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How to work with a distorted bass synth?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by lostcontrol_, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. At the moment it looks like I'll become a live bass player for a synth-heavy band. There's a lot of synth action going on (both live and playback), and my standing orders are to "just double the synth". That's fine by me, and I'll be able to do some subtle complementary runs here and there.

    At the moment I'm a bit curious on how I should work with the bass synth, especially in the effect department. There's already a lot of fuzz/distortion in the synth sound, so I'm undecided on whether I'd be better off having a completely wharrgarbled fuzz or a more defined overdrive.

    The drive (Darkglass B3K) sounds great and would give me more clarity.

    The fuzz (Woolly Mammoth) sounds even better at rehersal, but I'm a bit worried that at a gig it might be too much of a mess when combined with the synth bass.

    Here's a sample of their music: http://www.last.fm/music/ten+after+dawn/_/Red+Carpet+Fever

    As far as I know, their previous bass player just plugged into a DI with no effects, but I've got some freedom here.

    Currently using a 6-string (BEADGC) and I think I'll go as low as possible in most songs. Probably will add a delay to the chain for the occasional slapback & atmospheric fun.

    Any ideas or experiences?

    PS. Having the synth to "GTFO from my frequencies" is not an option :)
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Honestly, I would stay as clean as possible most of the time, for best compliment/contrast to the synths. Then occasionally step on a squalling flanger or other dramatic effect as a momentary sort of riff, fill, or response.
  3. This might be the best advice. It'll be important for you to listen closely to whatever the synth is doing. It'll be easy to have competing frequencies that'll create resonances and "muddy" up your sound fast. The best thing to do is to actively play an octave away from the synth whenever possible. I suggest listening very critically while playing with the band and trying to figure out how you can play or, more importantly, NOT PLAY as to best serve the song and the sound.

    My first thought with the songs that I heard is that if you start putting effects on your bass, it'll compete with the synth. On the song that comes up on your link, I think I'd go get a drink or maybe just play some percussion. Not playing on a song is OK, and many musicians are too sensitive and/or have too big of an ego to realize this. If that's what the synth player is going to play for that specific song, I'd probably pick up a different instrument and try to fill out out the sound.

    Judging from that song and the "Protest Song," they honestly may not need a bass player, or if they do, it's gotta be arranged nicely as to compliment and not compete with the other instruments, and that may be really, really tough to do if the synth player isn't listening to you and the song as a whole.

    Other then that, I'd look into a fuzz/OD/Distortion pedal (take your pick of what you like best) followed by filters - filters will be your friend. A good envelope filter is probably your best bet, or maybe a wah. After that, a flanger could spice things up nicely. However, that means that you've got to convince to the synth player that you'll take up the low ends and he's got to move his left hand farther to the right!
  4. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    I agree about keeping the bass sound clean. It is afterall a synth band, and there's already heavy overdrive synth filling that sound, all you'd be doing is fighting it.
  5. Just a follow-up:

    Thanks for your help, everyone. After some experimenting, I ended up with a light overdrive from the Darkglass instead of going totally clean. To my ear, it seems to blend me a bit better to the songs. A heavy fuzz or drive was indeed too much, and no drive at all made the bass stand out a bit too much in most places.
  6. gastric

    gastric Professional product tester for hire

    Jun 8, 2009
    Raleigh, NC
    Source Audio BETA tester
    Make sure to share some sound samples when you get some full-band recordings with you in the mix. Sounds like fun to me!