Do you need to add a killer bass track to your new song but don’t have a bass guitar?
Or maybe you do play bass but don’t want to go through the headache of recording your own guitar?
These are just a few examples of where bass guitar software can come in handy. With high quality bass sounds at your fingertips, you can easily transform any song from mediocre into a sonic masterpiece.
The problem is that there are so many bass plugins out there and most sound very digital or are aimed more at electronic music. Replicating a real bass guitar is a tricky thing but luckily there are some great solutions.
Let’s take a look at my favorite options out there and help you find the best bass guitar VST plugins.
Short on time? IK Multimedia's MODO Bass is my number 1 choice for best bass guitar VST for its amazingly natural sound and tweaking options.
Best Bass Guitar VST Plugins
IK Multimedia MODO Bass
After being in development for 8 years in collaboration with one of Europe’s oldest universities, MODO Bass is at the very top of the list when it comes to a virtual instrument for electric bass.
Virtual instruments are usually sample-based which means that when you trigger the sound it will play the sample. The problem with this is that the sounds tend to lack that “human” touch, and they can start to sound artificial.
IK Multimedia alleviates this problem all together by creating a brand new technology that models the entire process of playing a bass and the sound that comes out. MODO Bass utilizes modal synthesis technology to model each string as a nonlinear resonator.
Once you select from one of the 14 different bass guitar models, you start by selecting your play style. With finger style you can select which fingers you play with and how much force each will use. Select slap style and every stroke will sound different - just like a real bassist.
If you select pick style you can even select the thickness of the pick and whether you will use downpicking or alternate strokes. You can even apply muting to the strings and have complete control over every aspect of it.
In addition to all this you can specify where on the strings you play. Just like on a real bass, playing near the bridge provides a more pronounced upper frequency tone, and playing closer to the neck results in a more round tone.
Next up you will select your strings.
First the number of strings and the tuning, and then what gauge they are, the age of the strings, scale length, action, and much more.
They really have thought of everything here and every attribute contributes to the final sound in an organic and realistic way.
The electronics section is where you will select the best pickup from the 24 different models and configure the wiring of the bass. You can experiment with up to 2 pickups on each bass, their position, and frequency response parameters.
Switch the electronics from passive to active and you’ll get access to a whole new EQ parameter so you can fine tune your tone.
They didn’t stop just there though.
You’ll have complete control over the signal chain and get to add in any of the 7 stomp box effects including Octaver, Distortion, Chorus, Compressor, Delay, Envelope Filter and Graphic EQ.
Using IK’s advanced non-linear modeling technology, the pedalboard not only provides ultra accurate modeling of the desired effect, but also models the interactions of the effects pedal with the others giving you a realism not found in any other software package.
Lastly, choose your amp and you’ll of course get access to all of the functions you’ll need like EQ, gain structure, and tons of other fine-tuning options.
Overall, MODO Bass is an outstanding plugin and probably the best out there for what it does. The sounds and subtle nuances are so realistic you’ll be convinced that you recorded a real bass.
If you can't record your own bass and if you are looking for a virtually modeled bass guitar that sounds very realistic with control over pretty much every aspect imaginable, this definitely gets my vote for best bass guitar VST.
Having first appeared in 2010, Trilian is still one of the most well known and highly regarded bass VST’s available.
It comes with a massive 34 GB library filled with electronic, acoustic guitars, synthesized, and experimental bass sounds.
Selecting your bass is easy - just go to the browser and sort by category, type, model, or technique. On the main page you’ll find the most useful settings for the bass like compressor settings, EQ, and mix settings.
If you crave more control you can go into a deeper edit menu to control modulation, soundsource, filter, envelope, LFO’s, and you can even add a 2nd layer to create a more complex sound if needed.
On the FX page you get access to over 30 original effects like gates, phasers, compressors, delays, and reverbs. Each one is in rack form so you can easily adjust all the settings with the knobs in the interface.
The arpeggiator is the last section where you get 32 total steps, and you’ll have access to a variety of modes, triggers, and clock signatures. You can also drag MIDI files into the program to have them played back using whichever instrument you want.
Where Trilian really shines is with its acoustic and synth bass sounds. It’s one of the very few plugins on the market that allows you to play a very realistic sounding double bass, and it’s certainly the best.
Although the program has aged quite a bit, the sounds have definitely stood the test of time and continue to shine.
Native Instruments - Scarbee Bass
Scarbee Bass is a virtual instrument that is powered by Kontakt, a VST plugin.
Kontakt 5 Player is free and luckily the Scarbee Bass plugins can be used by it, although you will have to purchase each individual bass guitar model you want for between $69 and $99.
These models include the Rickenbacker Bass, Jay-Bass, Pre-Bass, Pre-Bass Amped, MM-Bass, and MM-Bass amped.
Although it’s not necessary, you can upgrade to the full version of Kontakt which will allow you to arrange, edit, loop, slice, and time-stretch samples using seven playback modes. Plus, it will give you access to 84 different effects and 43 GB of high-quality samples to use in your mix.
