Traditionally bassists have played clean, but it's becoming more and more common to use effects. You may be familiar with effects used on guitar, but which ones work well on bass?
Here are the top 5 effects I've seen and used most often in my many years as a bass player.
A fuzz pedal is a great way to give your basslines that extra bite. A lot of pedals lose the low-end signal, so you'll want to make sure you get one that retains it. Several fuzz pedals include a blend knob, so you can blend the fuzz effect in with your clean signal to keep the low end. The EHX Bass Big Muff is a popular choice in this category.
2. Envelope Filter
An envelope filter is a an effect that adds a wah type sound to your playing. Unlike a wah pedal though, it reacts to the volume of your plucking (which is why it's often referred to as an auto-wah). This is great for funky sounding basslines, and sounds especially good if you do a lot of slap & pop. The MXR M82 Bass Envelope Filter and Digitech Bass Synth Wah are popular envelop filters.
A chorus effect doubles up the signal, offsetting and processing it slightly. It sounds similar to two basses playing in unison. This gives you a shimmery and dreamy sound that's a very popular effect on bass. The Boss CEB-3 is a mainstay in this category.
An octave pedal reproduces your notes at a different octave. Usually they are one or two octaves below, but there are many pedals that will give you octaves up as well. You can layer the octaves to produce a nice fat sound on your bass. The Boss OC-2 and MXR M288 are popular octave pedals, while the EHX POG 2 is the grandaddy of them all, offering a myriad of octave down/up settings.
This last effect is one that isn't as “in your face” as the others, but one that is extremely popular amongst bassists. Compression evens out your signal – essentially limiting the volume of the louder notes and boosting the quieter ones. This allows your signal to sound more uniform, smoother and stick out in the mix more. The EBS MultiComp is a popular pedal, but there are many choices here.
Are there any great effects I've missed? What are you favorite pedals for each category? Let us know in the comments!
Guest Post: Jeff Van is a musician from Detroit, MI. He runs the website Soundue, which features unique musical gear and instruments.