By now, we have seen the release of sampled-bass loops from nearly every angle — acoustic, electric, slapped, synthesized, and picked — as well as loops created by well-known bassists or targeted for specific types of music. Sony Pictures Digital Media's Sweet and Low Bass ($59.95) carves out a place in the crowd with a collection of performances that focus on a fretted electric bass with round-wound strings. The strings give the bass a uniformly bright, aggressive character that helps the instrument retain its voice among other production elements.
Stylistically, this Acidized WAV-format collection is suitable for rock, ambient, and funk productions. It includes five folders of 16-bit, 44.1 kHz samples: Fingered, Odd Time, One Shots, Processed, and Slap. Harmonically, the collection favors repetitive song forms: there are no loops with leading tones or turnarounds, and the selections tend to sit within a single tonality.
Within the One Shots folder are four subfolders with riffs for fingered and slap-bass performances and folders of notes for the two playing styles. The latter group is presumably for overlaying on top of loops to get more variety. However, there are too few samples in these folders for building bass-instrument patches for a sampler, and the articulations are too different to create a consistent-sounding keymap. The one-shots are like a grab bag of individual articulations that can be used to fill in the nonrepetitive holes in your production.
Although the round-wound strings give the bass tracks a brilliant high-end tone, the tracks possess plenty of punch, growl, and low end. This ensures that the tracks are well defined and hold their own within a dense mix. In most cases, the byproducts of live performance — such as fingerboard squeaks and rattles — contribute to the realism of the loops, although they can sound unnatural when transposed, and their inclusion here is a bit overdone.
Unfortunately, I found a majority of the rhythmic motifs in the Fingered folder to be similar. Much of the material feels more like an impromptu grab bag of riffs than a thoughtful collection of related loops. Still, some of the note choices are interestingly off-kilter, such as the flatted fifth in Fingered Bass 075.WAV (see Web Clip 1).
Most of the two- to four-bar loops come with a variation to add interest. Many are evocative loops that could serve as song starters, such as Fingered Bass 167 and 218, but you are left hanging due to the absence of any material that develops the idea.
The Odd Time folder contains only ten loops — seven of which are 3/4 time — and one of which feels more like a shuffled 4/4 groove. Shuffles and other swung feels are absent from the collection.
Most of my favorite files are in the Processed folder, which offers thick, distortion-drenched bass lines, subtly phase-shifted patterns, and sequencer-like tapped-fingerboard patterns. I found plenty of song starters here: Processed Bass 22, 29, and 30 are dark and funky, and they quickly became a springboard for an atmospheric, Miles Davis — influenced idea (see Web Clip 2).
Sweet and Low Bass is a mixed bag. Although it contains a number of redundant themes, there are many useful loops. The lack of information and organization is the set's worst enemy. Documentation is nonexistent other than the names given to folders and files. Although the Acid format allows the loops to automatically adjust to the proper tempo (when used with software supporting Acidized files), plan to do plenty of listening to find precisely what you need.
Along with a batch of 8-bit demo samples (some of which I used in my Web examples), the CD-ROM contains a slew of HTML files; however, none of them give any details on the specifics of the loops. On the positive side, the CD-ROM includes a copy of Sony Acid Express (Win) to get you started.
If your compositions thrive on repetitive motifs, you'll probably find some worthy material to build on from Sweet and Low Bass. But if you tire easily of combing through nondescriptive folders, you'll need to look elsewhere.