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Native Instruments Session Bassist: Prime Bass – The Synth and Software Review
Victor Wooten: “The bass is the link between harmony and rhythm. It is the foundation of a band. It is what all the other instruments stand upon.”
I’ve always felt that a solid bass line is one of the most important components in my music, so when Native Instruments announced a brand new groove-based sample library focused exclusively on the bass, I was all ears!
Session Bassist: Prime Bass is the latest addition to the excellent Session Guitarist series created by sample developer Drumasonic in collaboration with Native Instruments. Prime Bass works with Kontakt Player and Kontakt and is fully NKS compliant for seamless integration within Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol hardware ecosystem.
The library, which is downloaded and authorized through NI’s Native Access app, comes in just shy of 10Gb. That should make for a relatively fast download and install process for most.
For those unfamiliar with the Session Guitarist series, the instruments feature a variety of performance patterns to fit styles ranging from pop to rock to funk to country and more, with many variations in between. All the patterns automatically conform to the host DAW’s tempo and provide several real-time controls to allow fine tuning of the performances to match your desired result.
Prime Bass was recorded with a 1970s style Fender Precision bass. The instrument’s pickup signal was recorded through the DI input of a vintage Universal Audio M-610 preamp. They placed mics above the strings to capture the acoustic sound to add presence and clarity. The result is a punchy sound with plenty of low end and midrange to cut through even very crowded mixes.
Prime Bass comes jam packed with over 350 discrete performance patterns with round-robin variants and velocities in multiple fret positions over the range of three octaves. The patterns are in turn grouped into 81 song presets, each containing four to six patterns each.
Patterns can be changed on the fly through Keyswitches, and the various patterns can be dragged and dropped into the DAW for additional MIDI editing or to assign them to other instruments. All in all, there are plenty of options here to cover not only most musical styles, but also for customizing the patterns to fit your needs.
Launch. Starting the library for the first time, I was greeted with the familiar and intuitive layout that all the Session Guitarist instruments share: a window in the center can be clicked to access all of the Song Presets.
A large Keyswitch layout panel lets you select and identify the various patterns quickly, and four tabs access the Patterns, Bass Settings, Amps & FX, and Playback settings. There’s another panel for the assignments and status of the real-time controls, plus a handy Octave Down switch. Yet another panel provides access to a number of pre-configured signal effect chains.
Depending on the pattern, a Phrase/One Pitch toggle becomes active. That lets you “collapse” patterns over a range of notes down to only the root.
Mid-tempo rocking out. I wanted to create a mid-tempo Rock track. The Song Browser includes a number of filter tabs to help narrow down the desired styles – rock, RnB, Latin, funk, reggae, blues, electro, even Disco. You can also choose slap, pick and finger, as well as options for 4/4, 3/4 and triplet patterns.
I selected the Classic Rocker and the Anti-Bass songs (loaded on two instances of Kontakt), which gave me access to a good variety of bass lines. To match the sonic characteristics between the two presets, Prime Bass provides a helpful Sound Preset dropdown menu with a variety of effect and amp signal chains.
I went with Modern Tube, which gave the patterns a nice grit while retaining their clarity and presence. The Amps & FX tab has up to seven slots that can be filled with effect pedals and amp and cabinet emulations.
I did want to play in some specific melodic fills. Helpfully, Prime Bass includes a Melody instrument, which features a full three-octave playable keyboard layout. It has some very nifty features, such as the ability to switch to higher fret positions for a more mellow tone. Very cool!
Funky. For my next track I opted for a slap-heavy funky vibe (think Fishbone or early Peppers). There are many excellent funk-styled selections, and I chose Funky Thumb, Funky Fingers, and Spicy Funk. Quickly putting together a funky jam was fun and creatively rewarding.
I also pulled up Electric Sunburst from the Session Guitarist series, along with a couple of handy funk guitar solos from Logic Pro’s Apple Loops to fill in the rest of the band.
Synthy. Lastly, I wanted to try Prime Bass within a scored context, and here Prime Bass truly surprised me. Reaching for some of the more esoteric FX chains can completely transform the tone of the instrument into the realm of synths.
Pulling up the Night Rider song and processing it with the Roads (Flageolet) FX chain gave the track a Moog vibe. I used Ride On with a more traditional Wide Mics FX chain as my primary bass line.
The stunning High Above song added a noodling and moody melodic component to the track, and using the Melody instruments in Poly mode I was able to add chordal structures. Yes, everything you’re hearing in the following track is Prime Bass only!
Bottom line. I found Session Bassist: Prime Bass to be a very useful library that lends itself to a wide variety of musical needs. As much as I enjoy crafting bass lines from scratch, it would be quite difficult and time-consuming to replicate the feel and nuance of some of these patterns accurately.
While I do miss the omission of Jazz patterns, I suspect that this is not the last bass-centric offering that Drumasonic has planned (and if they’re reading this review, please consider doing a fretless bass library next). I also found myself wishing for a way to preview the various patterns without loading them, another request.
Prime Bass offers both quick-rewards and much more nuanced and highly customizable sounds to those willing to deep-dive into what it can do. It’s the next best thing to hiring a professional session bassist, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to inject tight grooves and realistic bass performances into their tracks.