Recording fuzz bass

As posted at TOMB:

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.

I mix with olive juice.

Pass filters

Posted inna thread about EQin’ shakers at TOMB:


FWIW, I consider pass-filters to be EQ because of how ya apply ’em, but really, what you are doing is just cutting the top or the bottom offa the track.

In that regard, then, there is no “smear” I can discern (as opposed to phasing when graffic or even cheap notch filters are used – usually not a problem ITB, anyway), and if any exists, it’s just at the edge of the frequencies that remain; IOW, a high-pass filter at 100Hz might have some phasing around that point, (less with a higher order filter?), but I can’t hear it.

And yep, I HPF almost everything – fuckit – everything.

Ain’t nothin’ needs < 20Hz, I reckon.

And re LPF, a lotta shite ain’t need >10kHz, neither.

I mix with olive juice.

My current bass recording chain

As postered at TOMB:

I love my The Brick.

My typical chain is amp into Peavey 520i (like SM7b) into The Brick into a 160XT, in parallel with a VC3Q run a touch hot. I split the “inst thru” out to the VC3Q, but I seldom take a DI; the signal usually comes from the mic.

I can be happy with either side of that chain, usually use both and pan them 11:45 and 12:15 to get what I call the old Bob Rock-style bass movement going on.

I mix with olive juice.


Posted at TOMB:
I’m a shout out the Sony 7506’s for the follering reasons:

1. good isolation
2. they are something of a standard;
3. pretty sturdy, and repairable;
4. they break in nicely;
5. good isolation;
6. comfortable enough;
7. they are black;
8. simple padded middle piece;
9. good isolation;
10. once the latex wears off (messy), the cheek pads are again excellent;
11. under US$100, new, if you shop for ’em;
12. good isolation
13. the somewhat hype-d bass is actually helpful to check mixes, excite performances, etc.
14. good isolation

I mix with olive juice.

Re: EQ

Posted at TOMB:
I feel compelled to post for all the rest of us who don’t know all y’all are talkin’ about.

I have EQ on my HW channel strips (Meek VC1Q, Eureka) that I never use, preferring to changes mics and mic position.

I do use the EQ a VC3Q that I use for DI bass, set and basically left untouched.

I will use the built-in HPF’s on pre-amps, but that’s it on the HW.

ITB, I use pass filters on almost everything at mix-down. After that, I may add or cut a few dB with a narrow Q on kick, or a vocal, and that’s it. And I do that with the most basic EQ on the channels in my DAW, seeking clarity on a given track, nothing more.

It’s not a religious position, mine, and prob’ly as much outta laziness, but I find it more efficient to use compression, panning, gain-rides and FX than EQ. “Option anxiety” – that, too.

I mix with olive juice.

More lawn stuff

So I take a cab from the train station to me office, and it’s US$5.50.

I hand the guy a twenty and two singles and tell him, “gimme back $15”.

He can’t break the 20.

Now, my high-rise office building has a bank on the first floor and after whining for 3-4 minutes he asks me to accompany him into the bank so he can get change. Fine, it takes him a cuppla minutes to park (making an illegal turn and backing up on a one-way street) and we go in the bank and there’s a long line and it ain’t moving. He explains and tries to break the bill with the bank’s greeter who says he has to get in line. She asks me how is my holiday and I say, “Fine, until it went to hell just now.”

The cabbie is pissed at me for refusing to let him keep a US$14.50 tip ( I denied having a credit car – which is true – and didn’t want to use my debit card).

He says, “just be patient” and I respond, “You have now wasted 10 minutes of my time because you can’t break a $20, but that’s OK, I have your cab # and will spend a little more time calling the company.”

He gets even more pissed and says, “Here, take your money, you got a free cab ride” like I put one over on him.

I laughed at him.

Couldn’t he tell he needed to get offa my lawn!?

carpal diem!


New Vlayman album: *Alike*


1. Story Book 03:34
2. Day for Night 03:24
3. Your Incivility w Mark C. 03:51
4. It’ll Keep 03:22
5. Competent 03:19
6. Devil’s Breath 04:05
7. 8 Tracks & Six Packs 04:39
8. Alike 04:59
9. The Show 03:20
10. Like I Care 04:18

More shite, alike to the rest of the shite …

released March 26, 2018

Drums: nettage
Rhythm Guitar on #3: Mark C.
The rest of the noize: Yo

Writ, Recorded, Derranged, Mixt, Masturded at FetaCentral DDL sorta kinda around Chi-town.

Fartwerk By Jose Jones, using a photo from Brent Smth (thanx!)