Thomas Hansen Skarbye is a sampling expert who has developed a large majority of the instrument packages available over Native Instruments.
Let’s take the Scarbee Jay-Bass package for example which is an authentic rendition of the legendary Fender Jazz Bass.
It recreates all the sonic intricacies of the Jazz Bass in both slapped and fingered playing styles, delivering a huge variety of tones suitable for almost every genre. All four strings of the original instrument have been sampled in nine different velocities, resulting in over 4,000 individual studio-grade samples.
The sounds were recorded through a DI to retain the distinctive original character of the instrument, using round-wound strings for a bright and punchy sound.
There are also profiles for various genres, including EQ and effects controls, which allow musicians and producers the ability to further customize the sound and behavior of Jay-Bass to fit the musical context.
There’s a unique scripting feature inside of Kontakt that allows for many subtle nuances to come through. Things like harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and fret noises are automatically triggered and add a distinctly human element to the playing.
The Rickenbacker Bass is one of my favorites, and it sounds incredible. It’s the first Scarbee bass to be played with a pick and it captures all the crisp and defined midrange of the iconic Rickenbacker 4003 guitar which has been captured on many top-selling rock albums.
A Kontakt effects chain then adds a Jump amplifier from Guitar Rig, a tape saturator, EQ, and compressor for an unrivaled tone.
If you know exactly what kind of electric bass you want in your mix and don’t need all the frills and hundreds of other options, Scarbee bass plugins will be the best bass guitar VST option for you.
Ilya Efimov Bass
Just like Scarbee Bass above, the Ilya Efimov bass plugins require Kontakt in order to be used, although you will need the full version to support these bass sounds.
The company was founded in 2010 by Ilya Efimov - a well known composer, songwriter, producer, and jazz pianist from Russia. While he continues to work on major motion picture films, Ilya is currently focused on sample library creation.
For around $100 for each instrument, you can purchase a Rock Bass, Modern Bass, Classic Bass, Fretless Bass, and Retro Bass.
If we take for example the Classic Bass, it is modeled after the Fender Precision Bass Guitar`72 release. They recorded 12 dynamic layers for each fret on each string with various playing techniques and articulations.
With fingered, slap, palm-mute and additional articulations, you can quickly edit your MIDI notes or play in real time while a sophisticated algorithm runs in the background to add in the subtle nuances in playing.
For the convenience of composer and arrangers, several Legato modes, Open String mode, Chord Detection mode and an X-note mode have been added.
The bass sounds here are very natural. The only downside is the required purchase of the full Kontakt software which can be a little expensive, but if you already have it then the Ilya Efimov bass plugins are well worth a look.
AmpleSound Ample Bass
Ample Bass is an AU, VST, AAX or RTAS host application that also comes with a stand-alone plugin.
Just like Scarbee and Ilya Efimov basses listed above, you will buy each individual bass instrument you want to use, and they run from between $119 and $169 each.
Some of the options available are Metal Ray5, Bass Upright II, Bass Acoustic II, Bass Yinyang II, Bass J II, Bass P II, along with some extension libraries for things like funk variations or picking style instead of the default fingerstyle.
I’m absolutely in love with all the bass sounds here, especially the upright, acoustic, and Yinyang basses.
Articulations are numerous here and include things like sustain, palm mute, natural harmonics, hammer-ons, pull-offs, legato slides, pops, slaps, taps, dead notes, and many others.
The string roll editor shows all your fingering, articulation, expression, and playing noise. Here you can easily adjust things like velocity, vibrato, legato, and so on.
One nifty feature is the random riff generator which will create a brand new lick for you based on analyzing different musical scores. The results here are very convincing and don’t just sound like a random mashup of notes.
Using the tab player you can load in many formats of guitar and bass tabulature which will then be played back using your bass sound. It supports all the fingering, looping, chords, articulations and other markers in the loaded tablature.
All in all it’s a fantastic bass VST and you don’t need any other expensive software just to run it which is a huge plus.
Final Verdict - Best Bass Guitar VST
As you can see, each of these plugins brings their own special sauce to the table and they all have great sounds.
Which one is best for you though?
If you are looking for the newest, absolute best, most well-rounded bass guitar software with endless tweaking options, IK Multimedia MODO Bass is for you. It will produce the most natural and realistic sounding tones, and you’ll be able to dig deep into the guts of the guitar to fine tune it to your exact specifications.
If you want a huge time-tested library filled to the bring with great electric, acoustic, and synth bass sounds, Trilian is worth a look.
When you know exactly what kind of bass you want in your mix and don’t need tons of options for tweaking the sound, definitely check out Ilya Efimov, Scarbee, and Ample Bass. Take a listen through the bass sample sounds online and see if one speaks to you.
Ample Bass has a leg up on the others I think for the fact that it has acoustic bass, double bass, standalone software, and a tab player, but if you find a bass sound you like in the other packages you really can’t go wrong.