DISCLAIMER: No speakers were harmed during the production of this post (hopefully).
I hope that anyone with more than a few days worth of musical experience knows not to plug an electric bass into a guitar amplifier without risking damage. If you don’t, I’m here to tell you now: Don’t do it.
For starters, you can blow out a speaker pretty quickly by sending all of that low-frequency content to an amp that’s expecting a much more mid-heavy instrument. The voice coils on a bass amp’s speakers are usually much larger than you’d find on a guitar amp in order to accommodate the lower frequencies. From an electrical standpoint, you risk mismatched impedance, which can have shocking repercussions.
So then why (and how) did we do it? We used an guitar tone plugin, of course!
In this particular instance, we needed to find a way to make our clean bass tones mesh with the distorted guitars in the mix. While there are several ways to approach this, the creative possibilities available when using Toneforge Menace outweighed the various processing and plugin stacking we would’ve needed to do otherwise.
The first thing we needed to do was isolate the frequencies of our bass track that would be best suited for the amp. Just like it’s hardware competition, Toneforge Menace responds to instruments in a very “live” way. It’s anticipating mid-frequency content too – the difference is that we can give it just that in the box by quickly EQing a copy of our bass track.
Once the input is settled into the right range, it’s easy to hop into Toneforge Menace and tweak our sound to fit the track. Some of our recommendations when running bass through an amp sim include:
Disabling unneeded pedals
Dial back presence and higher frequencies – we’re just trying to help the bass cut through the mix, not take it over completely
Off-axis dynamic mics or ribbons tend to be the least harsh microphone options, naturally rolling off unnecessary high frequencies
Once you’ve found a decent sound you can begin mixing it in with your original bass track. Since we’re processing a copy, it usually doesn’t hurt to exaggerate the effect in Toneforge a bit, since you’ll be tucking it in underneath the original bass most of the time. Remember - the goal isn’t to make the bass the feature, but rather to help it subtly fold into the mix.
The whole concept of running your bass through a guitar amp can feel unnatural at first, and it’s easy to understand why since it’s something we’ve all been conditioned not to do. The digital realm opens up huge opportunities in the way we record, mix and create music. It’s the reason every JST plugin is built around “unleashing your creativity.”
So the next time you’re struggling to balance your bass and guitars in a mix, maybe reach for a guitar amp (just not a real one).
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