Let's talk about bass

Here are two ways to go about finding some potential solutions:

  1. Focus on keeping as much of your sound in your “sonic territory” (e.g., the low end) as possible:

One of the problems with the situation you’ve just described is that, being in the low end and trying not to compete with 2 guitars in the midrange, your spectrum for expression is rather limited. As a result, most anything you do will have a considerable degree of “yep that’s a bass synth” to it, simply for lack of a tremendous amount of harmonic space. However, there are a lot of things that can spice it up a bit without using too many upper partials to come across - modulated formant oscillators and filters are one way to add some texture and shape to the lower notes that often only need a few of the subsequent harmonics to really get the gist. Another thing to do is to decrease wavefolding and distortion as you get higher in pitch (to reduce the amount of upper harmonic content to compete with the rest of the band) and increase them as you go lower, but keeping all distortion and wavefolding pre-filter to permit you to shape that final sound into your frequency “territory”.

  1. Use aggressive and dynamic filtering to shape your notes into a blend between two categories: shorter, brighter sounds to come through with loads of harmonics but just briefly, like a bass slap, and longer, darker sounds to linger, focusing more on the texture, like a ringing-out thumb style:

Pull a synthesizer trick here and map velocity or some other control to your filter eg- the shorter the note the sharper the attack and the more punchy the eg - this is a lot like backing off a bass compressor to let the punch of your notes pull through, and then starting to do sharper picking - that leading bright edge cuts through everybody but just for an instant. All the typical bass compression tricks apply here too, but the envelope attack and amount become the control variables, not the vca directly. You can make a nasty buzzy sound that pops through just for a second before the filter clamps down on it, for instance, or you can adjust the decay of the envelope for brighter notes, shortening them, while the slower darker notes have a longer decay (but less envelope amount, so the filter just doesn’t open up as widely). These are tricks that let you shape almost any fun sound into the sonic territory you’re trying to stay within. If you start with a core oscillator and modulation that, if the vca is held open produces an interesting drone, the envelope and filter will do all the work of shaping this into the note profile you want as you go - again, the analogy here is just like with a string bass, you’ve got slapping, sharp picking, picking, and thumb style (among many others) as various ways to shape the note’s attack and transfer more energy to that part or to the longer sustain, as you play. Use those types of controls to shape and control the envelope, and you’ll find interesting, dynamic expression for days.

Bonus: once you’ve got a good scheme working with the envelope, which is often the easiest to hear and learn with, you can apply the same exact tricks to all the other modulation sources like the wavefolder, resonant filters/ring mods, etc. to further shape and modulate the sound using the same or adjacent envelopes.


i think this is a totally fair response btw!

I know absolutely nothing about playing bass guitar but I found this yesterday and thought some of you might appreciate it :slight_smile:


Thanks for sharing!

I’ve been learning the bass for almost a month now and founded it to be a extremely enjoyable experience. The feel, vibration, rumble and tone of the bass are enchanting.

I come from the guitar, so I feel relatively at home with the neck. On the other hand (:upside_down_face:), learning pizzicato and other techniques gives me the chance to start the right way with the bass. Meaning I’ve learned the guitar by myself and acquired bad habits along the way.

Jared Smith (above) is a great great player. Other players whose technique is astounding are Ayumu, Dominic Forest, Jacob Umansky and Simon Grove. All worth checking out!

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First bass for me - Fender Mustang PJ. I like the fact that it’s Made in Mexico, doesn’t phase me at all - it is beautifully put together although I will inevitably upgrade some components. Being a somewhat decent “guitarist” it is so fun and easy to play. The Butterscotch & Maple neck was the only colour that ever struck me for this bass - luckily there was one left in the UK.


I have a question for people knowledgeable about bass and other stringed instruments setups/adjustments.

My bass is a Fender Mustang (reissue from Fender Japan), so 30" scale length. It’s a great instrument, I really love it.
It might sound a bit blasphemous but I’m not a big fan of the E/lowest string, though. It’s maybe because I use flatwounds or just because of the scale length, but it feels less tight than the other strings, for example.

I was considering replacing it with another much lighter string (basically moving all the other 3 strings one step up and adding an extra higher pitched one after the G string).

From my understanding, there could be a few issues with that :

  • The bass would likely need its truss rod to be adjusted to compensate for the overall lower tension. That means removing the neck for this bass, which is not great but I’ve done that on my guitar a couple of times so that’s still something I can do myself.
  • The nut seems to be perfect for the strings I have now but if all strings ended up being smaller, would I need to do something to make the fit better ? I’m really not very comfortable with the idea of removing/tweaking this myself as I’ve never done that an I can see the potential for disaster here.
  • And of course I would need to find one medium scale flatwound string (Mustang bass is through body), ideally a D’Addario Chrome like the others.

Am I overlooking anything ?
Does that sound like a terrible idea ?

From what I’ve read over at Talkbass, it shouldn’t require any change to the nut, and it might not even require truss rod adjustment unless switching all the strings from heavy to light too. You’ll probably have to tweak the intonation at the saddles though.

There are string tension calculators online to figure out what gauge to get for that high C so it’s balanced with the other strings you have. I don’t know if Chromes are available as extended range bass strings, but there’s probably a guitar Chrome that matches pretty closely.

(This is something I’ve also thought about, but I decided I’d rather keep standard tuning on my Mikro but make my next bass a piccolo bass – probably one of those short-neck, headless kind like a Wing or Miezo or FingyBass.)


