10. Using ‘Real’ Bass
So far we’ve mainly considered synthesised bass, but what about the real deal?
The big difference with real bass is its unpredictability and sophistication of tone, which in the right hands makes for a compelling combination. However, this can also be its downfall – many types of club music rely on an almost robotic repetition of bass parts to create their signature groove.
If you do want to dive into the world of live bass, then ideally start with a good bass player playing a decent, well-tuned instrument. The easiest way to record it is to use a DI feed from the bass to your mixer or audio interface. This avoids many potential problems, but can lead to a sound that lacks character.
A better approach might be to plug the bass into an amp and speaker cabinet and mic the whole thing up:
In fact, you can even use multiple mics and a DI feed, then mix the various elements to taste (although this is a complex skill in itself).
Another approach is to take the DI recording and process it using an amp simulator plugin:
This adds character, but also allows you to tweak the sound more fully after recording.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you combining real and synth bass parts. The general rules of bass layering apply here as well. You may also have to think about timing correction if you want both to sit tightly together.
If all this seems too much, then there’s always the possibility of ‘playing’ a high-quality multi-sampled bass. Native Instruments’ Scarbee MM-Bass for Kontakt is a great example, based on the tone of Chic’s Bernard Edwards. Perfect for disco basslines.