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Thread: How to effectively simulate bass guitar with MIDI keyboard?

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    How to effectively simulate bass guitar with MIDI keyboard?

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    [EDIT: If you're going to say "why not just get a real bass guitar?", please don't: I understand that's the ideal goal, but it's just not a solution I can implement right now. I'm looking for ONLY MIDI tips here, not real instruments. Thanks!]

    (Preface: I’m a bit of a noob at home recording, so thanks for bearing with me.)

    My question concerns basslines.

    When I try to program a bassline on my MIDI keyboard (using a bass guitar VSTi), I run into challenges. It’s often hard to make a keyboard sound like a bass.

    For instance: if you play an actual bass string really fast, you get a series of closely-connected resonant sounds; but when I hit a MIDI key really fast over and over, I get a series of shorter, more separate sounds, which sound less like a real bass guitar.

    For that matter, it’s impossible for me to hit one keyboard key fast enough to equal the speed at which a bass string can be played with a pick (or even with two fingers).

    I’m wondering if people here might have tips or techniques for solving these kinds of problems, and for simulating a realistic bass sound in general?

    (Not sure if this matters or not, but my DAW is Logic Pro X. I’m currently using Kontakt 6, and the bass guitar VSTi I’m currently working with is Scarbee Bass.)

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Dirk Diggler; 12-14-2018 at 13:30.

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    You're simply not thinking like a bass player. You need to play a bit differently and then do some editing. For example, fast runs of just say four notes. You would probably (or at least I would) play the first note and then hammer on each rise in pitch when you fret the note. This produces a run of four notes with no gap whatsoever between them, so that is very difficult to do on a keyboard, so you need to edit the gaps out, and of course change the velocities of each one - my third finger always plays slightly quieter than the second. You need to also edit your eq to make it sound more real - to dull some, and and energy to others. You need to perhaps also in introduce some pitch bend and modulation, as your fingers often do. Experiment to work out how to best introduce palm muting if your playing style uses it. Pick, fingernail, side of first finger, thumb - all have different sounds - how do you replicate these tonal differences.

    If you have very fast picking to mimic, then it's two fingers on one key, I use both hands, first fingers, or sometimes copy and paste and overlay the in between notes, whatever sounds best. Avoid quantising, and above all I assume your keyboard is decently velocity sensitive? Very important.

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    Not sure what version of Scarabee Bass you are using, but I assume they all function pretty much the same way... and what you're looking for is an Articulation. More specifically in what you're describing "Legato" playing as opposed to "Staccato" and it probably means while playing the Notes that you want to be "Legato" you need to press another Key at the same time to tell the Sampler/VSTi that those notes are "Legato". Native Instruments has the Manual for the different versions of Scarabee Bass on their website and sections 4 & 5 of the Manual talk about those Articulations and Playing Techniques. I recommend you look there for your answers. Also of interest may be this article that I just found while looking for the Manual for your VSTi. Here: How to Create Realistic MIDI Bass Parts | Sweetwater

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    As a bass player I nearly always now the difference between keyboard bass and real bass. The most common problem is that people program keyboard bass with notes that a real bass does not go down too, even 5 string low B basses.

    Yes you have to think like a bass player.

    Alan.

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    Why not buy a cheap bass? There is a lot of cork sniffery talked about guitars, "The Wood" and "Sustain" much of it in the hands of the player IMHO but the bass guitar is a Frankenstein instrument, even more just a plank of wood with strings on it*. But even if there IS a difference between a cheap bass and a top flight Jazz or sommat, I doubt the gulf is as bad as that between a real plank and a synthetic?

    Bass is kind to the fingers.

    *Oooo! I am going to get it!

    Dave.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ujn Hunter View Post
    Not sure what version of Scarabee Bass you are using, but I assume they all function pretty much the same way... and what you're looking for is an Articulation. More specifically in what you're describing "Legato" playing as opposed to "Staccato" and it probably means while playing the Notes that you want to be "Legato" you need to press another Key at the same time to tell the Sampler/VSTi that those notes are "Legato". Native Instruments has the Manual for the different versions of Scarabee Bass on their website and sections 4 & 5 of the Manual talk about those Articulations and Playing Techniques. I recommend you look there for your answers. Also of interest may be this article that I just found while looking for the Manual for your VSTi. Here: How to Create Realistic MIDI Bass Parts | Sweetwater
    Thanks! This is just the kind of advice I needed. Very helpful post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ecc83 View Post
    Why not buy a cheap bass? There is a lot of cork sniffery talked about guitars, "The Wood" and "Sustain" much of it in the hands of the player IMHO but the bass guitar is a Frankenstein instrument, even more just a plank of wood with strings on it*. But even if there IS a difference between a cheap bass and a top flight Jazz or sommat, I doubt the gulf is as bad as that between a real plank and a synthetic?

    Bass is kind to the fingers.

    *Oooo! I am going to get it!

    Dave.
    Buying a bass is definitely a long-term goal, but for financial reasons I can't yet do that. (Same with guitar, which I would like to buy but can't yet.)

    Basically I have a tiny little studio in my bedroom, with a MIDI keyboard and a couple of mics, and that's all I've got to work with right now. So I have to figure out the best way to get my MIDI setup to sound like real instruments.

    Thanks for the suggestion though!

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    Just do a lot of Hip Hop/EDM music...and you won't have to worry about the synth bass....it will actually sound right for those genres!

    Boy, back in the mid-90s I spent a lot of time jerking around with a mostly MIDI approach to generating tracks...and while there was/is something addictive about, because you get ALL THOSE SOUNDS that you can't with typical acoustic instruments...in the end, when I wanted an acoustic instrument, I ended up going back to them'
    I mean, I have a hard time even with many digital piano sounds....they just sound digital. It's often in the laziness of the person who created the samples, in that they didn't take the time, so they would cheat with some notes or not have enough realistic decays, etc.
    For the most part though, I can get by with digital piano samples...but if I want a more piano-focused song, I get my studio upright tuned up, and break out the mics for a nice stereo spread, and it beats out the samples almost always.
    For thing like a real bass or guitar...I never bother with samples/synths. I play and record the real thing. It just sounds better.
    I still have to use the samples when I get to brass or strings...but those are things I rarely add, and it's always in some backing track situation...otherwise I would have to bring in real players if I wanted to feature a sax or a violin...etc.

    So yeah...plan on buying some instruments if you want that sound.

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    Bass guitar is likely the cheapest and easiest instrument to get to work in a mix.

    This coming from a bass player myself who has had inexperienced bass players get good recordings. We are not talking about incredible players here. Just finding the low end that a natural bass guitar gives.

    Just get a $200 Ibanez used for $50 and record it direct. If you can play keys, you can fret a note. The sound is way more natural than any bass synth and usually half the time spent trying to fake one with a synth.

    Though, not the same as a synth bass... The song determines what is needed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dirk Diggler View Post
    Buying a bass is definitely a long-term goal, but for financial reasons I can't yet do that. (Same with guitar, which I would like to buy but can't yet.)

    Basically I have a tiny little studio in my bedroom, with a MIDI keyboard and a couple of mics, and that's all I've got to work with right now. So I have to figure out the best way to get my MIDI setup to sound like real instruments.

    Thanks for the suggestion though!
    You can get a used Squire for $100. You don't need an amp. Plug it straight into your interface. Beats pissing around trying to fake it with MIDI.

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