I thought I would share my attempt at emulating the synth bass sound in Michael Jackson’s Thriller using the Roland GR-55 guitar synthesizer and my Ibanez bass equipped with a Roland GK-3B bass pickup.
First of all, the pickup and controller installation on my bass is not ideal from a playability standpoint due to the shape and layout of my bass. I have tried mounting it in various locations and where I have it now seems to be the best compromise. One of the annoying things about the controller is that the volume knob is very loose and super easy to bump while playing which results in unintended consequences! To remedy that I pulled the knob off the shaft and added an O-ring around the shaft and put some foam into the inside knob cavity. That really tightened it up so accidental volume changes are not an issue anymore for me. The other problem is the S1/S2 switches are also easy to bump, but by being careful during playing I have been able to avoid them. However, I would like to find a more fool proof solution. If you have any ideas, let me know!
GR-55 Floorboard Settings
In the video below, the first image is the main page in the GR-55 Floorboard Editor (courtesy of Gumtown on Vguitarforums.com) and as it shows, for the Thriller patch I am using two PCM synth sounds, number 241 Synth Bass 2 and 18 Fretless Bass as well as an electric bass COSM model and some of my normal pickups blended in. I found that having the electric bass blended in added a little more definition which is needed for the staccato parts in Thriller.
The image for PCM Synth 1 shows the details for that tone. I believe that a Mini Moog was used in the Jackson recording. There is a PCM tone in the GR-55 called Big Mini that I thought could be a Moog like tone, but when I used it the sound just wasn’t right. So I auditioned more PCM tones and finally settled on 241.
The image for PCM Synth 2 shows the details for that tone which is for tone 218 Fretless Bass 1. This gave the sound it a little more edge.
The next image is for the electric bass COSM model, which in this case is number 4, Precision Bass. As you can see I have the volume and tone at 100 %.
And finally, the last screen is for the amp that I chose: A clean bass amp with middle gain. Next is a short sample of how the GR-55 Thriller Bass patch sounds.
Here’s the video.
Here are some highlights from my orchestra’s concert on Sunday. Evergreen Community Orchestra playing “Russian Tales”. I think the one bass player held his own against the rest of the orchestra pretty well!
Evergreen Community Orchestra – Russian Tales from Marcin Pączkowski on Vimeo.
This is lesson DB-18 Introducing the Roland Micro Cube Bass Amp, and is a continuation of my journal of things I have learned as an adult double bass student. See the video for a few pointers about using the Roland amp.
Watch The Video Lesson
My main bass amp is a Gallien-Krueger 700RB-II in a 12 inch Neo combo cabinet, along with another Neo 12 extension cab, which is an awesome amp that has served me well. But, even with the Neo speakers, it is still heavy! Recently I began searching for something smaller and lighter that could still put out a great tone and I ended up settling for the Roland Micro Cube amp. The Micro Cube Bass Amp is battery powered…..it runs on 6 AAA batteries, as well as begin capable of plugging into wall power. I am so impressed with this amp. I have been using it during our orchestra rehearsals when there have been parts calling for electric bass and it has been more than up to the task of competing with a 40 piece orchestra and filling up a 300 seat theater space.
This amp includes, not only the standard treble, mid and bass EQ controls that you would expect, but in addition to that there are gain, master volume and FX controls for compression, chorus, flanger, wah, delay and reverb. Also included is a drum machine with a variety of different rhythm patterns and a tap tempo control. The complete specs for the amp from Roland are listed below.
Be sure to check out my Double Bass Lessons page for a complete list of all of my lessons!
The Roland Micro Cube Bass Amp is available through Amazon.com: Roland Micro Cube Bass RX Battery-Powered Bass Combo Amp
Rated Power Output: 2.5 W + 2.5 W
Nominal Input Level (1 kHz): INPUT: -10 dBu
STEREO AUX IN: -10 dBu
MONO AUX IN: -10 dBu
Speakers: 10 cm (4 inches) x 4
POWER Switch, TUNER Switch, COMP Switch
TYPE Switch (OCTAVE BASS / SUPER FLAT / FLIP TOP / B MAN / BASS360 / SESSION / CONCERT 810 / MIC), GAIN Knob, VOLUME Knob
BASS Knob, MIDDLE Knob, TREBLE Knob, FX Knob (CHORUS/FLANGER/T-WAH)
START/STOP Switch, TAP TEMPO Switch, PATTERN Knob (METRONOME / ROCK1 /
ROCK2 / BLUES / COUNTRY / R&B / BALLAD / JAZZ / FUNK / LATIN /DANCE), VARIATION
Switch, VOLUME Knob
TUNER: TUNING METER
RHYTHM GUIDE: RHYTHM GUIDE, VARIATION
Input Jack (1/4″ phone type), Foot Switch Jack (1/4″ TRS phone type), STEREO AUX IN
Jack (Stereo miniature phone type), MONO AUX IN Jack (1/4″ phone type), REC
OUT/PHONES Jack (Stereo 1/4″ phone type), AC Adaptor Jack, Grounding Terminal
Power Supply: DC 9 V: AC Adaptor or Dry battery(*) LR6 (AA) type (alkaline) x 6 *sold separately
Current Draw: 186 mA
Accessories: Strap, Power Cord, AC Adaptor, Owner’s Manual
Options: Foot Switch (BOSS FS-5U, FS-6, FS-7), Connection Cable (PCS-31L)
Size and Weight
Width: 296 mm/ 11 11/16 inches
Depth: 207 mm/ 8 3/16 inches
Height: 294 mm/ 11 5/8 inches
Weight: 6.8 kg/ 15 lbs.
Here’s the curtain pulled back a bit with me playing the bass for my next new song due out next month, called “All Things New”. I’m trying to capture a Motown vibe. 🙂 Stay tuned for more!
Today I will be playing double bass with the Evergreen Community Orchestra’s fall concert, A Tribute to Comi-Con at 2:30 pm at Northwest Music Hall.