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How to Get the Most out of IK Multimedia's MODO Bass

These tips take MODO to the next level of expressiveness 

 

 

by Craig Anderton

 

 

MODO Bass is a different kind of bass. It doesn’t do sampling, but instead, uses physical modeling to produce super-realistic sounds while taking up very little RAM. But what’s perhaps most intriguing about physical modeling is that you’re not locked in to the “freeze-dried” nature of samples; with physical modeling, there are many opportunities for expressiveness as well as realism.

 

MODO Bass may seem complicated, because you vary just about anything—even whether the strings are new or worn, and the pickup types (yes, you can put Rickenbacker pickups on a P-Bass). However, the presets will cover most peoples’ needs, and you don’t have to go deep into the rabbit hole to make great sounds. But there are a few simple, effective edits that will help you get the most out of MODO Bass, and that’s what this article is all about.

 

The Benefits of Space

 

A bass line has spaces between plucked notes, no matter how slight. This is because you need to move your finger to the note, then pluck it. If you review a bass part for overlapping notes and shorten note durations that extend over other notes, the result is a more realistic-sounding bass line (Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1: The right measure of notes is a copy of the left measure, but the white notes are shorter so they don’t overlap subsequent notes.

 

The “Perfect” Bass

 

Although I play electric bass, I often want more of an “idealized” bass sound—sort of like the difference between CGI computer graphics and real life objects. In those cases, I prefer playing keyboard bass using basses I’ve sampled and edited. Although an obvious advantage of MODO bass’s modeling technique is realism, it’s possible to remove the variables and create an idealized bass sound. It’s simple:

 

Play Style Tab: Set Detach Noise and Slide Noise to 0.0.

Strings: Set Action to High and Gauge to Heavy so there’s no buzzing or fretting out.

 

For example, a sampled Rickenbacker bass often includes slide noise and buzzes to add character. The MODO Bass Rickenbacker models these same elements, but the above settings give a cross between a Rickenbacker and more of a synthesizer bass sound.

 

Adjusting the Bass “Touch”

 

One factor that separates pro bass players from amateurs is their touch—how consistently they apply dynamics when they play. Although MODO doesn’t have physical strings, its modeled strings respond to touch via MIDI velocity.

 

The instrument itself has several touch-oriented options, accessed via the Play Style tab (Fig. 2).

 

Fig. 2: The Play Style tab offers multiple controls dedicated to emulating the different kinds of touch that players apply to physical basses. For more information on these options, refer to the documentation located in the MODO Bass program folder.

 

Also check out the Velocity Curve option, as accessed through the system settings (Fig. 3). This helps ensure that whether you have a heavy or light touch, the MODO Bass touch settings will respond as expected to your specific touch.

 

Fig. 3: Click on the Settings button (circled in red) to adjust the Velocity curve to your touch.

 

A simple way to fake a consistent touch is to compress the MODO Bass audio output, but then it sounds compressed and the string tones will be inconsistent. It’s better to get touch right at the source, which you can do in your sequencer program.

 

To do the equivalent of limiting for a more uniform touch, add a constant to all velocity values. The high velocity values can’t exceed 127, but “limiting” the MIDI data will bring up lower velocity levels and give a more consistent output (Fig. 4). Some programs also include ways to compress the MIDI values, but I find limiting more appropriate in most cases.

 

 

Fig. 4: The notes in white are a copy of the notes in blue, but with 25 added to all velocity values. Note that the levels are more consistent.

 

Slides

 

Slides are a crucial part of playing bass. There are two ways to do slides with MODO bass.

 

Pitch Bend wheel. This produces a slide, but IK quantizes slides to semitones to make it sound like you’re sliding over frets (clever, eh?). Set the maximum range, like 12 semitones, with the Slide Range knob toward the top of the Control page. However, note that downward bends are limited by the position in which you’re playing—you can’t slide lower than where the nut would be, which makes sense. Remember—this is a model of a physical instrument, not a synthesizer.

 

Legato Slide. You choose the trigger for this on the Control page, using either a keyswitch or a MIDI controller. If you play in legato mode (i.e., you hit a new note while another note is held down), the bass slides up to the new note and stays there for as long as the note’s held down. If you release the new note while the original note is still held down, the bass slides back down to the original note. There are few points to keep in mind:

 

  •  Many players set the pitch bend Slide Range to a relatively small value, like two semitones, because it’s easier to hit pitches precisely with the pitch bend wheel. Legato Slide can override this—you can slide, for example, an octave with Legato Slide even if the Slide Range knob for the pitch wheel is set to something like 2 semitones.
  • This slide option works only for sliding up and down, not down and then up. In other words if you hit a new note that’s lower in pitch than the note being held down, there’s no slide.
  • The harder you hit the new note, the faster the slide—the slide’s speed relates to velocity.
  • It’s easier to hit the end note of a slide precisely compared to using the pitch bend wheel, because you play the actual target note for the slide’s end.
  • It takes some practice to master legato slides. But master it, and you can take advantage of doing not just dramatic, long slides, but those little slides up a few semitones to the next note. For this application, a momentary footswitch sending out the MIDI controller you use as a trigger is ideal.

 

In the months that I’ve been using the MODO Bass, I have to say I’ve been very impressed with its ability to create realistic, expressive bass lines—but see if the above tips don’t help you take it up just one more level.

 

___________________________________________

 

Craig Anderton is a Senior Contributing Editor at 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. Go to Craig Anderton's official website.

 

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