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Help me get a punchy bass sound
Old 18th October 2013
  #1
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kharla's Avatar
 

Help me get a punchy bass sound

So I've been recording some tunes lately and I've been dying to get a punchy, buzzy/funky guitar sound that doesn't sound too distorted and doesn't really flood the sound with low-end frequency. This is probably a really crazy question, but I need a good bit of technique ideas before eventually figuring it out on my own.

Here are my ideal sounds:

Cymande - Brothers On The Slide - YouTube
Mac DeMarco // "My Kind Of Woman" - YouTube

perhaps a bit more punchy.

Do these kinds of sweet and sexy babies generally come dry signal? wet? or both? I'm hoping to hit this sound dry if ya know whatta mean(direct input).

I've got a di box, protools10 with all stock plugins, podfarm2, an audiotechnica ax220 and a samson r21s.

I'm alright at mixing, but I need a good brainstorm session. Starting from scratch on such a smooth hussy sound is tough. too tough for me atm.


Thanks
Old 18th October 2013
  #2
The vast majority of what you want comes from the bass guitar you use and the way you play it. Yes there are different things that can happen if you go direct vs recording the cab. Yes you can experiment with mic placement on a cab and all of that. Yes that stuff can make a difference. But the bottom line is that you have to personally have a "punchy" sound when you play the thing for it to sound "punchy". Get that and the easy part is recording it.

There are no secrets. It always helps to have good equipment. But none of that replaces the performance being what you want it to be in the first place. Twist the EQ on your bass, and/or on your cab. Work on your finger style. Match the style with your ears as you play it. Pick a bass that just sounds right to begin with. It's the player, not the recording.
Old 18th October 2013
  #3
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I used to hate hearing these responses, but what the post above me said is true.

If you want something to sound a certain way, record it that way or you're working against the grain. It's all in the player really.

But, when I get a ****ty player in and want a certain sound, I get a good DI tone and work from there when I'm mixing.
Old 18th October 2013
  #4
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malaclypse's Avatar
Try the Sound Toys Decapitator. Add a little distortion on the "P" mode. Might help it pop.
Old 18th October 2013
  #5
Gear Nut
 

Play near the bridge and pull those strings hard, works for me when I need more punch.

Also, using a real amp always gets me more punch.

It's all pretty subjective, though.
Old 18th October 2013
  #6
Sometimes, the problem is that the bass sound, overall, is just a gigantic "BLRWAAHHHHMBG" that is so thick, it ends up flooding the whole bottom end and just getting lost.

So sometimes (this is going to be a whole 'sometimes' post, beware) what you need to do is set up a thin little subtractive EQ slice (or maybe two, sometimes) and troll them along the range that starts at around 200 Hz downward, and sometimes voila! The bass sound clears up and takes on a coherence and definition that gets it meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.

Sometimes....
Old 18th October 2013
  #7
Registered User
First one sounds like a fretless bass. Second one sounds like it is picked and loads of compression. They both sound fairly clean and dry - DI should be fine for emulating something similar. Bass is so much in the fingers, the wood, the strings, the fingers ...

What guitar and playing technique do you use? Also - have you explored flat wound strings? There is a world of tone just between different types of flat wound strings - they certainly aren't all created equal.
Old 18th October 2013
  #8
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What enlightened hand and Joel said. I'm a bass player, and I play hard- but until I had an experienced engineer listen to my mixes they always sounded muddy. It was frustrating. Then this (multiple platinum) engineer grabbed the EQ and cut the hell out of the low end and Voila- the mixes sounded instantly better. It's counter-intuitive but sometimes a punchy bass means..less bass. Experiment! Good luck.
Old 18th October 2013
  #9
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kharla's Avatar
 

Wow, thanks a lot for all the unique replies! Truly appreciate each input and thanks for the ideas. I definitely have a broader awareness of where and what to mess with.

That being said,

I can physically imitate the punchy sound I want very easily. It's more or less the problem of digitally manipulating the sound once it's there.

I feel like this specific 'punch' I am looking for goes hand and hand with my playing and the technology in which it is captured and polished. Since I am lacking the right mics to record my bass cab, I'm looking for a way to capture this specific sound through DI as close as I can.

That being said, there will still need to be a bit of digital tweeking, so to speak. I've only got one bass to work with. It's borrowed, so messing with the strings and all that other stuff isn't really an option. I suppose I should have mentioned these factors in my original post teeeheee

General advice won't be much help. I'm more or less looking for ideas for techniques, even if they work 'sometimes' like joel mentioned.


cheeeeers!
Old 18th October 2013
  #10
Lives for gear
Try this.

Add some power with a compressor scoped to the bass guitar's low frequencies. When it gets too hard, use the soft knee to round it off a little. Remove offending frequencies in the low mids and lows in order limit the mix weight that otherwise will be added from the power you just added (since you are then able to lower the signal level on it). Now, blend in a little of the other bass frequencies and balance to taste.
Old 18th October 2013
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kharla View Post
So I've been recording some tunes lately and I've been dying to get a punchy, buzzy/funky guitar sound that doesn't sound too distorted and doesn't really flood the sound with low-end frequency. This is probably a really crazy question, but I need a good bit of technique ideas before eventually figuring it out on my own.

