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Bass as a midi controller

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Jazzkuma, May 30, 2012.

  1. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    I came across this interesting video which shows how a bass can be used to compose for film/tv as a midi controller.

    It is a Wal midi bass which Wal no longer produces. I am curious and want to know if there are any other brands which have a midi bass? I have been looking for one for a while already and can't find any.

    Anyone know of any other options there are out there which will let me record everything I need only with my bass?
  2. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    And I do have a midi keyboard controller but I always feel more comfortable on the bass.
  3. very cool. But at least some of what you hear seems to have been pre-recorded - you can't match up his fingers with all those sounds. Cool nonetheless, it would be nice to be able to have all those sounds available.
  4. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Roland VB-99 - does modeling of sounds, no trigger or latency problems, but it's not going to do just any sound.

    Roland GR-55 - does modeling and midi. Guitar tracking for midi is perfect, but bass is tricky. Just like in your youtube, tracking upper notes is better, low notes not so good.

    Used Axons are still a good option.

    Fishman Triple Play - Based on the Axon technology, but now it's wireless. It's strictly midi. Again guitar tracking looks good. I don't expect anything better for bass than the Axon.

    If you want midi and bass scale length, you can put guitar strings tuned up an octave to improve tracking, then shift it down an octave with midi.

    Peavey at one point made a midi bass with wired frets.

    Also take a look at the Antares, http://guitar.auto-tune.com/
    And actually Roland modeling solutions do pretty much the same.

    Besides getting midi, and sounds out, you're going to need to learn to loop and layer. Ableton live is a great option for this part.
  5. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    wow thanks, now I have research to do. I really don't have a problem on using the octave instead of the lower range with worse tracking. And I know about the peavy bass too but these products are always discontinued. Thanks for the info.
  6. pjmuck


    Feb 8, 2006
    New Joisey
    Bass register presents problems with the majority of pitch to midi devices like Axon or Roland's GR systems. Once you get lower than an open A, for example, latency becomes unbearable. You'll often see GK PUPs mounted on extended range basses, 6 strings and up, which allows for smoother midi control in the upper registers, otherwise 4 and 5 stringers end up playing in the higher frets to compensate for latency.

    My current midi bass setup is comprised of a Carvin LB50 with a Roland GK3B PUP mounted and strung with piccolo strings. I find it works very well with low latency, and as someone else mentioned, I can tune down (or up) any midi instruments I'm controlling as needed.


    As for other options, I've yet to see any product on the market that tracks "true" bass in bass register as well as the Industrial Radio Bass, but they ain't cheap:


    This is Steve Chick's company, the man who developed the same midi system found in the Wal Bass you mentioned. After the Wal Bass, he developed a system for Peavey in their MidiBase/Cyberbase basses.

    A few other options for bass midi:

    Sonuus B2M or i2M: I've tried the B2m, and thought it sucked. The i2m, which I do own, has better tracking/latency in the upper register for bass (though latency's still a problem in the lower pitch range), and it's a relatively simple plug and go mono only device that's can be set up for various instruments.

    Then you've also got products like Starr Labs ZBass, which is not a bass in the true sense of the word, but a midi controller with fretboard keys and simulated strings/triggers to help a controller at least feel more like a bass to a bassist:

  7. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    yeah thats right, I play a 24 fret 6 string. If anything above the open A has decent tracking then thats all I really need.
  8. What about this?

  9. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    I know that David Segal, New York Bass Works, will install a midi controller at your request if you order a custom bass. His basses are really great. Perhaps other custom bass makers will do the same, if you have a favorite maker...

  10. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    Did you need to drill into your carvin to set up that Gk pickup? I heard you can use a double sided tape but I am not sure if that will affect the tracking at all.
    Im not sure if I want to drill my bass.
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    And there's always the "Your Rock Guitar"
    It's actually a decent midi controller

    Of course even a rock guitar game controller can be a good midi controller with the right software
  12. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    yeah i have picked up the yourock before but to me it just feels like a toy... Its just weird to play on it and even more if you are a bassist.
  13. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    YRG is a toy, but the next step for button fret type controller is a Ztar.

    You know, Sometimes people just want to create quick backing tracks for their natural bass tracks. Demo songs.

    Here you don't always need midi.

    You can write out the chords and let composing software write the other tracks. If you play a guitar where chords can be detected by software, then you can let BIAB audio chord wizard write of the chords for you.

