Q&A with the creators of SESSION BASSIST - PRIME BASS
NI Community team caught up with KONTAKT Product Manager and drumasonic team for a quick round of Q&A, where we talked about the development process and what it took to create one of the most versatile bass sample libraries out there.
A new bass sample library PRIME BASS arrived in KONTAKT last week, and we couldn't be more excited. Created in collaboration with drumasonic, PRIME BASS is all about authentic articulations. It comes with a host of new features built to accommodate true-to-life performances, from slaps and pops, open and muted notes, chromatic dead notes, fret noises to harmonics and more.
PRIME BASS includes 355 patterns and phrases which you can filter by styles and combine with your own melodies, or use MIDI drag and drop to create completely custom phrases.
How did you approach SESSION BASSIST differently than when you created SESSION GUITARIST?
Standard bass performances typically use more different articulations than guitar performances, like different kinds of dead notes with plectrum, fingers and slapped, as well as the different playing techniques contained in a slap performance. Accommodating them in a way that makes them as accessible and intuitive as possible, without changing the key switch layout users know from the guitar libraries was challenging but we're quite happy with the result.
Tell us more about the key feature of PRIME BASS - the playback engine. What makes it so revolutionary?
It sounds more like the real thing, with only minimal input from the user. We do lots of blind a/b testing to compare performances of real musicians to the best-possible emulation we can achieve with the library and try to find ways to implement whatever is required to get closer to the original. Our Engineer Jonas Roßner came up with a concept that emulates fret positions in a very complex way.
Another thing that makes our libraries unique is that we've created several different engines for different playing styles and their capabilities overlap. For example, a regular 8th note pattern could be played with the melody instrument manually, and the melody engine would take care of creating the most realistic transitions between repeating notes. Alternatively, a single note-based loop engine could play such a pattern automatically, which is obviously less flexible but has the added benefit of emulating the exact timing and velocity of the reference pattern that was recorded by a studio bassist.
The third playback mode is based on sliced recordings, which is great to accommodate all sorts of unique playing styles, complex slap patterns or different degrees of palm muting and other nuances.
What’s the key to authentic-sounding bass lines in your opinion?
Groove is super important. Micro-time and dynamics. This can be adjusted with the four controls on the Playback page, and we encourage users to really play with these controls and to get a feeling for what creates the best groove.
If you're hiring a great session player, he or she will take care of that. (For example, Carol Kaye has really checked this out.) With a plugin, micro-time always depends on the interplay of all elements in an arrangement, so there is no single "perfect setting" that can be saved into a preset – the user has to play around with the accentuation, shuffle, humanize and timing shift controls to get there.
Another thing is everything that has to do with buzzing strings, fret noises and other high-frequency components. Typically, the decay of a bass note is quite dark and the noises are really bright, so dialling in tons of high frequencies to brighten up the bass doesn't do the trick in most cases. That's why we have to come up with different ways to get stronger overtones, which are especially important for playback on smaller speakers.
Distortion and saturation is one way to achieve that. Another way is adding a compressed microphone signal. Although we're not really a fan of compressing samples, as compression is something that affects the groove, we used a bit of compression on the mic signals to create more consistent levels in the high frequencies. Tape saturation can help as well, and, of course, consistent dynamics from the player, which is something that can be easily controlled in a sample library.
What made Prime Bass a stand out from other bass guitars NI offers?
Mainly the number of articulations, the loop-based playback engine, the effects section and extensive selection of sound presets.
Anything behind-the-scene you'd like to divulge?
The fingers of the bass players endured a lot when recording the slides. And we had a lot of slides in different volumes and speeds and intervals. These guys worked hard to deliver the best-sounding results.
Another thing that I personally love about the drumasonic team is the fact that we are working in so many different places – we’re living in 6 different cities and while some tasks require a recording studio environment, others can be done with a laptop and headphones at the beach, which definitely improves the work-life balance.
What’s your favorite bassline of all time?
The Dean Town riff from Vulfpeck is quite remarkable. The fact that such a complex bassline gets millions and millions of plays gives me hope. Henrik Lindner and Victor Wooten are also really inspiring.
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