Here are my ideal sounds:

Cymande - Brothers On The Slide - YouTube
Mac DeMarco // "My Kind Of Woman" - YouTube

perhaps a bit more punchy.

Do these kinds of sweet and sexy babies generally come dry signal? wet? or both? I'm hoping to hit this sound dry if ya know whatta mean(direct input).

I've got a di box, protools10 with all stock plugins, podfarm2, an audiotechnica ax220 and a samson r21s.

I'm alright at mixing, but I need a good brainstorm session. Starting from scratch on such a smooth hussy sound is tough. too tough for me atm.


Thanks
Active pups in a nice neckthrough bass will give some punch. Something like a Warwick or Alembic. Also plugging into the right preamp matters. A 512 will give you a nice punchy but smooth sound. Something like a neve1073 or MA5 will give you a nice punchy thunderous aggressive bass sound.

However alot of the punch comes from the players attack. For instance if you play a with a pick it will not be punchy it will always be muddy and clicky.
Old 18th October 2013
  #12
Registered User
Some of my favorite bass players play with a pick - Paul McCartney, Roger Glover (Deep Purple) and nobody calls their tone muddy and clicky. I'm fairly sure the second example the OP posted is played with a pick ...

While playing with a pick, or playing close to the bridge, or using the bridge pickup can all give a brighter tone, you can make a bass as deep and as punchy as you like with appropriate processing.

Analog EQ and saturation probably still has the edge for bass ... I'm a fan of Tech21 Sansamp products for getting a fat analog amp tone without the expense and problems of an amp ...
Old 18th October 2013
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by twentyhertz View Post
It's counter-intuitive but sometimes a punchy bass means..less bass.
It's too bad that the frequency range and the instrument share that same word.
Old 18th October 2013
  #14
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by therock View Post
... if you play a with a pick it will not be punchy it will always be muddy and clicky.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Some of my favorite bass players play with a pick - Paul McCartney, Roger Glover (Deep Purple) and nobody calls their tone muddy and clicky.
As a kid, I never played bass with a pick. Now I almost always do. The original reason I started using a pick sometimes was because muting between notes was so much easier and cleaner -- the "nothing" between the notes matters as much as the notes -- but I discovered it also made my time better and the overall sound subjectively bigger, cleaner and more nuanced all at the same time. Don't have to play hard, yet it sounds like I am. And in the context of a mix you can never tell it's a pick.

Sure, if you're not good at it your sound will be clicky -- not sure about the muddy part. Personally, I found it well worth the time and effort it took to sit my ass down and get good at it.
Old 18th October 2013
  #15
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bcgood's Avatar
 

Use a good bass with single coil pick up, Reddi direct box and don't play so damn loud! Gain staging, gain staging and performance, good bass player. You know what I mean?
Old 18th October 2013
  #16
Gear Nut
 

About picks being muddy or clicky... Go listen to some Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or 70's Cheap Trick. All used picks, all sound fantastic.

Somebody suggested a scooped compressor with a knee, that works great usually. The exception for me at least is when there's some Chris Wolstenholme style distortion going on, then you just gotta go with what sounds best...

I was skeptical of picks for most of my life, but I recently switched to using a pick most of the time, and like Brent said, more control. The muddiness might come from using a too small amp too quietly (or too loudly). But muddy? Nah.
Old 18th October 2013
  #17
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basmartin's Avatar
Punch is related to the attack and decay portion of the sound. Play hard and not to long notes will sound more punchy than soft and with long decay. There´s some tricks to it; we want the intitial transient to be fat and big. To get that the way the string is attacked is important. Using more "flesh" on the fingertips might help. Flatwould strings can also sound more punchy. Play with a pick that´s not too thin.

And the most important, play in time with the bass drum, just a little behind the beat. If the bass is ahead of the bass drum it will mess up the punch.

In mixing, compressing the bass drum and bass together, either in series or parallell, can make it punchier.
Old 18th October 2013
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand View Post
The vast majority of what you want comes from the bass guitar you use and the way you play it. Yes there are different things that can happen if you go direct vs recording the cab. Yes you can experiment with mic placement on a cab and all of that. Yes that stuff can make a difference. But the bottom line is that you have to personally have a "punchy" sound when you play the thing for it to sound "punchy". Get that and the easy part is recording it.

There are no secrets. It always helps to have good equipment. But none of that replaces the performance being what you want it to be in the first place. Twist the EQ on your bass, and/or on your cab. Work on your finger style. Match the style with your ears as you play it. Pick a bass that just sounds right to begin with. It's the player, not the recording.
Absolutely, positively, 100% on-the-money.

