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Bass tone question: Nickelback - Dark Horse
Old 9th November 2010
Gear Maniac

Bass tone question: Nickelback - Dark Horse

hey all,

listened to dark horse for the first time today and i was completely blown away by the sound. also being a bass player what sticks out right from the beginning is the bass on "burn it to the ground" for example. how on earth do you get this incredible tight and growly bass tone? is there a synth going on underneath? listen at 2.30 into the song.

any information is appreciated.

Old 10th November 2010
Lives for gear

I don't have the album, so I listened to it on my computer with headphones, which is not ideal when analyzing bass.

It definitely sounds like it's going through some kind of amp, rather than just direct only. As far as synth bass, Mutt Lange has used that technique on many things he's produced, but I don't think I hear it here, though I could be wrong.
Old 10th November 2010
Gear Maniac

Originally Posted by nst7 View Post
It definitely sounds like it's going through some kind of amp, rather than just direct only. As far as synth bass, Mutt Lange has used that technique on many things he's produced, but I don't think I hear it here, though I could be wrong.
i agree with you that there's an amp providing the growl but what about the low end? it's very tight in my opinion. my skill to hear certain frequencies is not good enough yet to discern where the bump in the lows is but i imagine it's quite high, around 120 cycles?

i hope my initial question doesn't come across too much as a generic:"how do i get this tone because it's awesome and i want to use it exactly like that in all of my projects" question.
no, that's not what i'm after. i just want to know if there're production techniques that went into this tone that i don't know of and which i can incorporate into my own skill set to apply if appropriate.

here's the song for everyone, around 2.30min:
Old 10th November 2010
Gear Maniac
SortaLucid34's Avatar

Actually it is a pretty cool bass sound...


Old 10th November 2010
Gear Maniac
Yfoiler's Avatar
My take is the EMG low impedance pickups with Rotosound 66 "Swing Bass" strings. I also think I hear one section where he's using an octave pedal and instead of playing the root notes of the chord he's playing the octave higher note and letting the octave pedal make the fundemental low note "growl" on the bottom. At first I thought this might have been a Rickenbacker bass with Rotos on it....but nah... But I DO think he's using that octave "trick" in one section. I used to do that years ago on an old Roland GR-33B synth bass with Rotosounds. I had one preset ready with an octave under sound, but it would go so low you had to be careful where to use it or it just blew and flapped. But when you played it an octave higher...awesome sound underneath.

Also, can't think of the name of the track right now but the Gorillaz have used that octaver pedal effect too---not the same genre of course...
Old 12th November 2010
Deleted User
I started a similiar thread not so long back and Mike was in the process of writing an in detailed description of how the bass sound is made, I was specifically using Nickelback as the example to, if you get the thread flooded with new posts again, he may come back!

The 'Mutt Lange' Synth Bass
Old 12th February 2011
Lives for gear
Absolute's Avatar

EDIT..didnt realize this is a few months old when I typed but its not answered

This is all about arrangement.

The song is mixed to sound like its a live performance..that should be your first clue.

Because the bass has either jacked up room sound or reverb on it. Anyone who said this is a tight bass sound cant know the meaning of tight in mixing. It is anything but tight--its the exact opposite of tight. Its spread out and loose--taking up mucho space.

The guitars do go into the middle at select points but for the most part they are eq'd or spatially effected with phase cancellation to say out of the middle(2 guits playing the same thing panned hard left and right will have low freq's meeting in the middle)

This leaves the bass all that room and the vocals have a live treatment which helps the vibe. If the vocal had a close, in your face, sound with no verb on this song it wouldnt have worked with the bass.

Hopefully someone involved will comment on the sub bass, if there is any, but its the room/verb sound along with the spatial placement that is the key to my ear.
Old 12th February 2011
Lives for gear
Sk106's Avatar

Mutt has a habit of leaving an instrument (or sound) very neutral while all instruments are playing - probably to make it fit in the mix - and when the instrument sort of comes out into the open (like in the break in "Burn it to the ground") you add on all the fancy factor to the sound. It creates the impression that it sounds that way all the time, even while being covered by the other instruments - while it really doesn't.

On Def Leppards "Pour some sugar on me", the bass have a clear "slap" overtone to it whenever it is in the open. But whenever the instrumentation gets thicker, the slap overtone disspears and the bass becomes a very neutral synth tone. This is not picked up on by the casual listener.

A more subtle example of this can be heard on the same Nickelback album, the song "Shakin' hands". The snare plays from the beginning of the song, but when the bass (and the rest) comes in after a couple of bars, the snare gets a bright compressed snap at the top, which it doesn't have in the first bars. This snap dissapears again in the 1st verse, but comes back again in the 2nd verse (escalation effect); it is further turned on and off during the song.

Same method is applied to alot of instruments in lots of different ways. Guitars are thickened, then thinned out, and back again. The snare is augmented with thickener in the choruses but not the verses etc. I think this is important to remember, when dealing with sounds. It's not really possible to get that kind of sound through a mix from having it the same all the way. It is hard to hear for certain if this approach is applied to the bass on "Burn it to the ground", but it sounds to me like it is.
Old 17th March 2011
Gear Maniac

thanks, ver interesting comments.
and yeah, i guess the sound can't be called tight.
that was the wrong word sorry.

listening again to the mix and it's still incredible in my book.
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