Bass in Unison or Octave Lower?

CanserDYI

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I didn't watch the video as I'm in work, but in My experience I have an easier time mixing same octave bass/guitar. It sounds cleaner, and with the right eq you can carve out a space for either instrument. Dropping an octave lower introduces so much extra low end a lot of it being almost inaudible, I don't find it works right without a TON of work.
 

TheBloodstained

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Personally I like the sound of the octave lower, but it can be a little more tricky to dial in so the mix doesn't become boomy sounding.
I've detuned a normal 5 string 34" to F# more than once to record bass tracks for demos, but it's not the most tight sounding solution and often requires lots of post processing to sound decent. I recently bought a Digitech "The Drop" drop tune pedal that I'm going to use from now on when recording low tuned stuff. From my initial testing it sounded pretty good :)

The reason I went for that "The Drop" pedal instead of dedicated downtuned-and-setup instruments is because I'm in standard tuning 99% of the time.
 

bostjan

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Excellent video idea and great execution!

Three main riffs, three thoughts:

1. Riff one sounded better in unison. The octave down version was too muddy because the riff was too complex and the notes were flying by too fast. Being more of a melodic riff, the human brain doesn't get enough sonic information to process what is going on in the lower register.
2. Riff two sounded better and octave down. It sounded pretty good in unison, too, but the heavier bottom end did add something that was missing in unison.
3. Riff three sounded way better an octave down. The slower, sludgier, harmony-focused riff just begs to have the low end taken to the extreme. It sounded okay in unison, too, but just didn't have that slimy, nasty tone the riff benefitted from.
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Additional discussion (TL;DR)

I think it was smart to point out that not every bass/rig/player can pull off the octave down tuning. Having plugins specific to low tunings and a 37" scale helps keep things sounding clean. If you had only a 32" scale bass and no plugins, the notes wouldn't have enough definition to pull off riff 2, I think.

I've seen plenty of videos where the player is like "look at me, I can tune down to F0/E0/whatever" and the mix sounds like an elephant passing a loose stool. And there will be plenty of comments like "WOW How diD yOu geT tHat SoUnd?!1!!1!!!one!?" Maybe I'm just way too picky, but I think anything lower than drop A requires a little tweaking to get it right. The more cool hardware and software comes out, the easier it gets, but it's still a process to dial in a tone at these low registers. I think you did a fine job, by the way.

But the other part of it is the context. I wouldn't say that you couldn't make riff 1 work to my expectation in the lower register, but I think it's just going to require a more nuanced approach. The bass doesn't necessarily have to play the same thing as the guitar, whether in unison or an octave down, or in parallel fifths, or anything. The bass is its own animal and it can do whatever it wants, as long as it adds something interesting to the song.

When I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of "The Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet," a Canadian instrumental rock band (sometimes very surf-rock sounding, although they would get pissed if anyone ever compared them to surf rock back then). Anyway, their music was very guitar-riff focused. Every song was written around 2, 3, or 4 main guitar riffs that were distinctive. But the bass player, most of the time, played a different riff from the guitar. And the two meshed together very completely. I don't know how much music theory those guys knew (bass player has since passed away), but a lot of the bass riffs applied simple counterpoint rules, and it made the three-piece minimalistic performances so much more complete-sounding. People will say that you can't do it in metal, but I disagree. I think it is going to be much more difficult with more complex riffing, but you can do incredible things if you look at the guitar as an instrument, look at the bass as its own instrument, and then look at the harmonic interplay between the two as a potential third instrument.

Even simply changing up a song arrangement by having the bass play in unison with the guitar for one stanza and then go down an octave for the next stanza adds something cool, which keeps things interesting. I know not everyone likes music that is interesting, but that's generally my goal when I try to write something.

In 2022, when a ton of music is recorded in the bedroom studio, often by a guitarist playing the guitar and then either playing bass or programming it, then programming drums, I think there are a lot of opportunities that easily get overlooked to weave a stronger tapestry amongst the instruments. Everyone producing music should try to get familiar with the instruments they are modeling.
 

wheresthefbomb

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Didn't realize it was you and I was about to be like "that guy posts here" lmao

I played a baritone in B/drop A in the post rock band I used to be in, the bassist was in E and he'd play the big riffs in unison. We never tried octave down but unison sounded heavy as shit to our doomed and stoned ears.

One day our drummer asked him "why don't you get a 5 string bass so you can play in B like Forrest?" and he said, "no dude, I play bass." I'll never forget that.
 


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