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modern metal bass sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mad_hungarian, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. mad_hungarian


    Sep 1, 2008

    just got a gig as a backup for a metal bassist friend. cover band playing the likes of pantera and mudvayne. i usually play plenty of styles but this needs some authentic bass sound.

    right now i play in radically different bands (standard jazz, electric/pop, rock) and i believe i know what these require. my metal playing days are however long behind me...
    from what i gather, to reach this sound i need hard attack, some amount of distortion, and bass/treble boost (so the bottom will be filled and the attack can be heard), and i don't need a lot of mid frequencies (i rarely hear the "nasal" sound associated with fretless basses in this environment)

    this is all ok, but I am still a far shot from the sound i seek. i need the advice of an experienced metal bassist on how to be authentic.

    any help on eq/distortion settings and other tricks greatly appreciated!

  2. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Well, if you're backing up another bass player I'd suggest duplicating whatever sound he uses.
  3. ErebusBass


    Feb 20, 2008
    Madison, WI
    First and foremost, I never use distortion. I feel like I just get lost in the wall of guitar distortion when I do. I've always felt that a clean bass tone cuts better in metal.

    You need a really aggressive sound. I've found that the best way to do this is with a hot set of dual coil p'ups and a really hard attack.

    For your EQ, don't boost the bass/treble. Boost the mids. If you have a graqhic eq, take the lowest frequency and cut it WAAAAY down. Bump the low mids significantly and give the high mids a slight bump.

    Most of all it's in your fingers. When I play fingerstyle, I always strike the string downward (towards the fingerboard) with enough force that it clacks the frets with every note. With a pick I just whale on the string at a slight angle.

    Hope this helps a little bit.
    John Keith likes this.
  4. mad_hungarian


    Sep 1, 2008
    Thanks, that helps! I already use a hard attack. I use an EBS ValveDrive and it does not muddy the tone but I am the curious type: would you explain how (or why) this eq setting works? What bass do you use? Whenever I boost lo-mids (400Hz) I get the feeling something is not right... maybe it's just me...

    This guy plays a hi-end Zon thru the largest Ampeg stack I've ever seen... hard to imitate that on my rig just by copying his settings :) I can't complain about my rig either but it's not specifically for metal - Aguilar DB750, Aguilar GS410, modified Spector (softened its sound)
  5. René_Julien


    Jun 26, 2008

    Go for a sound as clean as possible.
    edit: I'm a slow typer, :D I just saw your post above me that the guy you're backing up for is using an Ampeg stack. In that case look into SVT emulator pedals (SansAmp) if you want to get his tone.

    Think of metal bass and metal guitar as Jeckyl and Hyde.
    Jeckyl being the bass and Hyde being the guitars.

    Don't midscoop to much with your EQ, also something you better leave to the guitars.

    Don't boost your lows (or lowest frequency), because mostly (I think always) the low on any EQ is shelving. This will result in to much "woofiness" or a muddy sound, especially when playing fast. Low mids, that's what you should raise to make your low end audible.
    And it wouldn't hurt to raise the treble for some nice upper harmonics.

    EQ: it's a tool to finetune your sounds, not an effect to make your bass sound metal.

    As for the bass itself, any type of bass you personally like.
    I always favoured a Precision bass for metal. Some like Jazz basses. Or like the person above me likes dual coils.
    Doesn't matter, any bass that is black will do. ;)
  6. mad_hungarian


    Sep 1, 2008

    Thanks man!
    I almost never use any EQ (I only use it to match the acoustics of the venue); but then, I don't have a great metal sound either so I figured I'd ask.

    What I am looking for is a Pantera-ish sound. If you listen to the recordings or live bootlegs, they do have some amount of distortion and of course compression. They do not have lows like reggae music does and the attack sound is strong. The problem is, however strong or light I play, wherever I boost the EQ, I can't find that frequency that gives that thumpy bottom to the sound.

    I am well aware that the sound is mainly in the hands. But if the bass itself does not really matter, then some other element (amp, gain settings, etc) must be the key to this sound. I do not think I'll nail it perfectly but I think I'm as close as my ability lets me get to "metal fingerstyle" and I still miss something.
  7. Man, you say you've never heard nasal sounding bass in metal and got to cover some mudvayne songs? Because Mudvayne's bassist uses a warwick thumb and it really does sound nasal. Anyway, you could easily work out your tone by simply using a big mid boost and only switching from neck (bit more boomy for pantera-esque occasions) to bridge pickup (to get that nasal mudvayne tone and more articulatino) to fit the style. Heavy compression can come handy too if you have to play very fast.

