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Tutorial: Korn Bass Tone Recording and Mixing

Few years ago, I watched a mixing video Masterclass by Frederic Duquesne, which I already knew from Watcha, one of the first (if not the first) French Nu-Metal band, in early 90’s. In the video, he speak about his mixing process. When it comes to the bass, he explained that they found (he doesn’t mention how), back in the days, how Korn, nu-metal pioneer, got their distinctive percussive bass sounds. Ovisouly: low A tuning, active pickups, fresh strings, play style (agressive slap)… But he refers to a “secret” ingredient, explained in a short 2 minutes sequence, 32 minutes after the start of the video.

The main idea is to use a condenser mic in front of the strings, to have a track with all the clicks from the strings, and mix that to the regular DI + Amp sim or Amp + Mic signal for the low end. He doesn’t explain how he found out, but when he showcased this on a Mass Hysteria track, another french metal band, I though: this is it! It does sound like Korn! You can hear Korn bass sound on the bass solo on Freak on Leach, linked below.

To be honnest, I can’t be certain that Fieldy (Korn’s Bassist) really used this trick because Fred doesn’t show his sources, and I never found a definitive proof of Korn using this trick in studio (no interview, no video from studio, and they don’t use it live for sure). But it definitely goes way closer to it than any other method I know, without requiring to have Fieldy’s signature Bass and favorite strings set, though it seems it could be possible by having new set of strings at every session, as it was the case for Ample Sound Metal Ray5 virtual bass, which definitely succeed to have a Korn-like sound, without micing the strings. I would ask Ross Robinson (Korn mixing engineer back in the days) if I could.

Anyway, this condenser mic trick definitely sounds awesome, and it can be used on different genre and open the door to experimentation, so it is a nice trick to know! I used this on most of my metal tracks since then, and always got positive feedback about my bass sounds.

But, I never saw a video with someone showcasing this trick but Fred’s video. And I only meet only one other person who knew the trick (and he also seems to only swear by it as). That is why we, with Friops decided to make a tutorial showcasing it!

For the tutorials, we recreated from scratch Korn’s B.B.K breakdown part, with precise tempo mapping to get a nice programmed light show, and shot the different steps of the process. I did video editing, and we put Recording part on Friops channel, and Mixing part on mine. Despite these tutorials being kinda shorts, it took quite few days and effort to make them sounds and looks as good as it deserved to be, and to explain all this in this detailed article. Here is the result!

Part 1 : recording (on Friops channel)

Part 2 : mixing (on my tutorial channel)

  • Friops: Bass, Light Show
  • X-Raym: Guitar, Mix, Video
  • Original song: Korn – B.B.K.

Check the YouTube descriptions of the videos above to have more info about Korn history, and detailed credits.

In the mixing part, I showcase how I use saturation on the string track, just cause I love the sound of it. It’s a trick I first used in another of my song, which has one of the most brutal bass tone I ever made.

I didn’t showcase my FX settings cause it doesn’t matter: just adjust to your instrument, and to your taste, as long as the two different bass tracks (DI/Amp and strings) blend well, and that the bass group is well integrated in the mix (take extra care about how it complement the kick). Consider this tutorial series as an invitation to slap your bass hard, and bring back this nice bass tone back!