Bass guitars play a crucial role in holding down the low-end of any mix, but they never fight harder for a seat at the table than they do in djent tracks. Because extended range guitars are the norm for many bands in this space, bass can seem like a bit of an afterthought.
Some of you might be thinking that if your guitar extends down to the 8-string or even 9-string range, bass isn’t really adding to the track sonically. This mentality is actually pretty sound until you consider what each instrument does for your arrangement.
In most songs, the bass acts as a sort of glue to tie everything together. Even when it’s just doubling a guitar part, it’s rounding out the low end, tying guitars together with the drums, and creating motion in your mix. Bass guitars are a foundational element of your mix to be built off of – not a last minute thought to be added in during post-production.
With such a critical role to play as part of your mix, you need to understand all of the tools and techniques at your disposal. Finding the best bass guitar tone for your track requires experimentation in amp settings & playing styles – none more crucial in djent than slap bass.
Why Slap Bass?
Slap bass is something common in many other genres, but in metal it’s been a largely overlooked technique. Maybe it’s the fast progressions or players that use picks instead of finger style, but slapped bass parts have always been few and far between in this space.
That is, until djent came along.
You see, with djent, the sonic characteristics of slap bass mesh well with the short, percussive style of the genre. Guitarists are also using the technique, but the true power of slapping comes with the raw energy of bass guitar.
Slap bass gives you the perfect amount of attack to get your bass to cut through the mix – something it desperately needs to compete with the extended-range guitars that creep into bass territory. A good slap tone should be aggressive and pop out of your speakers without seeming stabby or harsh. The pop of the note should be clear and all of your post-processing should keep that bass sounding full and fierce as the note rings out.
A well-performed slap part is the perfect way to cut through any mix. Players who can incorporate the technique into their playing style seamlessly will always have a tool for getting more presence without changing a thing on their amp, adding versatility to their style.
Recording Bass for Djent
As we see bass in djent and other metal genres creep lower and lower in tuning, we need to be conscious of how their tone is impacted as well. A bass that isn’t properly set up for lower tunings will suffer the same fate as a guitar in the same situation – flabby, rattling strings and a lack of clarity.
A good tune-up can help offset this. If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, check out some YouTube videos on the topic (there are plenty) or consider bringing your bass into a luthier/tech to get it set up properly for the main tuning you’ll be playing in.
Beyond the bass itself, you need to consider how all of those super low frequencies get recorded. Many bassists in the genre have switched over from live amps to DI boxes, letting them work in the box with the full frequency range the DI box offers.
Once you’ve got your bass recorded, working with it becomes that much easier. You gain a lot more dynamic control over the instrument and you’re even able to automate different settings to accentuate the slap parts in the track. Have fun trying to do the same on a bass amp or pedalboard mid-performance.
Mixing Metal Slap Bass Tones
As different as slap parts sound from plucked strings, there actually isn’t a whole lot you need to do differently in the mix with them. Many mixers won’t even take action on them unless they feel it’s necessary. Instead, they let the performance take the lead on how the bass ultimately cuts through.
For the times where you do need to dial in something a little different though, it’s all about the dynamics.
Bass compression and EQ are your two best friends when it comes to shaping your bass tone, and with slap parts, they’re just scratching the surface. Check out this video on how Alex Robles from Darklex Studios is using the dynamic processing in Bassforge Rex Brown to shape his slap bass part:
Of course, the processing doesn’t have to be confined to a single plugin. While the onboard post-processing does a ton for your tone, some engineers go a step further to apply transient shaping or an extra stage of limiting to their signal chain to really get things to pop. It’s all up to you!
Creating You Ultimate Bass Tone
If you’ve ever struggled finding the right bass tone for a track, you’re not alone. Bass is something you need to feel as much as it is something you need to hear. Finding that feeling can be tough if you don’t know where to look.
We recently put out our eBook, Basscrusher: An Unholy Guide to Bass Tone, with over EIGHTY pages of the best tips, tricks & techniques we could come up with for shaping the ultimate bass tone.