No matter what style of music you make, whether it’s indie rock, hip-hop, or drum and bass, sometimes you need a live-sounding bass for a track. You could spend a lot of money and hire a session player, or you could try and program a bass line yourself using samples. Or you could make use of UJAM’s Virtual Bassist series, now updated to version 2.
Combining deep samples, AI, and a host of sound customization parameters, the three entries in UJAM’s Virtual Bassist series aim to provide the producer with electric and acoustic bass solutions. Each entry in the series covers a different genre. There’s Rowdy, for hard rock applications, Mellow, an acoustic double bass aimed at jazz and urban genres, and Royal, a fingered electric that covers a wide range of musical styles. This review is of the bundle that includes them all.
Although there are three separate Virtual Bassist plugins, there are commonalities across all of them. In the center of the GUI is the Player section. To the left are the phrases, and to the right is the play range. Hold down a key with your left hand to select either Style Phrases, which are unique to that instrument, or Common Phrases, which are shared across all three. Use your right hand to play the notes based on the phrase. Select the chord and key to determine the appropriate root note. Notes can be latched to free up your hands, and phrases can be dragged directly into your DAW (new in version 2). You can also adjust the timing and the force on the strings.
Additional options like vibrato or the amount of dampening may or may not be available, depending on the instrument. It’s all very seamless and intuitive, and you’ll soon be whipping up appropriate bass lines in no time. And, if you’re a dab hand at programming, you can switch it over to instrument mode (new in version 2) and program everything yourself.
In the middle is the tone-shaping section. Each instrument has its own parameters tailored to the intended genre, so we’ll cover them in more detail below.
At the bottom is the mixer section, with controls for equalization and compression. There’s an octaver to add harmonies and a drop D tuning button for more bass weight. Lastly, the Finisher dial allows you to introduce an effect, such as flange or filtering, although the specific effects available differ depending on the instrument.
Let’s look at the individual instruments next.
Virtual Bassist – Rowdy
As the name implies, Rowdy is for harder-edged genres like rock, metal, and punk. This is reflected in the style phrases as well as the sound, which is picked. In the tone-shaping section, we have both fuzz and drive dials, which can really rip up the sound. Character is controlled with four settings that range from tame to hard.
There’s likely a lot happening under the hood here, and a little more control wouldn’t have gone amiss, but the focus is on dialing in good sounds quickly, and Rowdy (and indeed all the Virtual Bassist instruments) sounds excellent. Lastly, we’re given control over the type of amp, with three options as well as direct input for a clean sound.
Virtual Bassist – Mellow
Mellow is an acoustic double bass and has a lovely, full-bodied tone. It’s aimed primarily at jazz and R&B, and this is reflected in the Style Phrases, many of which are not in 4/4 time signatures. The tone options include fingering position (from neck to bridge), a room dial that adds body noise as well, a set of five character settings (from soft to tight), and the microphone position.
Virtual Bassist – Royal
Lastly, Virtual Bassist Royal is an all-purpose fingered electric bass. It’s the least specialized of the three, with phrases that include everything from pop to funk and reggae to disco. Tone shaping controls include pickup position, drive, character, and amp, with rock, soul, pop, and direct options available.
UJAM’s Virtual Bassist 2 Bundle does precisely what it claims: it helps you quickly craft useful and great-sounding bass lines in the style that you need. The plugins are easy to use, and their GUIs, it has to be said, are gorgeous. If I were only going to buy one, I would likely go with Royal, as it has the broadest appeal. However, with the bundle, you get all three at a discounted price.
If you’re looking for a bass solution that includes MIDI phrases as well as bass sounds, UJAM’s Virtual Bassist 2 Bundle comes highly recommended. If you already own UJAM Virtual Bassist 1, this is a must-have upgrade.
More info: Virtual Bassist 2 ($129 per instrument, $269 bundle price, $/€ 29 single instrument and $/€ 59 bundle upgrades for users of version 1)
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Virtual Bassist 2 Review
Virtual Bassist 2 Bundle is a great-sounding bass guitar solution applicable to any number of genres. Highly recommended.