Distortion on bass? - Five reasons why you need it, too
For some, especially the fans of heavier music, the answer to the question "Why do you need distortion on bass?" may seem obvious.
Because it's just cool! Right?
Distortion on bass guitars is a natural and undisputed part of both rock & metal culture. Driven bass tones are moving audiences for decades. From legends such as John Entwistle and Cliff Burton to today's prog-djent senseis like Nolly Getgood or Amos Williams. But what if these artists aren't really your thing?
Can a non-metal bass player benefit from distortion, too? Of course, you can!
Here are five reasons why you should consider introducing distortion to your bass playing, no matter the genre:
- It gives you another flavor - Many bass players use one sound and one sound only. This can become boring for both the player and the listener, especially after a while. Of course, the bass has one primary role to fulfill. It needs to keep the music groovin' in cooperation with the drummer. But this does not mean to sound boring, or the same for the whole night, or does it? Just the right amount of drive on a bass guitar can make any groove feel a tad more different and unique, no matter the genre.
- It helps your bass sound more even - A distortion is a form of compression. As anyone who regularly records or edits distorted guitars surely knows, the soundwave of a clean and a distorted guitar looks very far apart. And the same goes for a distorted bass. Overdriving a bass guitar makes it less dynamically unpredictable. It brings down the more aggressive transients. That way, the bass sounds more balanced, and it can be easier to work with even for the sound engineer!
- It can help you get out of a rut - As musicians, we often fall in patterns and ruts with our playing. Do you know that feeling when you just don't know how to make your playing different and exciting again? Trying a new technique or hearing an inspiring sound can work miracles in this scenario. Distortion affects both real projection and our perception of different harmonics in the sound. Thus, it makes us hear the same notes differently - with a different color. This can be hugely inspiring.
- It helps bass to cut through the mix - Distortion on bass attracts attention, isn't this some kind of a rule? If not, I think it should be from now on :) There are two factors to this. Firstly, as of today, the heavily distorted bass guitar is still not really a mainstream thing to hear. So it naturally grabs the listener's ears - especially in not so crowded mixes. Secondly, in relation to the reasons mentioned above, it compresses the signal. Therefore it usually allows the mixing engineer to turn the bass up louder in the mix than he could do without any form of compression. So there are circumstances in which you can be even louder with distortion than without it. I consider this a total win-win!
- It helps you solo! - Yeah, I know - the groove is the most important thing. Of course, I think the same :) BUT, is there a bass player, who had never dreamed of soloing in front of a staggered and hypnotized crowd? I think not. Especially higher levels of the right type of distortion can make your bass tone very fluent, and your higher notes much less harsh. And that makes soloing on the bass guitar a bliss!
So here you go, here are five reasons everybody should consider giving a distorted bass a try! :)
(Photo: Painting Memories live by Dag Markl)