(Not Quite) All About the Bass: A Sonic Journey into the Nether Regions


Image result for bass

Not that kind, obvs!

I’ve been thinking a lot about drums and bass recently. Almost always the last thing I put in any track I’m creating, they should, of course, be pretty much the first thing. I mean, the rhythm section, right?

There’s a very good series on BBC4 just finished called ‘Guitar, Drum and Bass’ which covers all three instrumental elements of most popular music setups: you can catch it on iPlayer if you’ve missed it.

In it, Tina Weymouth (bass) Stewart Copeland (drums) and Lenny Kaye (guitar) trace their instruments’ history, from early blues and jazz right through to the present. They’re all good, but my favourite was Tina, who as Talking Heads’ bassist has probably had a few musical styles thrown at her over the decades!

I’m not quite sure why bass has been so neglected in my music making. I suppose we all have slightly different hearing ranges, and it may be that mine is tipped towards the treble end. In any event, the Tina Weymouth episode inspired me to experimentation on a track I’d had half-done for some time. In particular, a section on 90s DJs, and their search for ever more profound bass sounds got me twiddling about with the available knobs on my music editing software (of which, as I’d just shelled for the Pro Edition of Mixcraft 9, there are several).

Firstly, I used the Korg synth to record a really basic bass part, as low as I could go on the keyboard. Then, using Mixcraft, I duplicated it, then dropped the second track an octave – or twelve semitones, something I should have known without looking up. That sounded … interesting: basically, I now had a bass part that would have my left hand hanging off the end of the keyboard for most of the notes. And then I thought, how low can you go?

Third track, another octave down. You could still hear it, but it was WAYYY low, growling away to itself. I imagined swimming ever lower and lower, down into the sonic nether regions, beyond the range of the human ear where Beelzebub and his minions lurked, sending messages to the unwary through the sub-bass demonosphere.

Pleased with myself, I got as far as finalising the track with all three octaves of bass on it, growling away underneath the song. I was going to put it up on Soundcloud.

Then next day I decided it didn’t work, cut the two lower tracks and stuck it up with the ‘normal’ bass. Hey ho. Perhaps one day I’ll dive towards the nether regions once more, torch in hand, but not on this song!

(The track itself, by the way, is one of a number of contenders for my next album, Otto’s Biography. It’s not in yet, so any feedback gratefully accepted)

P.S. original version replaced with the one on the album, featuring excellent work from Norman Lamont on bass.



















Down below here are only the demons of advertising




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