Fuzz Bass

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A.David.MacKinnon
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Fuzz Bass

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sun Apr 22, 2018 12:50 pm

Favorite approaches? Chains, etc?
I feel like I've tried just about everything with mixed results.
Context is everything but for the sake of argument lets say we're working on a tune that needs clean bass in the verse and fuzz in the chorus. We also need to keep the low end intact.

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by kslight » Sun Apr 22, 2018 1:09 pm

I've had good results with doubling the part for the chorus, perhaps doing a HPF and LPF on the fuzz part to just keep it a mids thing.

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by losthighway » Sun Apr 22, 2018 3:32 pm

Biamping can be a cool way to get a parallel signal with a clean for reinforcement- blend to taste.

Sometimes I look at fuzz bass (if it's just a single part) as a separate instrument justifying a different amp, or DI where we were using a mic'ed amp for the main part. It almost always changes the shape of the mix coming out of a clean part, so I just try and make it do it in a way that's beneficial.

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by vvv » Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:14 pm

For live, or recording?
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by A.David.MacKinnon » Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:53 pm

vvv wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:14 pm
For live, or recording?
For recording. My live days are done.

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by vvv » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:40 pm

I record quite a bit, and I play all the bass on my stuff.

Lemme start by saying, for me, there is overdrive (like a TS8 or Klon-type at about 50%), there is distortion (like a good heavy amp or even a Muff or Rat at 50%) and there is fuzz (like that amp cranked, or a Muff or Rat at 90%) and then there is noise (like a Rat or Muff at 100% into each other, and/or a cranked amp). You will note my use in the parenthesis of "50%"; that is because overdrives can become distortions or even fuzz when cranked, and distortions and fuzz pedals can be sweet overdrives if turned down and mebbe played softly.

When I look for a fuzz bass sound my typical approach is to get it with a combination of pedals, and touch, with little compression and EQ.

I have used plug-ins, and parallel tracks/processing, and it works, but those approaches are usually the result of mix decisions where already-recorded tracks need fuzz.

So I start with the bass, which is usually just what I feel like playing. That said, I don't like fuzz on fretless, or A/E or even flat-wounds - I prefer a good fret sound.

And generally, I prefer humbuckers with fuzz - I play alot of Hohner headless, but also a Fernandes and an Alvarez with HB's. Fuzz is OK on my P, also, but I just like the thicker HB sound.

Me, I record through two chains to separate tracks at all times. My The Brick to a dbx160XT is slightly brighter and more detailed than my VC3Q, the latter is also more colored and dark. I blend them in the mix, often slightly panned apart.

For fuzz bass, then, my next decision is whether it's all DI, 1/2 DI or all through the amp. Lately, it's all through the amp. My recording amp is an Ampeg BA108 which is 20w. with an 8" speaker, which I believe helps a bit to fit in the mix with less EQ than my 12" or 15" bottoms (through louder heads -altogether different with different issues in recording, starting with volume.)

I like LD dynamics on bass, lately I have been using a Peavey 520i which is like a slightly brighter SM7b.

OK, a bucker bass into that chain. For fuzz, I use a pick which, along with frets, gives a better note definition. I like softer, thin picks and use them almost always, but a harder, thick pick can make a difference depending on the gain used.

Yep - the fuzz thing obviously needs pedals, especially when recording. (Me, I'm an idiot with far more pedals than I wanna admit. But I don't buy much boutique, and basically only by used, so there's that compromise.) And, of course, you can switch off the pedal to clean up for the verse, etc., much easier than adjusting the amp.

Without talking about pedal-stacking - which increases the options hundred-fold (a drive into a fuzz can be a thing of surprises, both good and/or bad, and often a beautiful game-changer) - there are some basic flavors of fuzz. For example, there is the mid-cut of the typical Muff, and the mid-boost of the typical Rat. I usually record bass and drums first and then choose guitar sounds, so I pick fuzz pedals as much for their effect on my playing. Muffs can handle slower, doomier and more single-line stuff well, but can turn to mush on 16th notes, chords, octaves, slap-n-pop, etc. which can be OK, but a Rat will help you hear that complexity better.

But then, mids-forward fuzz can get lost in the guitars if they are fuzzed (think Pumpkins) or just cranked (think Metallica). A Rat pedal can often be helped with a parallel clean track to get more bottom, but that can be a PITA.

That's where filters can come in handy: octave filters, envelope filters (used somewhat subtly), auto-wahs, etc. can bring the bottom, or the mids, as necessary. I tend to run the fuzz into the filters. Sometimes a light chorus or flanger can help, also, if the bass needs definition.

Also, do not automatically use compression into the fuzz; you probably don't need it at all as fuzz itself compresses.

My personal EQ approach is to pass-filter all stringed instruments (60 and about 4.5k for bass), but try not to do anything else. That said, fuzz bass is as much the pedal as the bass, so ... a notch at 350-400, a boost at 900 or so are not uncommon. (I like my kick under my bass.)