    Oh and thumpy tone in metal always makes me go "meh". You'll be completely lost in the mix. Distortion will lost you in the mix too, unless you use a pick with slight overdrive and a lot of presence. Honestly, mids are where it's at in metal.
  8. tycobb73


    Jul 23, 2006
    Grand Rapids MI
    Rex (Pantera) was a big Spector player. Has his own model. He is alos a pick player. I also think he uses Ampeg.
  9. Gothic


    Apr 13, 2008
    I play in an atmospheric/prog metal band, and most parts on the bass actually HAVE to be heard (since I write the music, the bass has an equally valuable role in the songs), in order to complete a certain harmony, so, that means I have to cut through a wall of distortion coming from two guitarists, plus the keyboards, while still holding it down with the drums. In my case, I tend to boost the mids and the highs a little, and add some grit (imagine tube overdrive tone) to it, and it works like a charm. Too much distortion/fuzz just kills your sound IMO, and to my ears, it all gets lost in the guitarists distorsauce.

    Different playing styles also help. In more mellower, ambient/atmospheric/quiet/etc. stuff, I play fingerstyle, and closer to the neck and roll the volume down quite a bit, to mellow out the OD and the clink-clank sound from aggressive fingerstyle. On other, more in-your-face metal stuff I tend to use a pick, since I the sharper attack and more "metal" sound (strings help, too) are closer to what I need. Still, the above aren't universal rules, sometimes a pick sounds equally good in mellower stuff, and the stronger fingerstyle attack on fast parts sound good, too.

    In any case, I would suggest trying anything you can in a rehearsal, EQ the hell out of your amp, try a little overdrive just to give the sound some edge (if needed), try fingerstyle, pick, bottles, raw potatoes, anything! Above all, have fun with it! :D
  10. Double Agent

    Double Agent

    Mar 10, 2006
    Lakeland, FL
    I agree with all the others who say BOOST THE MIDS! But, not necessarily the very middle of the EQ range. The low-mids and high-mids are what you need to boost. The low-mids will give you some punch and low end growl. The high-mids will help you cut through and give you a grindy tone. How much of each one you want/need is in your hands. But, if you are using a graphic EQ, it should look a little like this --> /\/\, almost like a letter M.

    Also, my favorite basses for this style are, in order of MY personal preference, Spector, Musicman, and Warwick. But, there are a lot of other basses that will work just as well.
  11. mad_hungarian


    Sep 1, 2008
    About "nasal" sound: must be different sounds we think about (isn't it always like that? :)) I am transcribing Not Falling now and although the sound has good mid growl, it is not the sound associated with a lot of jazz players. (although why anyone would want to cover this song is beyond me. It is great material but I am not going to sound like that Ryan dude whatever I do...)

    Just leaving for rehearsal and I will try to put all this info to good use...
  12. Toastfuzz


    Jul 20, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    If you're playing with 1 guitarist, you can afford to use more fuzz or distortion. As long as you can distinguish the 2 instruments it makes the band as a whole sound badass, like old Sabbath when Geezer pumped the fuzz.

    Yeah, 2 guitarists through and you usually gotta go clean just to hear yourself. I also pluck very close to the neck (fingerstyle) to get more attack, a "clanky" sound that also has low end to back it up.

    Oh and I forgot to mention, set your EQ and settings with your guitarists, as the best "mix" settings are probably not the best sitting-in-your-room-jamming settings.
  13. John Keith

    John Keith

    Mar 5, 2017
    I read your post the other day and yesterday I had band practice. So I was able to try out your suggestion. The result is that I/we love it! I have to fine tune the sound a bit. I lose a lot of low end, but that aggressive almost floppy bass sound is amazing.

    The amp I use does have a graphic EQ and I think I cut the bass wayyyy too much. Thank you again for the advice.
  14. bass40hz

    bass40hz Cigar smoker, scotch drinker, American Patriot Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Sussex County, NJ
    no endorsements yet...Are you listening Spector, DR, GK, Line6?
    Get a Helix, I have an LT, its wizardry and can get you any tone you seek.
    Rock on.
  15. John Keith

    John Keith

    Mar 5, 2017
    I actually use a TC Nova System. I am still learning this monster but I love the tone so far. I believe I paid $300 or so for it.

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