How To Get A Soul/RnB Bass Guitar Tone
What’s up producer!
Arguably, the fundamental element of modern production is bass tone. Typically, it’s the bassline that defines the root of the song, and the tone of the bass determines what happens with the rest of the tracks in the mix. Think about it for a second. When you listen to old school jazz, you don’t expect to hear a fuzzy, distorted bass tone. So, that all being said, it really is critical to get the tone of the bass sorted, right at the very beginning of your mix.
This blog goes through a few tips for you to get a great bass tone in the pop, rock, and hip hop genres. As a bonus, in the video, Bronwen from www.rapponline.net working on a track from the Lennox Rnb sample pack goes through getting a great bass tone in an RnB track.
This is maybe obvious to some, but is a simple fact: Hip-hop is really all about the bass. Typically, the bass is an extension of the kick drum. The kick is used to handle the punch and tight transient click, and the bass delivers the power sustained note. To get the sound of hip hop bass you HAVE TO treat the kick and bass as one sound. First up, use an EQ on each track (Kick and bass) to create the sonic space for the kick and bass. Try this as a starting point, and then tweak the sound from there: On the kick track, use the EQs high pass filter to make room for the bass sub frequency content.
Use the bell filter (if you haven’t already, check out the video on EQ for a quick walkthrough on EQ filters) on the bass track EQ to scoop out the low mids around 160-400Hz to allow the kick to push through. Just a little say around -3 or -4dBs should be enough. If you need to manage the sustain of the bass, then use a compressor and dial in a fairly slow release time so you get a nice consistent level. You can also specifically use a compressor that will add some form of colour through saturation. To really get the kick to have a bit more sonic space, you can add a second compressor where the kick is side chained, just start out with fast attack and release times to attenuate the signal quickly every time the kick hits. Again, this setting will be set and determined by your source material. Keep tweaking until it ‘sits’ right!
In the pop genre, the bass either is the focal point by playing a catchy melody, or it’s a simple sustained low note root of the chords. Here, you will want to use EQ and compression to get a great bass tone for a melodic bass line. A great place to start and then tweak the bass sound settings from is to first, use a high pass filter on your EQ to roll off any frequencies below 40 or 50Hz. You also need to get the bass line tone and melody nice and bright and defined, so that it sits in the front of the mix and have the listener pay attention.
The way to do this, is to boost the highs frequency content around 5 to 8KHz using a nice shelf EQ filter. Make sure you find the fundamental frequency of the bass; this can easily be done using a spectrum analyser. Use a bell filter on your EQ to scoop out a little space so the kick drum and bass can ‘sit’ well together and have a bit of space for each other. Then, use a compressor with a fast attack and release time setting dialled in to help accentuate the transients of each bass note. This will help you get a nice snappy pop bass tone. A great technique to work with here, is to use a compressor that has a sidechain filter, so you can filter out any low end from triggering the compressor.
Rock bass tone can probably best be described as gritty. Again, you will need to use both EQ and compression to get a great rock bass sound. The easiest way to get a rock bass sound is to use an EQ’s shelving filters to boost the low and high frequency content. The shape will be that ‘smiley face’. This will help you add power and weight to the low end, and bring the bite and snap of the strings to the front when slapped. You’ll really need to look at the low mids around 160-500Hz, and use a nice bell curve on your EQ to carve out room for the kick drum and to manage any muddiness in the bass.
Then to get some indie punk rock bite, use the EQ bell filter to boost the mids around 800-1200Hz. In order to really manage the dynamics of the bass performance, record the bass through a DI and heavily compress it. The idea here is to set the compressor to have a ratio of 6:1 and higher with a nice fast attack and fast release time.
This is all source dependent, but good starting points for you to work from. Then blend the compressed version in with an amped sound. The advantage of using a DI channel to compress is that the signal is clean, so you won’t get any unwanted artifacts. You know, that unwanted clipping and distortion in your sound. The signature ‘snarl’ of a rock bass tone can be created by using parallel processing that helps add in subtle saturation, but even then; we suggest you use a dedicated saturation plugin to add in some of that high quality harmonic distortion. This will give you the distinct rock tone, and allow the bass to cut through a busy mix, without losing the rest of the electric guitars in the mix.
...and there you go, some tips on getting a good bass tone in different genres! Have fun and get those basics right!
The r-loops team!