FWIW, I like Bass Muffs, Wicker Muffs, the Way Huge Swollen Pickle and Pork Loin (the Way Huge pedals are like more detailed and tweakable Muffs); I also like LM308 Rats, Zvex Distrotron and Mastrotron and Wooly Mammoth (the Zvexes are like blown-out Rats with gates). And then there are distortions which can be fuzz, like the Digitech Grunge pedal (not the bass grunge) and the MXR Bass Fullbore Distortion. Actually a lot of drive pedals can fuzz out if cranked; inexpensive but worthy options include the Blackstar pedals and the EHX Nanos like the Hot Tubes and The Glove, etc. Those Nanos, including the Soul Food, are cheap, and put in front of another drive/fuzz/distortion pedal can often add clarity, as well as drive the second pedal into fuzz-land. Then there are the Tech21 character pedals - the guitar-aimed can be awesome on bass (I use 'em when I need to DI, like when the kids are sleeping), and the VT is a joy for Ampegness. I don't use multi-effects or modeling, except the Source Audio OFD is just so damn good, especially it's gated fuzz. (But I hate the distortions on the Zoom MS60b ...)

Finally, like guitars, you often need less fuzz than you think.
Last edited by vvv on Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:07 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by Nick Sevilla » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:55 pm

EHX Bass Fuzz. Through a good DI box. And possibly an LA2A compressor.

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My setup is currently:

Bass
EXH Bass Fuzz
Waves GTR DI box (Designed by Paul Reed Smith, this thing is good, I have two... a spare just in case)
Teletronix LA2A compressor (maybe 1-2 dB compression maximum).
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by floid » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:00 am

A good 2 channel amp jumpered thru a rat. Maybe a touch of 163.
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by roscoenyc » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:14 am

The Frantone pedal "The Sweet" is a handmade good parts version of the Big Muff.
It's one of a few great pedals that don't rob low end to get the grind. Works great on bass.

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by markjazzbassist » Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:15 am

maybe i'm the simpleton but

bass into fuzz pedal into di/amp into recorder. click on pedal for fuzz parts, click off for clean parts. i prefer fuzz face type pedals as they are a little more biting and able to cut (there is a little bass cut, which i find good). big muffs i find too indistinct and mud city.

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by vvv » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:02 pm

markjazzbassist wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 7:15 am
big muffs i find too indistinct and mud city.
Yeah, Muffs can be a blast to play though by yourself but can easily get lost to a rumble inna mix - it's the signature EQ "scoop" what does it.

On the other hand, Rat pedals, etc. (I think of a fuzz face as generally closer to them than Muffs) cause a bassist to feel like his legs are cut out with the perception of the loss of bottom - which is sometimes just the boost of mids.

What I'm saying? Well, knowing these factors can help you at mixdown, or even at tracking.

A bottom-boosting filter (Ibanez even makes a bottom boosting pedal) like a Milkbox or a decent EQ on a pedal (Boneshaker, and it can do a nice kinda distortion/fuzz by itself) or some of the EHX Nano's can make a Rat sound like Gawd; a more mid-range boost pedal (most overdrives; I especially like those from Barber and Toadworks, and EHX) can add definition to a Muff.

And there I said I wasn't gonna talk about, "stacking" ...
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by losthighway » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:39 pm

The bassist in my band uses a Big Muff.

Weirdly, one of our most successful arrangements came out of having him use it on a quieter part- just sustained whole notes, with clean guitar and drums just doing a tom beat. Usually he kicks it on for the "extra heavy" moments, but it sits like a fat square wave synth in this context and you can really hear the texture of the muff's growl.

When we've recorded it we haven't actually suffered much from loss of mids, maybe the Fender Jazz Bass is punching through there, but I have had to take a separate track for the fuzz part and boost lows in a way I didn't need to on other stuff.

I'm curious for those advocating for compression. Are you still seeing a lot of dynamic range with a distorted bass, or is the compression doing some other tonal work outside of the usual dynamic shaping?

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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by floid » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:12 pm

Diode types sound different in a fuzz because they clip at different voltages. Sort of a "fuzz clip threshold". Some compression ahead of a fuzz can give control over how you hit the clip.
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by vvv » Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:25 pm

FWIW, when I use a compressor before fuzz, I always get the best results using the compressor as a drive, IOW, with 0 to minimal compression, but the gain turned up. In particular, I like the Rt. 66 compressor used this way, and have two on different boards to do it, in conjunction with and as an alternative to overdrive pedals. But that's just my experience, and I'll hafta try what floid says.

In the recording (vs. the pedal) chain, I like the compressor set just as if I wasn't using a fuzz. I don't use compression on fuzz bass mixdown, don't need it.

losthighway: me, I'm particular re the Muffs I use on bass, listing my faves above. There are many variations, some quite different and I have heard of the low end loss with various iterations.
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Re: Fuzz Bass

Post by Magnetic Services » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:40 pm

If it's your own tune and you have the liberty of messing around with the setup a bit I'd say spend your time fine-tuning the pedal and amp settings to ensure you're equally happy with the clean and fuzz tones, and also run some kind of DI/second amp/different fuzz pedal just to have options.

If it's someone else's band you're tracking, do as much of that tinkering as you can get away with (while keeping the session rolling and not wasting anyone's time), then just treat the clean and fuzz parts totally separately in the mix. I'm talking splitting the track into fuzz and clean regions, moving the fuzz parts to a new track, and totally rethinking your EQ and everything from the ground up. I often find myself in the opposite situation: the band has awesome heavy distorted tones, but the clean parts sound like shit and need a completely different approach.

And if you're just looking for an excuse to buy a pedal, definitely check out Blackout Effectors' Fix'd Fuzz: http://www.blackouteffectors.com/?page_id=774 -- extremely versatile, with two different fuzz circuits and an overdrive. I have the original Fix'd Fuzz, not the deluxe, but the deluxe just seems to have more features.

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