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The Power of Parallel Processing for Bass

Think bass and most effects don't get along? Think again

 

by Craig Anderton

 

In basic effects setups, your bass goes to the input of an effect, whose output goes to another effect or your amp. But maybe you don’t even use effects, because you find that adding effects - particularly guitar effects - does more harm than good to your sound.

 

We have a solution: parallel processing. With this technique, your signal splits into two paths. One carries your unprocessed bass sound, while the other carries the processed sound. Then both paths go into a mixer so you can adjust the blend of dry and processed sounds.

 

This solution became crucial for me when I started playing Gibson’s EB5 5-string bass. That really low B string is, well, really low. Almost any guitar effect is going to roll off those frequencies, because guitars don’t go there...but bass does.

 

PRACTICAL EXAMPLES? SURE THING!

 

 

The classic example of the benefits of parallel processing involves auto-wah for when you want to get a funky bass sound (think Larry Graham using the Seamoon Funk Machine). A wah takes away all the low frequencies, so your bass loses its low end power and becomes so thin as to be useless. The screen shot uses Overloud’s TH3 amp simulator to place the wah in parallel with the bass, so the wah sound layers with the big, full bass tone.

 

 

Parallel compression is a popular studio technique for drums, because the compression can bring up room ambience and decay, while the unprocessed path preserves the drum set’s dynamics. With bass, particularly slap bass, you retain the full attack while the compressor adds sustain.

 

 

Of course, you can also have two processors in parallel. The above screen shot shows two parallel cabs that can load impulse responses. Loading different impulses into the cabinets produces just enough difference between the two to create a stereo spread (note the settings for the Mixer pan pots). While stereo bass is probably not something you’ll want to do very often, you can pan the two cabs to center for “composite” cab sounds—like a guitar cabinet for a strong midrange, and a bass cab to handle the bottom.

 

Here’s one last tip: If you’re using an effect with a wet/dry mix control (like chorus or delay), set the mix to wet (processed) sound only because the other path is already providing the dry sound.

 

When you want to preserve what makes your bass great but add some spice with effects, try parallel processing. You may find that guitar effects are more useful for bass than you might have thought. -HC-

 

______________________________________________ 

 

 Craig Anderton is Editorial Director of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.

 

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