What Is a Bass Guitar Pedal?
Bass pedals, otherwise known as stompboxes, are small packages of fun that add new sounds to your bass guitar setup. Most of the effects they create simply couldn’t be replicated by running your instrument cable straight into an amp.
Much like guitar pedals, these bass equivalents shape your tone in exciting and sometimes experimental ways. Other times they’re used to enhance your current sound with just a few minor tweaks.
There are endless opportunities to tinker with the help of a few effects. Bassists of all levels and backgrounds will benefit from a pedal or two, from hardcore tone-chasers to casual bedroom jammers.
Why Do I Need a Bass Guitar Pedal?
At the end of the day. everyone wants to make their instrument sound “better” or more interesting to the ear. This can certainly be achieved with just the one stompbox, let alone a whole pedalboard full of effects.
Some pedals are used to create a smooth grounded tone, others make it aggressive and punchy, and there are a few that can shape your complete sound without the use of a bass amp, called preamps. At the other end of the spectrum, the likes of modulation and pitch shifting pedals open up new realms of tonal possibilities. Many draw inspirations from ambient guitar sounds and washy textures used in everything from metal to funk, rock and even film scores.
We’ll go into more detail below about specific types of effects pedals available in the Andertons range.
How Do I Use a Bass Guitar pedal?
How you put a bass pedal to use is completely up to you and depends on the arrangement you play in. In most band setups, bass guitars hold down the rhythm and low end, compared to the acoustic or electric guitar melody makers. Therefore, the pedals are mainly used to prop up the quality of your tone and focus the frequencies you’re using. In other circumstances, you might want to put your instrument front and centre with bigger, expansive effects.
Using bass pedals in a practical sense is super simple. To set up a stompbox, simply plug your bass into the pedal and plug another cable into your amp from the output jack. If you have more than one pedal, you’ll want to link them up with shorter patch cables.
Most of the time, this method can be applied before the sound signal even reaches the amp. There are some bass amps, however, that contain effects loops. These are extremely handy as you can place all of your wacky modulated or time-based effects in between the preamp and power amp stages in order to get a cleaner, defined sound.
What are the Best Bass Guitar Pedals?
Bass guitar pedals come in many shapes and sizes from a whole host of brands. Some of you will no doubt want a straight-to-the-point, simple pedal. Others will want a stompbox with options aplenty. Maybe you’re after a multi-FX unit housing a number of effects.
Popular brands include the old faithful Boss - legendary among guitar circles as well as bass. Darkglass dominate the high-end market with their sublime overdrives, distortions and and intricate EQs. Stompbox pioneers Electro Harmonix, meanwhile, offer a more price-friendly access point into the world of pedals. You’ll hear wondrous, colourful tones and downright dirty distortions in equal measure, from affordable kit up to boutique models.
Overdrive, fuzz and distortion pedals are your bass bread and butter. They’re pretty much an essential item you need to have in your bass rig. Even if you love the natural sound of your instrument plugged straight into an amp, any type of pedal that boosts gain is handy in propping up a big chorus or changing the intensity of a song.
All three of these pedal types differ in noticeable ways, despite their general grouping. Overdrive is your standard, gritty tonebox - great for punchy rock tones and classic tube amp flavour. Fuzz sounds a lot fatter, engulfing and on some occasions, fizzier. Distortion takes everything up to 11. These are your beefy metal tones.
Preamp pedals work the same way as the front panel of your amp. Use a preamp to dial in a general tone with EQ controls, gain and volume. Preamps work well as a style of overdrive and as a portable amp solution. In most circumstances, a live venue will provde you with a speaker cabinet – all you need to bring are the preamp and power amp. Rock up, plug into the cab and/or front of house PA system and you’re good to go. All you need to play a show in just a bags-worth of gear.
Compression isn’t as glamorous as a jangly chorus, shimmering reverb or spacey delay. But it does provide an arguably more impressive effect you’ll want to apply to almost every playing situation. As the name suggests, it compresses the dynamic range of a bass by narrowing the frequency threshold.
Put simply, it makes the loud bits softer, and the softer bits louder. This evens out your playing so your subtleties aren’t lost, and your big brash parts don’t swamp any other instruments in a mix.
Some of the biggest brands in the compressor game include the luxurious Keeley Electronics, pedal giants MXR and quality Origin Effects.
Compression is just as common for guitar as it is bass, and therefore you can use regular guitar compressors to equally great effect - but these bass versions are dialled in to handle the lower registers that little bit better.
If you’re after a handy way to get loads of effects in the one unit, this is it. Bass multi FX pedals are great for a number of reasons. One – they’re relatively cost effective. While you can easily pay into the £1000s for individual pedals, a unit from the likes of Boss will contain everything you could buy separately for less and probably offer more.
Two – they are lighter and more portable than your standard pedalboard setup. While you’ll need lots of patch cables and power supply for a big collection of pedals, you just need the one multi FX unit to produce the equivalent sounds with even more flexibility in rearranging signal chain, rather than doing this task manually.
Yes, some players will prefer a more eclectic style of effects, but a multi FX unit is certainly an attractive proposition on a budget or as an all-in-one option.
Filter stompboxes curve your EQ similar to a wah, seemingly raising the pitch in places as you affect the dynamics in play. What it’s actually doing is ‘filtering’ the frequencies being produced in the sound, giving off the impression your guitar tone is travelling through a long, warped tunnel.
These curious pedals are generally used in two specific ways: the first is to fine-tune your frequencies, making your bass pop in a mix without altering the volume. The second is to go full-hog and get the quacky, funky R&B tone. You’ll need to increase the settings on your filter to intensify the effect twofold. But once you’ve dialled it in precisely, those slaps, picks and plucks will really shine.
What Bass Guitar Pedal Should I Buy?
There are more options for bassists to alter or approach sound curation than meets the eye. Many touring musicians prefer a stripped back rig which you can take from gig to gig and plug into the PA system. A preamp pedal, which is essentially your complete rig in a box, is a relatively inexpensive and creative way of going about it.
If you already have a preamp pedal, or prefer the old school amp and cab setup, then you’ll definitely benefit from a fuzz, overdrive or distortion. One of these bad boys will add a new dimension to your standard tone. The same goes for compressors. They are a great way to bring a refined quality to your sound.
If you’re looking to incorporate more prominent bass lines into your music, a filter, modulation octave or even synth pedal will set you apart from the crowd.