Effects pedals are accessories designed so that musicians can expand their possibilities when playing their instrument. Most of these pedals are made for the electric guitar, and within them, we can find an endless number of different effects, including EQs, distortions, modulations, and many other variants.
On the other hand, there are also many pedals designed for electric bass, among which it is more common to find compressors and distortions. In any case, many pedals originally designed for guitar can be used on bass because the layout and the way of playing the sound of both instruments are the same.
The bass plays a determining role in most musical styles since, together with the drum, it is in charge of defining the musical structure of a song. This means that its sound needs to be well-defined in terms of character and presence. Due to this, the pedals used with the bass tend to accentuate these attributes and not modify them radically, as often happens with the electric guitar.
Is it Okay to Use Guitar Pedals For Bass?
Using guitar pedals on bass is totally possible. Although there are pedals specially created to be used with the bass, the guitar pedals are equally functional in both instruments. Using different effects and experimenting with them can broaden the way you make music and give you new sounds.
Within the guitar pedals, we can find many variants, some of which can be perfectly adapted to the sound of the bass. An octave pedal is very useful for bassists with a jazzy style since it allows them to get higher notes when doing a solo or playing a certain arrangement.
The compression pedal is widely used among bassists due to the dynamic range that this instrument has. The low bass notes can generate gain levels that, if not well controlled, will become noise. With a compressor, what is achieved is that the signal begins to attenuate when it exceeds a certain volume level, which results in a more balanced sound.
A tuner is a pedal that you will see present in both bassists and guitarists, and it is essential for musicians when it comes to rehearsing or playing live. Unlike any other type of tuner, the pedal tuner has the particularity that when activated, it mutes the sound output so that the musician cannot be heard until he has tuned his instrument. They usually have a screen and LEDs that mark the tuning visually.
In addition to the pedals that are usually more common, there are many other effects that, although it is rare to hear them with a bass, there is no rule or norm that prevents you from doing so. At this point, it’s a matter of judgment and personal taste, so if you’re interested in experimenting with sounds, the world of effects pedals offers a long catalog of options for your music.
In What Order Do You Place The Effect Pedals?
Although it is possible to place the pedals in any order you prefer, modulations such as chorus, phaser, or flanger are usually placed at the beginning of the chain, distortions or overdrives in the second order, and lastly, delay and reverbs. Following this order, you will get a well-balanced sound.
In the case of having tuning pedals or equalizers, these would go even before the modulations. What is sought with this is that the effects that radically modify the signal are the first to come into action, replicating or increasing the already processed signal through delay or reverb.
If, for example, you use a delay at the beginning of the chain, making the signal repeat several times and then process it with a chorus or flanger, it would be like processing several guitars at the same time. Since pedals often add some gain to the signal, altering the order this way could result in an uncontrollable sound with too many dynamics.
While there will always be variations when you change the chain of effects and achieve other results, it is generally recommended to stick to that default order. In this way, the signal emitted by both the guitar and the bass will sound properly.
How Many Effect Pedals Can Be Used on One Bass?
The most common setup for a bassist is made up of a compression or equalizer pedal, a distortion pedal, and, optionally, a wah pedal. Although this may vary, these are the options most used by bassists when playing musical genres such as rock, pop, jazz, and soul.
The bass only requires a few pedals since you risk losing its presence by modifying its sound too much. However, many musicians choose to add effects pedals that are rare to give their sound another nuance, especially in genres where the bass plays a more prominent role.
Although it is completely optional, as a bassist, you can have the number of pedals you consider necessary. However, it is best not to use more than two or three pedals simultaneously. Each new pedal added to the effects chain subtracts from the sound of the bass, losing definition in the low frequencies that are the key to making any bass sound proper.
Because of this, the best option will always be to experiment with how sounds affect your instrument and how different pedal combinations modify that sound. You must consider the bass’s role in the music you will play. While the bass may sound innovative and different after going through the effects chain, it may also not have the character that the music you are playing needs. With that in mind, it will be much easier to decide how many pedals you should use.
Is it Okay to Use a Guitar Amp For The Bass?
It is possible to use a bass in a guitar amp as long as it is used at low volume levels. However, it is not recommended since the bass emits frequencies with a higher gain level than the guitar amps can support, running the risk of damaging the speaker.
The low frequencies produced by the bass can generate high levels of vibration. When a bass is played at a high volume level, the amplifier’s sound goes through a speaker prepared to withstand the low frequencies’ vibration.
The speakers of the bass amplifiers are reinforced with a thick cloth mesh that prevents the structure from suffering any damage, unlike guitar speakers, which are usually made of a cardboard-like material. So using a bass in a guitar amp will initially generate a distorted sound, and eventually, it will break down, leaving your speaker useless.
On the other hand, if you try to use a guitar in a bass amp, you won’t encounter any problems. There are not too many differences in terms of circuitry inside a guitar and a bass amp. But if you found marked differences between their speakers.
How to Improve The Sound of Your Bass?
To make your bass sound the best possible, you can upgrade its pickups, change bad strings, use properly insulated cables, and calibrate it every so often. The amp you use will play an important role, so if you upgrade, it will also improve the audio of your bass.
- Use Appropriate Strings
If you haven’t changed the strings on your bass for a long time, you will instantly notice the difference in sound when you put new strings on. The new strings will noticeably enhance brightness, definition, and sustain. The ideal under normal conditions of use is to change the strings every three or four months, which is when they begin to lose their sound properties. As a bonus, keeping the strings clean and using products that protect them from moisture will lengthen their durability.
