Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

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Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby Apostle » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:24 am

Went to a few sound nights recently and over the last years where I didn't enjoy the music.
Reason was simple: the music was so loud that I could feel the bass shaking in my stomach and my throat, but I didn't hear the melody anymore.
Everybody who runs a soundsystem will tell you reggae music is bass music, and that the melody is in the bass and you need to feel the bass to enjoy the music. I agree 100 %. Only some soundsystems play so loud that you don't hear the melody. All you hear is a monotonous grunt from the bass. It gets tired very quickly because it's boring if you don't hear the melody. When your body has to resist enormous bass pressure while you don't hear anything or feel a vibe, I leave. There are scientific studies that show the damaging effects of some frequencies to your balance system.

So now I wonder- why do some sounds get it right and some don't? Shaka plays loud and distorts the bass, but you still hear a melody. Lots of youthman sounds play as loud as possible but only make the ground tremble. Is this a thing of lately? I remember sound nights standing in front of a stack for the night and didn't have any problems, wouldn't even think about doing that now.
What are they doing wrong? Are my ears too sensitive, are some soundmen deaf?
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby jahkob » Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:19 am

Theres quite a few factors to it but I reckon the most common is that the sound system is simply lacking tops and mids comparing to the amount of bass the sound system can produce.
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby KingSimeonSound » Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:39 pm

Plenty to talk about but the main thing is knowing about balance, that is balance between bass, mid and tops. It's best to know what you want to achieve and then work towards it. It can take time to know what you are hearing and it can all change with the difference of room size to the quality of production you are playing.. plenty of variables…

Some may say they know it all already, others that they know better, but it's not something that should ever stop in knowledge and with each tune there are subtle differences. You could add that some productions are boomy and lacking in balance, that they are only primed to blow you out the door. Engineers & Sound operators… it's all a craft, not that everyone seems too bothered about it. There are plenty who seem to enjoy playing and sounding sharp/harsh… such is life.
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby dougie conscious » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:26 pm

imho ,a lot of the new sounds produce there own music[some old sound sounds to} when there composing there tunes they seem to go for the lowest possible sub bass they can find witch is great for making the speakers rumble and shaking up your body but you cant hear no tone jus a rumble,
To me it just makes the music just heavy without much melody and you cant really hear any notes jus rumble{witch can mash up ya ears}
add to the fact that there playing mostly there own produced music all night it soon becomes a bit boring with one tune sounding like the last,
a good produced tune should have a b line you can hear as well as feel on all kinda systems from big sounds to ya little laptops,
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby t-woc » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:47 am

agree with dougie, some of these producers are filtering off all the character out of the bass, need a bit of mid to give it some color and a bit of a bounce on a sound and in your headphones / car / iPhone down the back of the night bus
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby Apostle » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:52 am

dougie conscious wrote:add to the fact that there playing mostly there own produced music all night it soon becomes a bit boring with one tune sounding like the last,
a good produced tune should have a b line you can hear as well as feel on all kinda systems from big sounds to ya little laptops,


That's indeed what makes it boring. Like they make dubs strictly for the sound and they only want them to drop really heavy.
Another factor imho is sound operators that just want to play too loud. I remember a night @ Vooruit Gent with Dub Judah and Young Warrior on Jahmbassador sound. Warmup sounded great, then Dub Judah comes (playing on a separate DJ-set) and two hours of monotonous grunting bass. When Young Warrior came back it still sounded ruff and loud but in a good way, you could hear melody. Don't think Dub Judah's productions lack color or mid tone - so what was he doing then, just playing in red?
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby DC » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:05 pm

It's also in the use of the right sound. Lots of producers these days use a bass sound which already lacks definition, they just check if it's weighty enough... that result in a big undefined muddy low end. And besides that moste producers put out tune or sounds play tune which already lack any melody. It strickly drums, bass and some chords. No arrangements, no melodies/hooklines. All the same soundsets being used from software by lots of different producers so also no difference in tunes. Most sound the same and you really can't tell who made the tune. Just a handfull of producers that have a distinct sound.
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby dan i dubdub » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:43 pm

I don't get it. Having a sound system is the best thing and the one I play on is all about balance as Simeon says. A lot of newer productions (whether by the sound or not) drop very heavy, but that shouldn't stop them from sounding good. People have no ear for melody.

