Bassaroo

This is a song that I wrote entirely on the bass, which is why I called it ‘Bassaroo’. However, I also called it by that name because of what I was trying to do aesthetically to the overall sound. Essentially, I was trying to mimic the old smiley-face EQ of the 70s, but instead of the entire mix having that distinctive smiley-face shape to the EQ, I was instead doing it by mixing each instrument in a certain fashion to reap the same result. For instance, I wanted an extremely heavy bass, a really thin guitar, and the drums to be a mix between the two (depending on whether it was snare, kick or cymbals). I think I got pretty close, but it certainly isn’t what I expected.

In writing this tune I was essentially trying to come up with a very simple, but catchy tune. It’s very repetitive, but is arranged in the exact same fashion as many pop tunes, except that instead of just an intro or just a pre-chorus, I instead have a full intro and full chorus at the head. Intro-chorus-verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-verse. I will admit that while I was trying to make the song catchy, I also wanted to make the intro as least catchy and most irritating as possible (I’m weird like that).

Now let’s get to the mix.

The intro is the only part of the song with a thicker guitar sound, that’s because I used my Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus to record it. But that is where the thick guitar sound stops, instead favoring a thin sound for the rest of the song to go along with what I was attempting to do with the entire aural picture of the mix.

In order to get the thinnest guitar sound possible, this required that I use a guitar that produces the thinnest sound possible (unfortunately, I didn’t have my Fender Telecaster back when I recorded this). My 1978 Electra Omega is essentially a Les Paul copy. However, it has many features that you don’t find on a Les Paul. I can switch each humbucker pickup to single coil, which goes a long way in thinning out the sound. However, the other feature of my Omega is that I can also have both pickups be paired together, but be out-of-phase with each other (that’s straight 70s funk, right there). This is the guitar sound that is present throughout, but it changes slightly during the chorus.

During the chorus I was not happy with this thin guitar sound. It isn’t that it wasn’t thin enough, it is that it sounded far too much like a guitar. So I kept all of my guitar’s settings the same, except then I routed my guitar through a Whammy pedal set to one octave above standard. Then, I applied a few filters on specific frequencies in order to take out some of the “guitarish” tone. The result almost sounds like a synth, but not quite. Actually, it almost sounds like Poindexter’s violin from ‘Revenge of the Nerds’. In any case, I was very pleased with the result.

Also during the chorus is a guitar that is playing a single chord every 8 bars that is run on a really long tape delay (long tail, but short decay). I did this because it just sounded like something needed to go there.

As for the bass, it is recorded as is throughout the entire song. However, I have it set somewhat high in the mix during the chorus in order to give a punchier sound, and to dominate that particular part of the song. Also, during the chorus I was not entirely happy with a clean bass sound, so I wanted to distort it a bit. Instead of just putting a distortion effect on the bass, I copied the bass track so that there are two identical bass tracks. I kept one untouched, but with the other I bit-crushed it and added compression. Bit-crushing isn’t distortion, per se, rather it is decaying the resolution of the digital signal. Imagine running your iPod through an Atari or Nintendo system, that’s essentially what bit crushing is doing. Once I got one of the bass tracks bit-crushed to my liking, I then mixed them together (the bit-crushed and dry bass tracks) to produce that bass tone that you hear during the chorus. I think it turned out awesome, because it reminds me of how back in the late 70s, all of the funk bands would have a synth bass playing along with the electric bass (think Lakeside’s ‘Fantastic Voyage’).

The drums aren’t messed with much, other than to make the kick have more bottom, the snare a little more top, and the cymbals natural. I did, however, have to overdub a few cymbal splashes here and there, because some of the originals weren’t quite on time, and two of them accidentally got cut short of their natural decay during editing. Also, the drums during the intro and the bridge are actually AppleLoops. I tend to use AppleLoops during recording to help me keep good time. I rerecorded the chorus and verse drum parts using my Roland TD-9SX drum kit, but I left the other parts as they were.

As for reverb, I didn’t get too crazy. Just enough so that the instruments don’t sound dry. This is a departure from what was prevalent in 70s mixes, but then I was only trying to mimic the EQ curve of the 70s, not the dimensional aspects. Also, I mixed the drums in such a way that the layout of the drums follows the placement of the guitar. When the guitar is on the right channel, the drums are mixed with the HH on the right (as if there is a right-handed drummer playing), and when the guitar is on the left channel, the drums are mixed with the HH on the left (as if there is a left-handed drummer playing). The bass guitar and kick drum are always right down the center throughout the song.

A little word on the bridge: In case you haven’t noticed, it isn’t complete. First, the bass part for the bridge that is on this recording was done entirely off the cuff and improvised. I knew what chord changes I wanted, but I never wrote anything for it, so I just played whatever came to my mind when I hit “record”. I really need to rerecord it because it is not nearly tight enough for my liking. Also, I wanted to put a guitar solo in there, but alas, I am too lazy. I will eventually get to it, but it isn’t that important, so I’ll do it at a later date.

Anyhow, here’s what I have so far … Without further ado, here’s Bassaroo!

01 bassaroo

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