When I track bass guitars in Pro Tools I work had to ensure that the bass lines are written and arranged musically to the song. Doing so prevents the bass guitar from dominating a mix, which in turn saves time in the mix stage wrestling with plug-ins in the pursuit of balancing the bass. When I mix bass guitars I try to maintain a tone and dynamic throughout the song that not only matches the bass guitar performance but also the energy of the song.
For this article I'm going to share my tried and tested bass guitar plug-in chain that I have used in Pro Tools for many years.
When reading the list below please assume three factors:
- The bass guitar has been played with fingers
- Recorded via D.I.
- The performance is well played and is arranged musically within a mix.
Insert A - Bass Amp Room By Softube Or GTR By Waves
Recording a bass guitar directly through an audio interface is pretty common, however doing so deprives the bass from certain harmonic characteristics usually found in real amps. Both The Bass Amp Room by Softube and GTR 3 by Waves offer me very flexible bass amp sounds that I love and use all the time. Over the years I have learnt the tonal differences in both of these plug-ins and by knowing these models well it makes it very easy for me to quickly find the right sound for a production/bass guitar performance.
My favourite feature in the Bass Amp Room is the very handy D.I./Amp balance control that simulates an old tried and true method of blending both the D.I. and microphone signals. Producer & mixer Roy Thomas Baker used this trick when tracking early Queen records so that he could get the best from John Deacon's bass vibe.
Stand out feature "Bass Amp Room": Three very usable bass amps
Stand out feature "GTR": NeilCritron Amp Styles
Insert B - SURFEREQ By Sound Radix
I feel there is no better EQ plug-in for bass guitar than this... The SURFEREQ by Sound Radix. SURFEREQ is different from most other EQ plug-ins as it tracks the pitch of whatever monophonic note is run through it. I use this to boost fundamental bass notes with a gentle low cut set below it. This SURFEREQ helps me to achieve clarity and punch in bass notes by moving the cuts and boosts around the frequency range in relation to a performance.
Stand out feature: Non static multi band pitch tracking
Insert C - The Bass Rider By Waves
Bass Rider by Waves delivers dynamic control to bass guitars in a different way to traditional compressors. I love this plug-in on bass as it reacts how I would when riding a fader on a control surface. Bass Rider does a great job of sustaining notes without it sounding pumpy.
Stand out feature: Transparent fader riding
Insert D - CLA-76 By Waves
The CLA-76 by Waves can control any instrument in a bold and beautiful way. I am a big user of this plug-in and love the way it sounds on bass guitar. However I don't use it as hard as you would first think. I aim for the tone and dynamics of my bass guitars to be sorted in the first three inserts I have listed above leaving the CLA-76 to add that final touch of colour and energy.
So this is my bass guitar plug-in chain, let's hear yours...