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Bass players shouldn’t use pedals...

Should bass players use effect pedals? It’s always interesting to see reactions guitarists have when they see a bass player laying down a huge pedalboard on stage or in the rehearsal studio. They must be thinking that bass players shouldn't use pedals at all, and there is also a face of disbelief that follows. Once the initial reaction wears off, they start to get interested in the setup and gaze at the pedalboard like it’s a spaceship.

All the kidding aside, there is a question that rises: should bass players use pedals?

In my opinion the short answer would be: YES. There is something that fuels the myth though. Bass is not the ideal instrument for pedals coloring, and people are just not that used to hearing effects on bass, unlike some of the guitar effects which even non musicians can distinguish in famous songs.

Compression

This is a pedal guitarists rarely use. Bass players love it as it doesn't color (much) the tone. It deals with the dynamics and it perfectly suits the nature of the bass. This is one of those pedals every bassist should have in his pedalboard.

Distortion

Now this is a pedal a lot of bass players like to use. The main difference in relation to the guitar version of it is that bass one usually has a blend knob. It is used to control the mix between dry bass sound and a colored distorted tone. This prevents the loss of powerful bass low end, yet allows for distorted coloring to add dirt.

Envelope filter

This is a popular pedal type among funk bass players. It has a signature funky sound, it sound like a sort of auto wah. DOD FX25 is a vintage pedal that Flea used in jamming sections of his famous instructional video shot with Chad Smith. To be honest, this pedal, although fun, won't get much usage in real songs.

EQ pedal

This one can get handy but bass players usually have enough EQ control on the amp and the bass itself, especially if it features an active preamp built-in.

Chorus

This pedal can sound cool for 80s Mark King style of bass lines, but it needs to be used very subtly. It can quickly suck out all your bass tone and make it sound muddy.

Wah-wah

We rarely see a bass player using a wah pedal, but it can sound fun if used on funky slap lines. Also, slow sweeps of the pedal can bring up a cool effect for the bass sections that need that extra mojo.

Tuner

Ok, this is a pedal that every bass player should have. You'll use it all the time!

Flanger

This one can sound cool with distortion and double stops that emulate power chords, but you probably won't be using it much.

Preamp

Ok, preamp pedals are great on bass. These can color the sound very nicely and provide you with a range of natural sounding tones emulating different amp characters. You can use these pedals for boosting signal too, as well as recording. These pedals often have a di-out built-in, that comes in handy. This is a sort of must have pedal in your setup.

Di-box

Must have pedal for recording and on-stage use. Always have a quality di-box unit in your pedalboard. You'll use this pedal all the time.

Conclusion

Bass pedals need to be used both tastefully. Bass sounds great dry, so be careful not to color the tone too much and therefore effectively ruin it. Don't get discouraged by what guitarists tell, and start building your pedalboard. Bassists should have fun with pedals, why not?

Do you think that bass players should use pedals? What do you think are the most essential pedals to have in your pedalboard? Which bass pedals do you own? Post in the comments.

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