- Check Cables Condition
The cables you use will define the sound quality of your bass signal. Using cheap cables can result in noise or signal interference and even faster deterioration of its components. The cables you use are the connections between the different devices and those responsible for transporting the signal clearly, so it is important to invest in good quality cables. The pedals’ patch cables require the same quality to maintain the signal’s integrity throughout the circuit.
- Calibrate Your Instrument
Calibration consists of adjusting the mechanical parameters of the bass so that it can sound correctly, without fretting or out of tune, and simultaneously be played comfortably. Each new instrument must go through the calibration process, and at the same time, it is advisable to repeat it from time to time, depending on the frequency of use. If you change the gauge of the strings you use, it is also recommended to calibrate the instrument to adjust the tension of the truss rod.
- Upgrade Your Amp
The amplifier through which you will reproduce the sound will play a fundamental role. A tube amplifier has more power and clarity than a solid-state one. As a general rule, the higher the sound quality, the higher the amplifier’s price. However, it is something that you have to take into consideration when investing in improving your sound.
Are Analog Pedals Better Than Digital Ones?
The analog pedals have the Same performance as digital ones. They’re not better; they have a different way of working. In addition, they are usually more sought after because the sound of an analog pedal is considered more natural than digital sound.
On the other hand, the sound of digital pedals is considered by many musicians as more synthetic. While the difference can be very subtle, there are those who put analog pedals above for quality and those who find digital pedals a cheaper and more versatile option.
For example, a digital multi-effects pedal can be summed up as a standard-size pedal, with its different options and settings stored in the software. On the other hand, an analog multi-effect pedal needs more components and space to house them, and at the same time, it is a device with a higher construction cost, which makes digital options more convenient in some cases.
Another feature that gives a digital pedal greater versatility is the ability to edit sound banks through a computer. Some multi-effects pedal manufacturers offer various amps and effect emulator options that can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. Thanks to this, you can edit the parameters and the emulation options, expanding the sound possibilities.
Beyond this, you can currently find digital pedals that almost perfectly emulate the sound of analog ones. Beyond this, analog pedals have the reputation of being the most sought-after option when choosing effect pedals. And this is because its way of processing sound is more direct, through electronic circuits that alter the signal, without any emulation during this process.
Can You Improve The Sound of Your Bass With Pedals?
If you use the right pedals, it is possible to highlight and even enhance the virtues of your bass. Some pedals can modify specific aspects of your instrument’s sound as well. This makes it possible to achieve a sound that best suits different situations.
A good example of this is EQ pedals. These pedals usually have knobs that allow you to increase and decrease frequencies individually. In the case of bass, if the pickups you have do not have the necessary definition, or you want the mid and high frequencies to have a greater presence, through a few simple adjustments, you can modify the parameters to achieve the appropriate result.
Something similar happens with Compression pedals. These help the output of your bass to have more body and a more controlled dynamic. It is also possible to use the compression pedal as a booster thanks to the gain knob that they usually include, allowing you to add more strength to the signal when you consider it necessary. Because of this, EQ and compression pedals are usually the most used among bassists.
Distortion pedals can achieve great results if it is well applied to your bass. A slight level of distortion in the signal can give your bass a much more defined presence, as long as you don’t overuse the gain. This resource is widely used in hard rock and funk rock genres.
It is good to remember that any improvement you achieve through pedals also depends on the amplifier you use. Depending on the type and model, the amps usually behave differently with effect pedals. So if a combination of pedals works well with one amp and sounds right for you, switching to another amp can have totally different results. This could be useful; it will help you develop good judgment when building your sound.
Do Pedals Work Better With an Active Bass?
The pedals work the same way with passive and active basses, so there are no differences when applying effects. The active bass has some functions that differentiate it from a passive one, but at the same time, it depends on a battery to function properly.
An active bass has a preamp on its pickups that allows you to have extra gain in your sound. At the same time, active basses usually include equalizers to regulate high and low frequencies through knobs. These extra functions that the active bass has are possible thanks to the inclusion of a battery responsible for powering the pickups.
On the other hand, the passive bass offers a lower gain level but a warm and full-bodied sound, with a more analog character, unlike the active one, which is usually brighter and more defined. Beyond this, many bassists still prefer passive basses, which are responsible for that famous vintage sound. As an advantage, the passive bass does not need regular battery replacement since its pickups do not require internal preamplification. Because of this, you can use effects pedals on both active and passive basses without noticing huge differences in sound. On the other hand, active bass offers a higher gain level than passive bass, which can be reflected in a louder signal.
When experimenting with effects to achieve new sounds, it’s always worth being willing to do things slightly differently, as this will lead to other results.
Through the pedals, you can obtain an almost unlimited number of possibilities, and it is up to you to explore them and develop that criterion that makes you realize when something sounds good and when it doesn’t. Although the bass is an instrument that is not usually seen with a leading character, within music, you can always push the limits a little more.
Opening yourself up to that kind of experimentation within the music can take you to very interesting places, so it’s always a good idea to spend some time on that kind of pursuit. I hope this article is useful for you. Thanks for your time!
I am a composer, session musician and producer based in Argentina, with more than 18 years of experience in music. I play guitar, bass, kyboards and sax, I was part of different projects and I am familiar with musical genres like rock, pop, soul, reggae, funk, r&b, cumbia and others. Read more..