    Watch this video

    BAIB has many styles for Jazz, Rock, Country also. And it can add vocal harmonies.
    And if you use midi tracks you can still tweak the midi. You can always replace tracks later.

    It's good for quick demos and practicing, or working up a live set for a couple of musicians.
  14. Swedemidibass


    Mar 5, 2011

    I am the guy in the You Tube vid you have been watching and if you are serious about it you should get in touch with Steve at Industrial Radio. The Wals do come up every now and then but they are collectors items now! and go for ridiculous prices. I use mine to compose every day and its sits comfortably with all new technology. The DVD is pre recorded obviously but trust me it can produce all of the sounds you hear, the trick is to play it how a piano or a violin player would play. It took me years!!! I recently purchased the Plug In Omnisphere and have been writing new age music for relaxation CDs all on the midi bass, my bass is about 18 years old and its incredible to think how ahead of his time Steve Chick was when they came up with the idea but its sad to see that it has not been utilised as much as it truly should have. So take the plunge, if you are serious about composing and bass is your main instrument you will never look back. I could go on for hours about the velocity that it produces when playing astring section so much more so than using keyboard, but I would probably bore everyone!!!



  15. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Cool stuff. And it's really a lot of talent to take an instrument and bend it to sound that good regardless of the technology.

    You point about it taking years, maybe that's exaggerated but it does take practice. Even keyboard players can attest to it takes practice to play a synth even if they have years of experience on acoustic piano. It's not just out of the box - it takes practice.

    I for one would like to hear more about what you're able to do with a bass over a keyboard. Another example of this is wind controllers, or adding a breath controller to a keyboard, it adds a whole new dimension.

    One thing lacking in keyboards since the 80's is poly after-touch. It's pretty natural on a guitar or bass to stretch or vibrate one string while holding a note on another. This just isn't available on modern keyboards they all have channel aftertouch - every note is affected by pressure. Aftertouch on a kb just isn't natural though. On midi bass/guitar it's right there and natural to playing a bass/guitar.
  16. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008

    Thanks for the info, I have been looking at my options but Im still trying to figure out what is best for me since I learn about all these new products every day... I feel the bass will let me compose much faster and easier (more natural to me) since I am a bass player. I got a 6 strings so chordal stuff is not much of a problem and I am not a very good pianist. It would be cool to listen some of your new music, its interesting how some people like you are composing with the bass entirely.
  17. Swedemidibass


    Mar 5, 2011
    Here is a link to my soundcloud page... all the instruments you hear on my tracks are composed using the midi bass with the exception of bass, I use my Overwaters for that:)


    @Seamonkey - about the touch of the bass I think of my fingers as hammers when playing piano and that works for me, thats my method. But you are correct the difference is being able to sustain the notes and stretch them, I have a good studio set up in terms of plug ins and synths but you cannot pick up the midi bass and play a violin sound as you would play a bass, you need to think like a violin player... at least that is what works for me. I think the main difference is that the Midi bass is a stringed instrument against a keyboard

    Piano example at http://soundcloud.com/idiom-music/virtuous-1

    Best Keith
  18. pjmuck


    Feb 8, 2006
    New Joisey
    No drilling required. The GK PUP comes with double stick tape, shims, etc. Drilling would secure it for good, but I keep mine pretty secure to the body via tape and invisible tape over the top. Tracking's been great, but piccolo strings presents a new set of problems: how do you reclaim bass register? You can either use a midi bass patch in your soft/hard synths, or do what I do and run one of the 1/4" outs (The Carvin LB50 has stereo outs) through a Digitech Whammy tuned down an octave. Sounds very Rick-ish, IMO, and combined with the second piccolo 1/4" out and an endless supply of midi sounds, we're talking about a huge symphony wall of sound. :D
  19. SeanOnBass


    Oct 23, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: MTD Basses, Bartolini, Genzler Amplification, GHS, Tsunami Cables, Sonic Nuance
    I've had reasonable luck without using any external MIDI conversion hardware at all, but instead using real time and non-real time plugins inside of Ableton Live and Cakewalk Sonar. There are a couple different companies that make these plugins, such as Widi, Midifier, etc. Just do a search online for "audio to midi plugin".

    That said, they work differently for different basses/setups, and what Swedemidibass was saying is true - you have to be very careful with your technique to get it to work correctly. But the benefit is that you don't need a bunch of outboard gear that will only become dated, and you can use any bass you like. I have had better luck playing up high on a 6 string myself, as well. And, most of these solutions, if not all, are monophonic. But still, it's one way to go.

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