introduce more harmonics.
DMG Audio EQulibrium - Finetune the sound, clean up unwanted frequencies.
This is one of MANY reasons I am primarily working with hardware now. The plugin snowball effect is dangerous.
Quote:
Hopefully somebody will share their techniques.
Sure - spend plenty of time poking, clicking, twisting and sliding the synth until you have the bass sound you want. Spend more time on this than on the treatment and you're golden.
Then do it some more - make several other similar versions of the patch and save them. I then use the layering feature of the synth (if it has one) to try different combinations of the saved bass patches.
Now do the same thing on another synth.
Then try making layers between different synths with similar patches. Note: try different contrasting synthesis types...
Now I can play around with creative panning, EQing and mixing of the patches on my console.

When I finish this I am satisfied because I have gotten what I need directly from the source without alot of fussing with processing, I now have lots of new patches saved making my next bass sound making session that much faster, I've discovered good and bad ways of combining my instruments which I write down for later too and finally I had fun playing with my instruments! I think that last is the most rewarding part of the exercise.

Last edited by Hollowman9; 29th October 2014 at 08:19 PM.. Reason: doh! Stupid Brain!!!!
Old 30th October 2014
  #9
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Before mentioning my chain I'd like to join the choir: The OPs example of a meticulous and expansive chain is one of the reasons everything became easier for me after I dropped using VST synths. OP, I imagine you're using VST synths? (The links don't work so I can't hear the raw bass).

I don't need to bother with all that processing anymore! Huraahh! It was killing me having to work and work and work to try to get the sound I wanted ITB, and I never succeeded anyway. (Albeit, my programming lust/skill went up after dropping the virtual knobs, so I'd probably need less processing now.)

Now, I'll program a patch on a simple mono (for instance the Minitaur), and before adding anything else it already sounds better than any VST + shitload of processing that I ever tried ITB, honestly.

1) I'll typically add hair/color with my preamp, at least if it's one of the cleanish modern monos, especially the Minitaur.
2) Sometimes I'll add analog efx on the way in, for instance chorus or delay or distortion.
3) Once in the box, I'll typically use a bit of eq (or hi/lo pass) while mixing, and a bit of compressor, typically I'll compress more than a dB or two if I want a lot of snap.
4) A bit of reverb/comp on a send bus, sometimes chorus.
5) Sometimes a bit of sidechaining, to drop the level of the bass a couple of dB when the kick hits.

I'm currently looking into some of the better analog eq's/comps, I plan on tracking everything on the way in, in the near future. The only bad thing about going hardware is that it complicates recalls!
Old 30th October 2014
  #10
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Looping Loddar's Avatar
 

1) maybe using my DBX 120 XP (which contradicts the second point a bit...)
2) always (!) cutting very low frequencies
3) always a bit eq work for better fit of the rest of the mix, beginning with
the drum tracks, which should complement the bass part
4) limiting or a bit (only a bit!) compressing
5) maybe side-chaining
6) maybe a bit exciter for the bass part
7) maybe analog distortion, flanger, phaser or even bit reducing
8) sometimes delay (usually much more useful for bass parts than reverb)
9) maybe even chorus and/or overdubbing (usually: not!)
10) after all this work wishing back the times with less efforts...

Old 30th October 2014
  #11
OP is from over a year ago, and he got no replies. He's probably not around, considering he has 34 posts in 5 years... just sayin....


.
Old 30th October 2014
  #12
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OK this is a zombie thread. .. but . ..

I think some of you are exaggerating too much the other way.

There's a difference between careful sound crafting and over complication - they don't always mean the same thing, and many producers do very well at the former.

If so, what's the real difference between, say, working up a sophisticated signal processing chain and, say, building a giant patch on a modular synth?

Sure, don't over complicate things when a) you don't need to, and b) you don't want to. But don't take that to mean sophisticated processing is bad and everything should always sound like a Model D.
Old 30th October 2014
  #13
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Barfunkel's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
O But don't take that to mean sophisticated processing is bad and everything should always sound like a Model D.
I'm just looking it from a practical, time saving point of view. You have a good synth (not necessarily a Model D, I'm sure many VST's sound good enough for bass), you mess about with some fairly simple settings for a few minutes. If you know how to synthesize you should have a pretty good bass patch in your hands.

Using a bad sounding bass synthesizer and then literally 15 plugins sounds like a horrible waste of time. Balancing the effect of those plugins to get something that sounds good sounds like it's gonna take hours.

It's of course different if the plugins actually add something to the patch that the synth can't do (say, chorus or distortion). But having tons of EQ's, compressors, limiters, enhancers and saturators sounds counterproductive to me. Particularly on synthesizer music, where you are not stuck with what the instrument natively sounds like, you can always synthesize it to fit the track in question and you can mess about with velocity levels (so less need for a compressor) and stuff.

Obviously, not saying it's wrong to do it, it's your music after all. I just feel good synthesizers should not need tons of processing by default. Creative use of FX is good of course, just not sure if having a huge default FX chain is.
Old 30th October 2014
  #14
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teknatronik's Avatar
 

**** your bassline
Old 30th October 2014
  #15
Sometimes a real bass guitar in the hands of a competent performer is hard to beat.
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Old 30th October 2014
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by chemosit View Post
Sometimes a real bass guitar in the hands of a competent performer is hard to beat.
Did you miss the part where the title of the thread reads SYNTH BASS?
Old 30th October 2014
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hollowman9 View Post
Did you miss the part where the title of the thread reads SYNTH BASS?
Not at all.
Old 30th October 2014
  #18
I sometimes run my Minutaur through a Moog 3-band parametric EQ. If I want to add edge, I use the audio input on an MS2000 or Sub 37.
Old 30th October 2014
  #19
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JonathanLivingst View Post
Detune, Pan hard left and right
Might want to check the date next time you reply.
Old 31st October 2014
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Praxisaxis View Post
If so, what's the real difference between, say, working up a sophisticated signal processing chain and, say, building a giant patch on a modular synth?
or, a guitarist with a row of stompboxes?
I've seen plenty of videos where people show a row of plugins processing sounds.

Quote:
But don't take that to mean sophisticated processing is bad and everything should always sound like a Model D.
Exactly.

I like to do what I loosely call "FX synthesis" on the modular. I put together chains of processing modules that together create new sounds that you won't get out of any hardware synth.
Old 31st October 2014
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mefistophelees View Post
Exactly.

I like to do what I loosely call "FX synthesis" on the modular. I put together chains of processing modules that together create new sounds that you won't get out of any hardware synth.
I dearly want to build a modular :/
Old 31st October 2014
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by chemosit View Post
Not at all.
I wasn't disagreeing, I actually went the bass guitar route on my latest track. It is a fun instrument.
Topic:
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