The short answer is: of course you can! But do you know what to look for? With so many various plugins available, it can be hard to give as much credit to some of their presets as you can with others.
I’ve seen them all. Plugins that have a single preset called “bass” can feel underwhelming when you’ve been mixing for a while. Plugins with hundreds of presets can be just as bad if they’re 90% garbage and 10% useful – you’re the one needs to sift through them all and find the good ones (a tedious and time-consuming task).
As a plugin developer, it’s all about finding the balance of enough options to work with but not so many that users get overloaded with choices. As a mixer, it’s important to go through presets not only to find the ones you like, but learn how your plugin works. Let me walk you through how I do that with every new plugin I get.
Starting From Scratch
If you’re using a plugin developed specifically for bass such as Bassforge Hellraiser or BG-Bass, you should be able to start hearing a relatively useful sound from the minute you load up the plugin. The default settings of most plugins change the sound enough to give you an idea of the character a plugin has, but not so much that it overwhelms you.
This is done by design – nobody wants to load a plugin up and hear the sound they’ve been building immediately decimated. They want to hear the color the plugin can impart on their track and work up from there. If the stock sound is too far out of sync with what the engineer or producer hopes to hear, they might just skip to something else.
Finding The Right Preset
Have you ever realized how much good naming conventions speed up your workflow? Compare a session that has everything named accordingly (Lead Guitar, BG Vocal L, Snare Top, etc) to one that’s using the defaults of Audio 1, Audio 2, Audio 3…
Even if you recorded the session yourself, names can speed things up when you revisit the session at a later time and can help you keep things organized within your edit window.
The same kind of naming conventions should be applied to plugins.
I don’t have time to click through long, scrolling menus of Bass 1, Bass 2, Bass 3, Standard Bass, Alt Bass, Bass Other….
I want something descriptive (and interesting) that can help me narrow down to the sound I’m after right from the start. With virtual bass rigs, this is especially important because of the different tonal options that come from bass amps.
Take Bassforge Hellraiser for example. We’ve got 8 presets that cover a wide range of sounds within the plugin itself. Best of all, they’re named in a way that’s easy to recall from session to session.
If you’re after a clankier bass tone, both “Fluff Clanky” and “Hefty Clank” could be the right starting point for you. If you’re after something with plenty of distortion, “Maximum Destruction” is the way to go. And if you want something a little smoother and full? “Warm Lava” is there to round out the low end for you.
Check out all of the Bassforge Hellraiser presets in Fluff’s In The Studio Walkthrough below:
Perhaps the best use of presets doesn’t come from the developers at all, but rather what you’re able to do yourself within the DAW. As you continue to use a plugin, you’ll often find yourself going to the same presets and making the same adjustments to get the right sound.
When this happens, why not make your own preset?
Many DAWs will allow you to take snapshots of plugin settings for recall later. You can even name them yourself, just like you would with an individual track. I’ve found this to be one of the quickest ways to get the sounds I want in my sessions. By getting most of the way there with my own custom presets, I can focus less on big adjustments every time and more on refining my sound with small tweaks to massage my bass into the right spot for each song.
Balance Your Bass
Once you’ve got your bass presets sorted out, do you have what it takes to get it sitting just right with the rest of the mix? If you think you’ve got it down, I want to hear it.
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