Double Distortion
Scott Fritz, May 2011

Examples of double distortion on bass

Here are some examples of how you can layer the bass by feeding it through two different amps, one heavily distorted and one cleaner sounding amp.

Examples of double distortion on bassHere are some examples of how you can layer the bass by feeding it through two different amps, one heavily distorted and one cleaner sounding amp.

Clip taken from "Drunk Mistake" by The Hawthorne Effect (2011). See www.thehawthorneeffectmusic.com. Samples by Scott Fritz of Stranded On A Planet Productions. All rights reserved.

Quite often when recording, we have our standard sets of tools that we reach for to get our sounds - our particular compressors, equalizers, amps, etc. One of the major benefits of the digital realm is the almost limitless combinations of processing we can try, and the ease with which we can try them.

I am a big fan of fuzzed/overdriven bass tones, and in the past, have had a hard time trying to get the midrange/upper distortion while retaining the clear bottom end we usually want out of a bass sound. A cool trick I use quite often is to double up on the amps, and combine the tones to get the best of both worlds.

...with the guitar amp, it usually is best to roll off the bass eq either entirely or close to entirely, as the low end will conflict a bit with the bass amp..

In Practice
In Nuendo/Cubase (which we use here, but the principles apply to all major DAWs),

  1. 1.I create two group tracks ("Bass Amp" and "Guit Amp" in the screenshot to the right)
  2. 2.Insert Bass Amp Room (or your favorite bass amp plugin) on one of them...
  3. 3....and Metal Amp Room on the other (or your favorite mid-to-high gain guitar amp plugin)
  4. 4.Send the audio pre-fader from your bass track to the two group tracks.
  5. 5.Set the volume of the original bass track to -Inf

Now, you will be able to blend the bass amp signal with the guitar amp signal to taste using the group faders.

Tweaking the Sound
A few suggestions - with the guitar amp, it usually is best to roll off the bass eq either entirely or close to entirely, as the low end will conflict a bit with the bass amp, and more often than not will cause excessive "farting out" in the guitar amp. The general idea is to have the guitar amp be virtually all mids and treble, which will layer nicely over the bass to form a full frequency, thick bass tone. Likewise, I usually roll off some of the highs on the bass amp to allow the distorted signal from the guitar amp to cover the upper frequencies. Using this technique, you can dial in tons of gnarly bass tones, from gentle overdriven fuzz to fully aggressive bass-of-doom sounds. So, don't be afraid to experiment - plugins and digital recording make all sorts of craziness possible!

© 2011 Scott Fritz
Scott Fritz is the president and producer of the Chicago-based studio Stranded On A Planet. Recently recorded artists include Amirah, Nadia Ali, Cavalier King, Michael Angelo Batio, Martha Berner, A Friend Called Fire, Karen Kiley, The Hawthorne Effect, and Voice Of Addiction