New Tech for old school Bass Synth sounds help!

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by junglejetdrvr, Aug 6, 2021.

  1. junglejetdrvr


    Aug 26, 2011
    Been a traditional bass player for 35 yrs and have not gotten into synth bass much. Always had a keys player to handle these parts. Now we are delving more into these old school sounds to replicate some 80’s tones such as Kenny Loggins Danger Zone and Michael Jackson’s PYT. Technology today has provided a myriad of possibilities. Looking for guidance from some of you experts on a couple things.

    1. Can I play a traditional bass through individual pedals or an effects processor and replicate these sounds cleanly considering the challenges with bass guitar strings and convert that signal to synth tones

    2. Does anyone have an optimal set up they use they use that you could share?

    3. Is buying a Roland G-77B from the 80’s and building a set up that way a better option?

    Thanks for your help!!
  2. GMC


    Jan 1, 2006
    Wiltshire, UK
    There's the midi route, using a midi pickup. The Boss SY-1000 uses that option (however, it's not essential).
    The other route is to use something like a Pandamidi Future Impact or a Source Audio C4. Both are great and some guys rock with both. Either the C4 or FI can easily cover the range of synth tones you are looking for.
    scott sinner and el murdoque like this.
  3. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    There is no such thing as a MIDI pickup , they are hexaphonic pickups :
    1 magnetic humbucker pickup per string.

    That being said , I use extensively the VB99 and more recently the SY1000 and they are good tools to get those type of sounds.
    You have to put the time to do a proper setup and put the time to program though.

    A SY1000 doesn't cost a fortune , and gives you the possibility to use "normal bass sound" processing too. The drawback is the you have to install an Hexaphonic pickup , internal or external ( GK3B )
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2021
  4. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    Whatever you do, don’t go there. It was a good intentioned idea, a reaction to the demands of the times, but the technology just hadn’t arrived yet. ARP, a synth heavyweight of the era, went under because of their pursuit of a functional guitar synthesizer. Plus, if you buy anything ‘vintage’ like that, prices are stupid for what you actually get. Do you understand the flow chart of how synthesis is achieved? Oscillators, wave shapes, ADSR, filters, etc.(and that’s just analog). If not, once you familiarize yourself with all that, you can make a better decision on whether you want a system with special pickups, or a plug-in-and-play thing with multiple pedals or an all in one unit. I’m still working out my rig, using different things(like the Dirty Robot); but I can tell you I didn’t think much of the MarkBass box. Around ‘81, inspired by Ultravox and Parliament’s Bernie Worrell, I just used a mono keyboard synth, an SC Pro-One, and taught myself how to play. Another thing to consider, if you’re going to play 80’s mainstream stuff, you’ll need a good DX7 bass sound.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2021
    Bob_Ross likes this.
  5. This question comes up a lot and should be a FAQ so here is my attempt at a primer of sorts.
    Welcome to the Pleasuredome as Frankie says!
    There are a lot of solutions for bass synth sounds today without the need to make modifications to your bass from preset pedals to others that allow to to create your own sounds and textures just like a true synthesizer with many stops in between. You can also get those sounds fairly inexpensively or it can become an obsessive money pit all depending on where you are. Please note it is important that your playing be precise and articulate or there will be unwanted artifacts or glitches that players often incorrectly blame on the effect rather than their own technical shortcomings. It is also important that you not have ringing strings and have a good full sound that is not too hot to cause overload or distortion.

    If you are needing a few popular sounds and are not interested in creating your own sounds or exploring electronic music then your shopping is a lot easier. Here I would suggest a preset pedal like the Boss SY1 EHX Bass Mono Synth EHX Synth 9 as these offer programmed sounds featuring popular sounds most often needed and also are easy to adapt for most players. You can mix your bass sound with the synth sound and some offer some optional control of the synth sound.

    If you are interested in covering a broader range of music or digging deeper into the creative side of electronic music then the PandaMIDI Future Impact V3 or the Source Audio C4 Synth may be more interest to you that combine a hardware pedal and software to create complex synthesizer systems that can cover classic, popular sounds as well as provide creative platforms for electronic music exploration.

    There are so many other "synth" pedals on the market but IMHO while very interesting and useful most often are not complete and need to be combined with other pedals for full effect.

    Disclosure I use the EHX Synth9 and SA C4.
  6. custombass


    Dec 20, 2015
    bass purpose
  7. You have to design the sounds to work with your particular live situation, there is no magic bullet universal plug and play solution no matter what your expectations might be.
  8. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Depending on how deep you want to dive in this, there are multiple ways to get the sounds you are looking for.
    A synth, in very crude layman's terms is nothing spectacular. Just something that creates a rather boring tone in the selected pitch. Sine wave, square wave or sawtooth wave. This is not much fun. Luckily there are filters. And distortion when you clip the circuit. It's quite easy to emulate that.
    You start with heavy compression, so you get a squishy tone with an even attack and less decay than your usual stringed instrument. Next up an octaver. Set -1 to 100% and the rest to 0. You already have a synthy vibe now.
    Now add some sizzle with the dirt pedal of your choice. A fuzz works great, but so do distortions, overdrives, bit chrushers ... Feed all that into an envelope filter and you got a synth.
    A Pedal like the Boss LS-2 is a great Idea to have your comp-oct-fuzz-filter circuit available with a single stomp and provide a clean blend for all that.

    It will require a bit of testing for each spot in that chain to find the pedal that suits your needs best.

    This method is only feasible if
    a) you're already running a larger pedalboard and have about 2/3 of the pedals lying around
    or b) the idea excites you and dropping a few hundred dollars in that hole do not really bother you.

    The alternative I suggest is the Source Audio C4.

    This will get you maximum synth with minimum effort. This pedal can easily overwhelm you with a truckload of options and tweakability, but it also operates great in dummy mode: It comes with a cable that connects to your smartphone or tablet. You install the app and can browse thousands of presets. Up to 6 of them can be downloaded into the pedal - countless hours of bass synth fun without even touching a knob on the pedal.
  9. RJ


    Aug 17, 2000
    San Francisco
    I’d also ask how deep down the synth rabbit hole you’re looking to go.

    What’s your budget? How much time and energy are you looking to put into this?