Scarbee Black Bass

Scarbee Black Bass is an electric bass sample library for Native Instruments Kontakt.
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Scarbee Black Bass is an electric bass sample library for Native Instruments Kontakt.
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Web Clips: hear an audio clip of a solid fingered bass sound in a Latin-tinged jazz context

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Scarbee's Black Bass gives you quality samples and access to an array of authentic bass-guitar techniques and articulations.

Scarbee's first bass product, J-Slap'n Fingered (JSF), evolved over several versions to become one of the most advanced virtual basses around. Its extensive programming incorporated features such as articulation keyswitching, release triggers, mod wheel selection of individual strings, and footpedal switching between slap and fingered samples. Though it offered unprecedented realism and versatility, all the keyswitching, mod wheel, and footpedal work made for a cumbersome interface for real-time performance. With Black Bass, Scarbee takes an evolutionary leap to the next level with more-intensive sampling and programming and a much-easier-to-use interface.

Back in Black

Black Bass ($99) is a sample library (no bundled player) for Native Instruments Kontakt 2.2 or later and is available on DVD or by download. It consists of 2.8 GB — more than 4,000 samples all dedicated to producing the complete expressive range of a fingered electric bass. Installation is as simple as dragging the files to your hard drive.

For the Black Bass sound, the folks at Scarbee took their inspiration from one of their favorite bass players of the '70s, the late Bernard Edwards of the classic funk-and-disco band Chic. But it would be a mistake to assume that Black Bass is suitable only for funk or disco. I found it a solid fingered bass for virtually any style (see Web Clip 1). It was recorded direct and has a wonderful harmonic character that sits just right in a mix. Four “amped” editions are available separately; they present the original DI samples processed through various amp and cabinet emulations.

Heavily Scripted

What really makes Black Bass so extraordinary is its advanced Kontakt scripting. All the control features in JSF that made you wish for an extra set of hands and feet happen automatically in Black Bass, with little need for keyswitching. Essentially, the scripting just takes your keyboard playing and intelligently translates it into bass guitar articulations in real time.

Black Bass automatically selects between right-hand-index-finger and right-hand-middle-finger samples. There are samples up the neck for each of the bass's four strings, and playing position is selected automatically. Individual strings are monophonic, just like with a real bass, and hammer-ons, pull-offs, and grace notes are triggered automatically just by playing with the appropriate legato technique. There is even an animated graphic that displays which strings, positions, and articulations are being selected as you play.

To put Black Bass's intelligence to the test, I pulled out my bass guitar and ran through a few classic bass lines, analyzing finger positions, and then played the lines on keyboard for comparison. Black Bass did an excellent job of selecting the fret positions a real bass player would use. But if at any time you are unhappy with the results, keyswitches are available to override automatic string or right-hand-finger selection.

You also get release samples; Velocity layering of sustains, mutes, and harmonics; trills; pickup claps; chords; cross-hammering; a unique approach to slides using the sustain pedal; and more. The slide interface is innovative and powerful, and a big improvement over JSF, but it was the one area where I didn't find instant gratification. Bass playing often requires a fast downward slide on the E string. To do this on Black Bass, you must first hold a keyswitch to force a 12th-fret note on that string, then press the sustain pedal, and then quickly play two notes in succession an octave apart with the correct Velocity. With much practice I'm getting better, but I still can't seem to call one up fast enough in real time. I would like to see Scarbee add a few instantly available downward slide samples for this important articulation.

Seeing Red

At press time, Scarbee announced it had found a way to apply the Black Bass-style scripting to J-Slap'n Fingered. The new product will be called Red Bass, and the new scripting will be available as a $49 upgrade for existing JSF users.

An easy download and installation of new .nki and .nkm program files that use your existing JSF samples transforms J-Slap'n Fingered into Red Bass. Instantly it becomes about a hundred times more fun to use. Automatic selection of strings and articulations, alternation scripting, even the animated graphic display — all function the same in Red Bass as they do in Black Bass. A full version of Red Bass ($199) is also available.

Fade to Black

Black Bass is one of the most realistic, expressive, and easy-to-use sampled instruments I have ever played. If you are a Kontakt user looking for an authentic and fun-to-use virtual bass, I highly recommend that you give it a try.

Value (1 through 5): 5

Additional Resources

Eventide Web site

Downloadable TimeFactor manual

The Scarbee site

Web Clips: hear an audio clip of a solid fingered bass sound in a Latin-tinged jazz context