If I’m interpreting this correctly and you’re looking at tuning the bass as sort of a baritone / piccolo (say, ADGC), the two other options I can think of would be

  • Try tuning up the current strings up like 1-3 semitones, and see if that makes the stiffness and sound better to your taste. I did that with my Miezo (already a super short scale) and got a nice percussive touch and still kept some low end without changing strings.
  • Get a thicker E string from the same or similar sounding set, so you’ll have more tension in the low end - this will most probably require someone filing the nut at the lowest string though, and if you hate how thick and muted an E flatwound string feels, then that’ll probably happen even more with a thicker one…

Aside that, @Starthief is on point if you’re set on stringing ADGC with thinner strings. You may need some truss rod adjustment or not depending on the change and your taste, and you’ll definitely have to check the intonation, but possibly not anything else if you’re lucky. However, I guess if you don’t get someone to make a new nut, after changing the strings like that you’ll have to check yourself whether it works or not. Eg. too loose a nut slot may easily make the string buzz if the string doesn’t sit properly / at a correct break angle. It really depends on how big the change is, how picky you are about action, and what kind of headstock & setup the bass has otherwise, I guess.

(I’m sure a medium or long scale D’Addario Chrome XL in thickness suitable for C is not hard to get, as they sell 5-6 string flatwound sets anyway, and individual ones too.)

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@Starthief Yes, you’re right.

I just checked with a tension calculator and the tension would basically be the same between the .100 string tuned at E1 (i.e. now) and a .032 string tuned at C3 (what I would replace it with)…

At this point I should just order the string (apparently there’s a single string Chrome available for that) and do some tests, thanks for all the info !

@kbra Thanks for the detailed answer too :slight_smile:

And yes, your interpretation is totally correct. I wasn’t sure of the proper terminology…
If I try that I’ll check for buzzing and see if there are issues with the nut then.

Thanks again to both of you, even for weird things like that Lines is great as usual :+1:


Ah, the page I was looking at only showed 4-string sets (which was a little surprising, but it was on D’Addario’s own site). Good to know there are more options.

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Could anyone tell me about their methodology for creating simple sine-based sub basses? Or recommend any soft synths that are well suited for the job? I create my subs with stock Ableton synths but in my experience they all have clicky envelopes which is making it very difficult to get the kind of smooth sound I’m looking for right now.

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Hey @crunchyave I wonder what brand of pedal you used for that? A passive one is also an option but I am curious and a bit gear-geeky here :slight_smile:

Hey! It was a Broughton Audio pedal, just a nice well made utility. I got sold on the concept with this video - you can really hear how it just makes the sound more focused but doesn’t make it sound thin.

Once I get my Klein Bottle assembled I plan to use that as the centerpiece of my pedalboard and will do the filtering there instead, since it’s got high and low pass filtering on each loop point.

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I haven’t used Ableton in a while, but are you using Operator? You can drag the attack time a little to the right (lengthen it) so there isn’t a click (around 20-30ms), or a lot longer so the sub bass fades in later, which might be a cool effect.
Are you loading a second plugin for the subbass or just using another voice on the same plug? I like loading a second plug and copying the midi, then I have separate control of timbre. But even then I’d use Operator and just lengthen the attack.
Does that address your question, or maybe you have more specifics re: what you’ve tried and what isn’t working?

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Thanks for the reply. I’m using Operator, Wavetable and sometimes Analog, I always use an isolated instance of the instrument. I’ve tried every method that I can think of for removing clicks, increasing attack time, changing voice counts, mono and even poly voice modes (I seem to get consistent clicking using Operator in monophonic mode regardless of envelope settings), setting the cycle of the oscillator to retrigger with every new note, using varying glide settings to bend up and down to succeeding notes in a riff.

I can still get usable sounds out of them, but I’m working on a patch for a legato bassline and I don’t want any clicks interrupting the riff.

Generally I prefer to make do with stock instruments and processors and I don’t have a large plug-in library but I’d make an exception to get the right sound here. I suppose I’m asking either if anyone knows any other tricks for removing clicks or if there are any purpose built synth plug-ins which can do smooth subs. I’m half tempted to start building my own in Max but I don’t really have the time at the moment.

Is the click apparent in the recorded waveform? i.e. can you see it? If so post a screenshot of a click… Could there be another reason eg your interface has a DC issue & the bassline is revealing it etc…

Not sure why the stock envelopes are unable to provide a fade-in here, but another way to reduce high frequency attack transients like clicks is to apply a lowpass. Won’t be as effective as enveloping it, or fixing at the source, though.

Here at CTM festival, Berlin there was a workshop about low frequency sound with Stefanie Egedy.

The blurb:

This workshop is meant to provide an introduction to properties of low frequency sound, subwoofer arrangements, and how to listen with your body. It will be held using the SL-SUB subwoofer. The session begins with an introduction to the concept of sound, before delving into specifics of low frequency sound waves, and their behaviour and properties. The discussion will continue with an introduction to subwoofers, with examples of classical arrangements, and how to optimize your home setup and event setups. At the end, Egedy will lead an experiential exercise of listening with your body – perceiving low range sounds.

I could not make it. Did anyone here on lines perhaps attend the workshop, or know Egedy’s work on the subject?

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I am assuming there is a bass synth thread somewhere but I can’t seem to find it. Can someone point me in the right direction? I’m imagining something where people talk about bass synths they own or want, pros and cons, comparisons of features etc.

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Bolsa bass.Still smells candy when taken from box.

These small wooden buttons giving completely different feeling when layering melodies.Like strings in guitar sorta of.Deep clean sound.Got it from new when came out,never had a problem.