I’m a huge fan of bass guitar synth sound, and I enjoy playing with my synth pedals.
I’m sure some of you like those sounds as well, but what if you don’t own this kind of a pedal, and you still want to record synth sounds with your bass guitar?
Or maybe you own one of those pedals, but you have a pre-recorded clean bass or guitar track that needs a synthesized treatment?
There are many ways to use plugins that can “turn your bass into a synth.”
You can use one filter plugin (like Soundtoys Filterfreak) that will alter your sound in a way that will give you a synthesized feel.
You can also use a plugin chain with several plugins that will create a unique and original sound. These plugins might not feel very synth-ish by themselves, but together, they will create the desired effect. The second option is the one I’m about to show you.
Bass guitar synth sound with paid plugins
Even with plugin chains, there are so many ways to go.
Different synthesizers have different options, and you need to decide which ones you’d like to simulate.
I went for a basic three steps chain. You can try and make your own chain with these steps. You can use the same plugins, similar plugins, or add others for more synth functions. Also, you can try to apply this method to real pedals.
Step 1: Drive/Distortion/Fuzz
You can use any type of drive, fuzz, or distortion. I used Waves GTR amp simulation. I usually use it with the Directube preset. I’m boosting the bass knob and cutting some treble (That’s really up to you). And obviously, boosting the drive.
The reason that we want to use drive is to give our sound some punch, but also to imitate the sound of a synth by trying to get to the sawtooth or a square wave sound, which I can describe as fuzzy and pulse-like.
Step 2: Creating Layers With Octaves
Now I’m looking for layers. Just like a synth sound could have different waveforms and ranges, all in one preset.
We can imitate that by using an octave pedal, or actually two pedals. I’m using Waves GTR stomp. And here I have two layers (sort of speak) one is a sub-octave (from the Octaver pedal), and the second one is the Bass Pitcher pedal, and from the latter, we get an octave above our signal.
Together they simulate the feeling of 2 layers.
Step 3: Envelope Filter
Are you down for some envelope filter? Basically what we are trying to achieve here is a typical process on synthesizers that is called an L.F.O. (which stands for a low-frequency oscillator) that controls a filter cut off.
Wait…what? What does that mean?
On a synthesizer, you can generally find a cut off knob. This knob will cut some of the low frequencies. By boosting it, you create what most guitarists recognize as the “Wah” sound. The L.F.O. is a different knob that can be set to automate this operation, meaning moving that cut off “up and down.” That’s what makes everything so funky.
The envelope filter plugin (or pedal) is doing the exact same thing.
For our plugin chain, I am using I.K. Multimedia Amplitube 3. First, you need to bypass or turn off all the option on your amp (or leave that on if it works for you), and then press on “Stomp.” There you can choose your filter stompbox. I’m using the Nu-Tron III (in the menu choose – Amplitube 3 – Filter). It simulates the Mu-Tron III vintage pedal, which was the first envelope filter pedal.
Bass guitar synth sound with stock plugins
I’ve tried to create a similar plugin chain with Pro-Tools stock plugins.
And I say TRIED because I couldn’t get the same results, but I got close to it.
And of course, if you use a different DAW, other free or paid plugins or even stompboxes, just follow the principal, and you’ll get to similar results.
For the drive, I’ve set up the Sans Amp PSA-1 plugin, and this is where I get my fuzzy tone.
Next, I’m using the Pitch II plugin to get the second octave. It doesn’t sound right as an insert, because it kills the dry signal, and I don’t want to lose the bass guitar sound completely.
So what I’ve done is I’ve set up a Side Chain process for that.
Here’s how you do it in Pro-Tools:
1. Add an Aux Track.
2. Insert the plugin (Pitch II) on that track.
3. Set the input of the Aux Track for a new Bus (For Example Bus 3).
4. Trigger a Send on your bass guitar track to that Bus (Bus 3 for that case)
5. Slide that ‘Send’ slider to control the amount of pitch that you want.
For the Filter, I’m using the AIR Fuzz-Wah plugin.
Take my method and make it your own! With plugins or with pedals.
Use other effects like tremolo, delay, chorus, or phaser to experiment with different results.
Just have fun and keep it synthy 🙂