groove and texture at the same time, through to Michael Manring's combination of futuristic bass design (courtesy
of his Zon Hyperbass) with some extreme processing to render the sound unrecognisable from 'the bass' as we
imagine it, and instead create an entirely new and beguiling sonic world.
Effects pedals for bass are often made with that specific role in mind - chorus pedals and overdrives that leave
the low end intact. Filters are specifically tuned to the frequency range explored in funk bass, but the fun often
starts at the extremes. It is there that the noises we make can stop sounding like a bass at all. Chorus pedals with
everything turned up full can often make the weirdest of watery, wobbly sounds, while filter delays, like the one
on the Line 6 DL4, can be sent into a regenerating loop of crazy explosive sound by turning the feedback up too
high for normal playing. Crank a fuzz pedal to its extremes and play any double stop that isn't a fifth or an octave,
and the resulting dissonance is properly scary! But every one of those crazy sounds has an application. Especially
if you're exploring the world of looping alongside your other pedal investigations, creating textures, gnarly sounds,
percussive noises and ambient washes can open up the scope of your compositions and improvisations immensely.
I've just started an amazing new project with a painter called Poppy Porter, who has synaesthesia. That means
she 'sees' sound as well as hearing it. So when I play, she paints or draws the shapes and patterns that are conjured
up. This project gives me licence to mess with sounds that are designed to trigger images, not simply be attached to
melodies and chords. I get to think about how the non-bass-like sounds I can make will 'look' not just sound, and
so I can dig deep into the extremities of what my pedals will do. Have a listen to the first bit of our experiment on
Soundcloud: search for 'solobasssteve' and you'll find us.
Your homework this month is to see just how far away from the recognisable sound of the bass you can get.
Can you copy the sound of other instruments? Use a chorus to emulate an electric piano? A fuzz to sound like
a synth? An overdrive and whammy pedal to sound like an F1 engine revving? Have fun finding new sounds -
musical and otherwise - and then take photos of the settings so you can recall those sounds at a later date. See just
how deep you can dig.
here are two very distinct
sides to exploring 'the
bass'. There's the role of
'the bass player' within the
various kinds of music that
have adopted it since the
invention of the electric bass
(we'll leave acoustic upright bass
out of it for now - Beethoven
didn't care much for effects
pedals) with all its history,
learning and legends. There
are orthodoxies (recognised
standard ways of doing things)
and renegades (people who went
against those orthodoxies) and
there's a whole world of study
into 'what people do with the bass
in a band'.
Then there's the instrument
itself, freed from that singular
role as the maker of the lowest
notes in a band. The design of
the instrument has developed
somewhat symbiotically with the
role of the bass, but has also helped
us to see a world of music beyond
the function of the bass player in
pop music.
And of course, the role of signal
processing in moving foward that
idea of the bass as something other
than a groove machine has been
monumental. From Bootsy's use of
delay and envelope filters to create
Music To Your Ears
Bass 5trings • inspired by 4,000+ Bass Players
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