It is not true to say the melody is all in the bassline for reggae. Long history of brilliant melody in reggae, it is just that the tunes are driven by the bass and bass is the lead instrument. One thing I will say, a lot of sounds have fancy preamps and don't have much of a clue how to use them. If you are a beginner with a preamp then just get something simple you can make sound irie. Bigger preamps have lots of settings that will make your sound horrible in the wrong hands.
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby dan i dubdub » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:46 pm

dougie conscious wrote:a good produced tune should have a b line you can hear as well as feel on all kinda systems from big sounds to ya little laptops,


my home amp just blew up recently (there was a little fire and everything) and I am planning on getting just a really cheap amp to replace it. If tunes sound good on that, they should be wicked on the sound system!
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby Apostle » Thu Apr 10, 2014 10:13 am

KingSimeonSound wrote: Engineers & Sound operators… it's all a craft, not that everyone seems too bothered about it. There are plenty who seem to enjoy playing and sounding sharp/harsh… such is life.


The production aspect DC and dougie talk about definitely plays a part, but when it comes to good soundsystem playing this kinda sums it up...As Dan I says, you have to know your preamp and your tunes to make your soundsystem sound nice.
I have the impression that the problem I'm talking about comes from people who think they have to do certain things to be a proper sound. Like you have to play really loud, you have to play rare selection, you have to play your own productions and these productions need to drop heavy. And it seems to me people think it has to be like this because they look up to examples with a certain status like Jah Tubby's or Shaka. Funny because I saw both sounds play and it wasn't ridiculously loud, Tubby's was playing from laptop and Shaka was running selection everybody can buy in the shop. Good soundsystems play good reggae music in an enjoyable fashion, right?
Seems to me the 'play as much dubs as possible' or 'destroy eardrums' attitude is just an image/competition thing, which is a bit silly in a scene that should be about unity. As Wooligan once told me "they just emulate, while soundsystem is about being yourself".
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby tradesman » Thu Apr 10, 2014 10:53 am

i think we need more nice time tunes and lovers tunes personally, it seems producers making these styles are rare these days. chilled roots tunes rather that the dark and heavy stuff that is dominating atm, i also think this would bring more ladies in the dances haha too many man somtimes
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby rastavibes.net » Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:11 am

i think we need more nice time tunes and lovers tunes personally

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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby Vinnie » Thu Apr 10, 2014 4:49 pm

dougie conscious wrote:imho ,a lot of the new sounds produce there own music[some old sound sounds to} when there composing there tunes they seem to go for the lowest possible sub bass they can find witch is great for making the speakers rumble and shaking up your body but you cant hear no tone jus a rumble,
To me it just makes the music just heavy without much melody and you cant really hear any notes jus rumble{witch can mash up ya ears}
add to the fact that there playing mostly there own produced music all night it soon becomes a bit boring with one tune sounding like the last,
a good produced tune should have a b line you can hear as well as feel on all kinda systems from big sounds to ya little laptops,


thats my personal opinion aswel, on every point
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby Tomcat » Fri Apr 11, 2014 9:36 pm

From the perspective of a bass player eq is key. Depth and heaviness is of course important but to my ear needs to be wearing a cap at the higher end of the bass frequencies so you get the depth but hear the meoldy. King Tubby was a master of this -the dub to Horace Andys Zion Gate is a good example of lead weight bass with a crisp top.

In my view the test for me is If you cant hear the bass melody on small speakers at low volume then there is something wrong.
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Re: Distorted bass- why doesn't it always work

Postby dan i dubdub » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:49 am

[quote="Tomcat"]lead weight bass with a crisp top{/quote]

you need both, and not painful tops that ring in your head for days afterwards, but crisp sound that means you hear the vocals and melody right.

Apostle - I think you are spot on when you talk about what some sounds think they ought to do.

On the subject of selection, Barry Issac once said to me that it's boring and frustrating to only hear unreleased music at a show, the audience want something they might be able to find in the couple of days after the dance as well as something fresh. And as DJs and promoters of reggae music, shouldn't we be encouraging our audiences to buy music if they can so it's not just us DJs and sound operators supporting the artists and producers. It's like these sounds have only picked up on one aspect of playing out. Or maybe they just don't have the tunes?

My own philosophy is that brand new music needs to be set in a context and that should include a dynamic range of music, not all boof boof. There are only about 3 producers I could bear to hear play only their own work.
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