I agree with fooman that these are the types of answers people sometimes don't like to hear, but in my opinion it's the best possible advice.
Old 18th October 2013
  #19
Gear Addict
 
Therion's Avatar
I play the bass. How I get that punch is only in my performance.
Muting strings, never attack to hard, delay my timing off the kick to get that extra punch, play tight and tune in a sound that gives me the extra boost to preform.

Biggest misstakes I hear. Is attacing the strings to hard. That messes up the pitch and makes unwanted artifacts.
Playing with new strings. That can give you a to crisp bass sound, witch is some time tiresome to dial in.
Not muting the strings probably.
Over compressing it to the point it just get soft and muddy.
Playing over edge of your limitations. I hear often bass players preforming parts witch are over their skills. That puts the whole band in a bad spot. Less is more many times. So make sure you can handle the written part or ree write the part so you can handle it.

Point is, the bass is honest. If it dosen't sound punchy it is due to bad preformance, can be wrong use of compressor or the eq is totaly off.

So my tip is to get some custom wounded slick strings for your bass.
It will improve your finger action. See if you can improve the fretboard action.
Then you can focus on the pick. It is all in the pick
Old 18th October 2013
  #20
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jdier's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kharla View Post
Since I am lacking the right mics to record my bass cab, I'm looking for a way to capture this specific sound through DI as close as I can.
That is not a walk in the park. I think DI's sound like DI's and Cabs sound like Cabs.

I am not sure I have a huge preference one way or another, but trying to make one sound like the other is tough to do.

Do you not have a decent kick mic? I have done ok even with a shure beta 52 on a cab although I think I prefer a RE20
Old 18th October 2013
  #21
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand View Post
The vast majority of what you want comes from the bass guitar you use and the way you play it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelpatterson View Post
Sometimes, the problem is that the bass sound, overall, is just a gigantic "BLRWAAHHHHMBG" that is so thick, it ends up flooding the whole bottom end and just getting lost.

So sometimes (this is going to be a whole 'sometimes' post, beware) what you need to do is set up a thin little subtractive EQ slice (or maybe two, sometimes) and troll them along the range that starts at around 200 Hz downward, and sometimes voila! The bass sound clears up and takes on a coherence and definition that gets it meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.

Sometimes....

There are three (3) things that make a bass sound fat and punchy. EH and Joel mentioned the first two factors. The third is how you use compression.

One of the things you can do to make your bass tone punchy is set the threshold on the compressor just below the signal. set the attack on the compressor for medium attack and set the release for a "long'ish" release. What this does is allow the initial transient to get through and then clamps down on the body. Psycho acoustically it makes the bass appear as though it is literally trying to "punch" through the compressor and subsequently through your mix. Try it. Works on kicks too. My first instrument is bass by the way. And remember, you don't need to play loud at all. Actually, the bass is more responsive the lower in volume you can play. I like to think of it as "finessing" the instrument.



Good luck!
Old 18th October 2013
  #22
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Funny Cat's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Therion View Post

Biggest misstakes I hear. Is attacing the strings to hard. That messes up the pitch and makes unwanted artifacts.

^^^ Yep.
Old 19th October 2013
  #23
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twentyhertz's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kharla View Post
Wow, thanks a lot for all the unique replies! Truly appreciate each input and thanks for the ideas. I definitely have a broader awareness of where and what to mess with.

That being said,

I can physically imitate the punchy sound I want very easily. It's more or less the problem of digitally manipulating the sound once it's there.

I feel like this specific 'punch' I am looking for goes hand and hand with my playing and the technology in which it is captured and polished. Since I am lacking the right mics to record my bass cab, I'm looking for a way to capture this specific sound through DI as close as I can.

That being said, there will still need to be a bit of digital tweeking, so to speak. I've only got one bass to work with. It's borrowed, so messing with the strings and all that other stuff isn't really an option. I suppose I should have mentioned these factors in my original post teeeheee

General advice won't be much help. I'm more or less looking for ideas for techniques, even if they work 'sometimes' like joel mentioned.


cheeeeers!
Hard to say if "digital tweaking" is going to get you anywhere. It'd probably be helpful to post a mix you've done so folks can zero in on whether its your bass sound or your mix...
Old 19th October 2013
  #24
Here for the gear
 
kharla's Avatar
 

Thanks guys for all the great suggestions! Will try them all this weekend, see what I could squash!


Quote:
Originally Posted by jdier View Post
That is not a walk in the park. I think DI's sound like DI's and Cabs sound like Cabs.

I am not sure I have a huge preference one way or another, but trying to make one sound like the other is tough to do.

Do you not have a decent kick mic? I have done ok even with a shure beta 52 on a cab although I think I prefer a RE20
Thanks for the response. All I've got is an cardioid compresser; audio technica at2020 and a samson r21s... If any of these will do, how would I go about micing the cab once ive got the tone down?
Old 20th October 2013
  #25
Gear Nut
 

What i'm hearing in that bass line is more 100 to 180 hz and less freq below the 100hz range. that seems to be typical of funk in the late 70s.
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