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I play bass in a pop band and for a new song we want to add a synth bass similar to the one in this song:

The estudio recording part is easy, so the question is if it's posible to achieve that kind of sound playing live with a bass, using a pedal of some sort, to avoid buying a keyboard synth or samplepad for a single song.

I watched several demos of synth bass pedals and they all sound more like overdrive pedals, funky wah-wah style ones or too sci-fi like, but not the simple electronic sound we want that fits more that kind of indie-electropop or whatever you call that style.

Any recommendations?

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    Some people have voted to close this question. I personally disagree. I opened a meta thread about it: meta.music.stackexchange.com/questions/965/… – Kevin Oct 16 '14 at 16:15
  • You are right Kevin, the question is not about how that particular bass/synth was recorded (you can easily watch any live video for this) but how to imitate or get that kind of sound with an actual bass guitar. – Wesker Oct 16 '14 at 22:48
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To me it sounds like a bass guitar with distortion or a fuzz effect. Also since it's a rock band with a bassist it might not be a synth part. Edit: Looking at live videos, it seems he does use a synth [at least in the live version], but I still think you can replicate this with a bass guitar + distortion/fuzz

Most of the fuzz pedals I have used with bass tend to kill some of the low end, so to replicate this track I would use one amp for the clean bass signal and one amp running a distorted or fuzz effect. This way you can hear the attack and the "thump" of the clean bass and still get the fuzz on top. You can probably get close with one amp by keeping the "fuzz" or "gain" levels at or below 50% on your pedal and keep the "tone" knob low so it doesn't kill the lower frequencies.

Some specific info on his bass tone and gear: link 1, link 2

From link 2:

In November 2011, on Twitter a fan asks Kevin Baird: "...a hugh [sic] fan of TDCC and your bass lines,just wanna know which [sic] pedals do u use to get that cool synthy sound :)"

Kevin Baird replies: "gallien and kreuger 1001 head, ampeg 4x10HE, sansamp rb1 rack effect and an mxr bass octave pedal."

"sansamp rb1 rack effect" most closely matches the Tech 21 Sansamp RBI Rackmount Bass Tube Amp Emulator.

So he is probably just using his amp's or the Tech 21 RBI's built-in distortion on this song. The RBI emulates tube distortion, so that likely plays a part in his overdriven tone. It looks like he uses an octave pedal too sometimes, but that's less important to this particular sound. Again, you can replicate it (or come close) with a decent distortion or fuzz pedal. Go to the shop and try some pedals out with your bass, that's the best way to find out.

As far as synth bass guitar goes, have you looked at the EHX Bass Micro Synth?

  • You don't need it for this song, but if you are interested in playing actual synth parts with your bass, check out the Roland GK-3B which essentially turns your bass into a MIDI source so you can trigger real synths (instead of using a pedal to just modify the bass signal so it sounds like a synth). Video Example – Charles Oct 16 '14 at 22:39
  • Thanks for your helpful answer and research, I reviewed all your recommendations and now I'm pretty sure you can get very close to the tone I'm looking for. However I think it'd still lack the most characteristic (IMO) and probably hardest to replicate feature, the "oscillation" you can hear in long notes (for ex. at 2:40). Being totally new to this world of effects I guess you could do that by programming an envelope filter, or maybe with some pedal with variable oscillation timing like delay ones. Am I asking the impossible? Edit: That Roland GK-3B looks awesome. – Wesker Oct 16 '14 at 23:09
  • @Wesker All I hear around 2:40 is sidechain compression, which lowers the volume of the bass every time the kick drum hits. Very common tool in electronic/EDM when you are using only drum machines and synths and are in a studio, but it's hard to replicate live with real instruments. Example: youtu.be/5mFu6UYTDhM?t=4m25s – Charles Oct 16 '14 at 23:38
  • @Wesker and after watching the video for I Can Talk I'm pretty convinced he is using bass guitar with his amp's overdrive for this sound. He is playing a bass in the video and he gets a similar sound to the song you posted, but on I Can Talk there's slightly less distortion and you can tell it's definitely a bass guitar. – Charles Oct 16 '14 at 23:45
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You can use an Electro Harmonix Bass Micro Synthesizer to get this effect and many others. This EH pedal is relatively inexpensive and can be used to good effect (ha!) in other songs. Click on the link for a demo and specs.

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