The bass guitar is the heartbeat of any music production. It gives body and weight to the mix, creating the foundation for rhythms and melodies.
However, it also comes with its difficulties when mixing.
It needs to be heard from all kinds of speakers and at the same time keep all its low-frequency information in check so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the arrangement. Getting a good bass tone is a crucial step for a well-rounded mix.
The first step is to make sure your bass tracks are on point
Recording an excellent performance is essential before diving into the practical steps of getting the best possible bass tone.
Choosing the right bass for the song, pickup selection, staying in time with the drums, and nailing the take will ensure your bass track sits nicely in the mix.
Pay attention to the dynamics and nuances in your playing and make sure the entire recording sounds balanced.
Recording your bass DI signal is very straightforward, all you need is a computer, audio interface, and a DAW. Most audio interfaces have an instrument input to record the DI signal of your bass directly to your DAW.
If you don’t have a bass player (or can’t play the parts yourself), you can use a virtual bass instrument or sample player to get a great-sounding bass DI signal. Just make sure you spend enough time programming the MIDI to make it sound dynamic and realistic.
Introducing Parallax and Darkglass Ultra
Now that you have your bass part recorded, it’s time to shape the tone using Parallax and Darkglass Ultra. These two plugins can give you anything from a warm and vintage sound to modern and aggressive growling distortion.
Versatility, power, and control with Parallax
Parallax is an extremely versatile bass plugin that features low-frequency compression and distortion tools for any bass signal. The magic behind the plugin is that each region of the frequency spectrum is processed in parallel and blended afterwards. This gives you unprecedented control for bass tone sculpting.
When using Parallax, control the low end by dialing the compression level. This will ensure that the level of your bass stays under control and doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the mix. You can set the frequency at which the compression kicks in with the low pass knob and then compensate for any gain reduction with the low-level knob.
Similarly, you can increase the distortion added in the mid-range and high band with their respective distortion sections. Focus on the mid-range if you want the bass to fill up more space in the mix. Distort the high frequencies to make it cut through more effectively. Once you have the texture you want, balance each section separately with the independent level controls.
Parallax also features a powerful EQ and cabinet simulation module. Clean your overall tone by scooping some 500Hz, and add warmth to the distorted mid and high frequencies with the dual cab simulation section.
You can even pan each cab to different sides of the stereo field while keeping the low energy centered for a widening effect.
Darkglass Ultra is the ultimate plugin for modern and aggressive bass tones
The Darkglass Ultra plugin gives you digital recreations of the iconic Darkglass Electronics hardware pedals. The plugin is the ultimate solution for crafting modern and aggressive bass tones.
One of the standout features of the Darkglass Ultra plugin is its comprehensive selection of meticulously crafted distortion algorithms. These algorithms cover a wide range of tonal possibilities, from subtle saturation to full-on aggressive, growling distortion.
Select how the distortion affects the signal by toggling between the different attack and grunt modes. These switches create EQ curves in the bass signal that feed the distortion algorithm, shaping different tone profiles. Use the drive knob to boost the distortion to the level you are looking for.
The blend knob lets you mix the distorted signal with the original clean tone giving you even more control over your sound.
Use the EQ knobs to adjust your low, mid, and high frequencies, ensuring your bass sits perfectly in the mix.
Darkgalss Ultra also features a comprehensive cabinet simulation module with a multi-mic setup. You can choose from seven virtual microphones that can be moved around the virtual cabinet. Experiment with different microphones and placements to see how they affect your tone.
Using Parallax and Darkglass Ultra together for some truly rich bass tones
When recording bass, the DI and distorted signals from amps or pedals are often captured separately and mixed together afterwards. The clean tone gives weight to the track and the saturated signal gives character and presence.
With Parallax and Darkglass Ultra, we can do this in a single track. By using both plugins together, you’ll get rich and unique bass tones for your productions without having to create complicated routings in your DAW.
Add Parallax as your first insert in your processing chain, then Darkglass. After that, you’re ready to start blending both plugins together.
Using Parallax for the cleaner signal
In this setup, we’ll use Parallax to shape our cleaner tone. We’ll focus on getting a consistent bass performance by using the low-compression section to control the dynamics. We will also add clarity and articulation subtly by using the harmonic richness from the mid and high distortion sections.
Use Parallax's EQ section to fine-tune your tone. Pay attention to the low-end frequencies to ensure a solid foundation. Adjust the midrange to cut through the mix and the highs for clarity and presence. Feel free to make subtle adjustments to find the sweet spots.
Finally, disable Parallax’s cabinet simulation (right-click the module) as we will be using the cabsim module in Darkglass Ultra in this example.
Using Darkglass Ultra for the saturated tone
Once we have a full bodied and crisp bass tone from Parallax, it’s time to set up the Darkglass Ultra plugin. We will use it for our distorted bass signal.
In this step, make sure the blend knob is dialed to a level that gives you the amount of distortion you’re looking for. Begin with a moderate setting and adjust according to taste.
Swap between the B7K and Vintage mode to change the pedal’s behavior and see how it affects your tone. You can also experiment with the Grunt and Attack switches to change the pedal’s input stage, giving you different flavors of distortion.
Now you have a good starting point to work from.
Refine your sound using the cabsim module. Additionally, you can add a sub-kick to boost the low end and enhance the overall sound.
Blending Parallax and Darkglass Ultra together
The next step is to blend both plugins together. Use the blend control on Darkglass Ultra to mix the distorted signal with the processed signal coming from Parallax. This blend maintains clarity and articulation while adding aggression and harmonics.
Keep an eye on the output levels of both plugins to ensure they don't clip. Adjust the output levels accordingly to maintain a healthy signal throughout your chain.
Finally, make subtle adjustments to the blend control and EQ settings to refine your tone. Balancing the clean and distorted elements is essential to achieve a balanced tonal character.
Now that you have an understanding of the capabilities of Parallax and Darkglass Ultra, it’s time to try them out. All of our bass and guitar plugins have a fully featured 14-day free trial, so try them all out risk-free!
Parallax and Darkglass Ultra are widely considered to be the best bass plugins ever made. They are highly versatile and capable of producing a wide range of different tones. They make bass tone sculpting easier than ever.
In this article, we gave some suggestions on ways to dial the plugins in. However, don't be afraid to experiment with different settings and play around with the presets made by top artists and producers in both plugins.
If you are new to bass plugins, make sure you read our getting started guides to learn everything you need to know about using them.