IK Multimedia MODO BASS · Source: http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/modobass/index.php?pp=modo-bass-images
IK Multimedia MODO BASS amplifiers · Source: http://www.ikmultimedia.com/products/modobass/index.php?pp=modo-bass-images
IK Multimedia have released what they are calling the “first physically modelled bass guitar”. That seems odd, but let’s go with it. 8 years in the making, MODO BASS models not only the physical instrument but also the way it’s played. What could they possibly mean?
Physical modelling is about creating computer models of the physical attributes of an instrument. The strings, the vibrations, the resonating materials are all defined to create a (hopefully) stunningly realistic instrument that not only sounds good but responds to the way it’s played, like a real instrument. IK Multimedia claim that this bass will also sound like it’s being played by a master musician rather than your plinky plonking on a keyboard. How are they pulling that off?
MODO BASS uses something called “modal synthesis technology” to model each string as a “nonlinear resonator”. That sounds like regular physical modelling to me. But then they claim to have modelled the action of the player as a nonlinear physical interaction. So that encompasses the event of the fingers on strings, the string to the fretboard, body and pickups. Yeah, that still sounds like regular physical modelling to me.
Trying to cut through the hyperbole, what I think they are saying is that they’ve created models of different playing types. So plucked, picked, fingered, slapped – all those methods of causing a note are modelled and applied to the instrument. Which means that the style you choose will always sounds realistic. This for me is still basic physical modelling. Any modelled instrument will include a model of the sound trigger. That’s commonly plucked, struck or bowed – it’s normal procedure. So it seems to be that IK are not being innovative and haven’t invented a method of capturing the performance of a master, they’ve simply done the hard work of modelling the different ways the strings are played. But, you know, I haven’t tried it out, I’m just going on the information provided.
They have modelled 12 bass guitars, and some lovely ones at that. Every single aspect of each bass appears to be tweakable to achieve the perfect sound. The physicality of the bass remains the same – you can choose from the 12 as your starting point. But then you can adjust the strings, the response and playing style, as well as the electronics and pickups. You can place the playing hand wherever you want and specify which fingers are used. It all then flows through an amp and effects section featuring seven stomp boxes and two bass amps, which seems a little on the low side. But I guess you can buy Amplitube 4 to beef it up a bit.
There is a script function to give MIDI control over all sorts of parameters that you can automate in real-time and key-switch between chord mode and note mode. To get the hang of what it’s offering check out the overview video below.
My personal favourite feature is that the GUI is resizable – hooray! I’ve been a bit hard on the MODO BASS because the marketing suggests groundbreaking technology, yet that doesn’t appear to stack up. However, MODO BASS looks like it’s going to be an awesomely realistic electric bass. The work that’s gone into it appears to offer a huge amount of detailed control over the sound. I have no doubt that it will sound amazing. Will it sound like it’s being played by a master? I still think it’s all down to your plinky plonky abilities. I’m still not sure what MODO stands for but hopefully it’s the start of a range of similarly modelled instruments.
MODO BASS is available for pre-order for €179.99 which is half the proposed retail price of €359.99. It’s available for MacOS and Windows in AU, VAT and AAX formats. More information is available on the IK Multimedia website.