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Setting up a Solid Bass Guitar Pedal Board

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A pedal board can be as complex or as simple as you choose to make it.

You have to add what you need and will actually use.

You have to add what you need and will actually use.

Pedals, Pedals, everywhere but what is the meaning of life!

As a seasoned bassist I myself have had the urge to lay out a pedal board the size of Gene Simmons' ego and just stomp till my little heart could stomp no more but than the question arose. Why? Do I really need four fuzz pedals and 3 DI boxes? Is that Big Muff even getting attention at my gigs? Why do I have a harmonizer, and even more so what the hell does it do?

These questions usually hit you after that impulse to buy has beaten your wallet into submission and your wife's tolerance into utter chaos. It is hard to not get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of product on the market and the idea that all of it will make you sound like a better bass player. The fact is while some of these gems will help you regardless of musical stylings and ambitions some are very specific to certain musical genres and playing styles and may never even get that first stomp at a gig.

It is vital you assess what you need before you ever consider buying a bass pedal. If you are a country player why would you invest in a distortion box? That's just money that could have been better invested in something more prominent for your sound and the over all sound of the band you are playing with.

Let's look at some basic needs and a few pedals that are going to be useful to you in any genre and a few that are specific tailored that may or may not give you the edge you need.

The essentials.

I myself play a frettless bass and that opens up some worms here and there with the volume of my attack. As bass players we know that hitting every single note at the same rate of depth and attack is almost an impossible task. You are on the 15th song of the night and your hands feel like jello-o and the singer decides hey we are going to do a song that test the boundaries of the bass player. You have to realize that your not going to hit every note the same. Or are you?

I would always recommend a compression pedal for your gigs. The pedal in it's simplest description raises the volume of the quiet notes and lowers the volume of the louder ones. In essence this pedal will level out your sound making each not have the effect of being struck at exactly the same rate of depth and attack. I never gig without my trusty Boss Compression Sustainer pedal but there are cheaper alternatives out there that will accomplish the same task for you.

I always recommend checking videos on Youtube out before you ever buy a pedal. You will get to see what they do and how it may help or even hinder you as a player.

My go to pedal to level my sound.

Other pedals that may do the trick for you.

  • Mailing List
    Bass guitars possess a huge dynamic range and produce powerful low frequencies. Designed for and by bassists, this compact compressor/sustainer features fully adjustable controls that can subtly transform the dynamic qualities of a bass guitar or tak
  • BOSS - BC-1X | Bass Comp
    BC-1X: Bass Comp - Intelligent Multiband Compression for Dynamic Players
  • MXR – Bass Compressor REVIEW | bass-pedals.com
    Nice smaller pedal with big reliability and great functional usage.

Continuing the basics.

So we have a compression pedal at the start of our line. Now let's move onto our next pedal. I myself do not use any volume or boost style pedals in my chain but that does not mean you shouldn't. A lot of players like to have that ability to control their volume without having to stress over knobs. Placing a volume pedal as the second pedal on the chain is a great idea so let's go ahead and explore what that will do for our sound.

Volume pedals look and for all accounts function just like a wah pedal would. To increase your volume you simply push the pedal down and bam instance boost, and to lower you move the opposite way. As I stated I am not a big user of these pedals but they do have very handy capabilities.

If moving a pedal up and down is not for you than I suggest a simple boost pedal. The effect is the same except you can't gradually increase or decrease your volume. You simple step on the button when you need more and step off when you want to return to your regular volume level. I have used these in the past but currently do not run one. Boost pedals are a tricky buy for a bass player as there are so many on the market to choose from and all of them have their pluses and faults. Check out some reviews and see what pedal will give you the volume boost the way you need it for your sound. Just cause Billy Sheehan pimps a 300 buck booster does not mean you have to just to get the same effect.

Using a volume pedal.

Volume and Boost Right At Your Finger.... Feet!

Cliff Burton For The Win....

While I no longer run a distortion pedal the next chain of our board is ripe for it. Distortion on bass is getting more and more common in modern music styles but back in the day Cliff Burton of Metallica was the guy who was speeding through licks with that poke out your ears distortion cranked up on his bass. Distortion effects are by far the most common on the pedal market and can usually be the most frustrating to demo as there are so many of them.

When thinking distortion and your sound ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Do I need over the top gain and distortion.
  2. Is it just a little fuzz I need to give me an edge
  3. Am I all about face melting solos and speed distortion

These questions will usually dictate which distortion pedal is right for you. When I was involved in metal I would always rely on my Big Muff Pi pedal (yes the Russian issue green metal one that came in an ammo box) What you choose to go with is entirely up to your style and preference toward distortion. Sometimes a little feedback sound is all you need while other players may want the full monty of metal macabre at their fingertips. It really depends on what you are playing and how you want to play it.

Distortion Pedals To Ponder

A Little Flavor With That Bass

I like to have a unique sound and one of the ways I handle that is using echo effects on slower songs to give it that musical color if you will. Echo acts almost like a chorus effect combined with delay and can really spice up your sound at a gig or in the studio. We all hate that whole note passages well now we don't have to.

I run an Ammoon Echo pedal in my chain and I swear this company does not get the respect it deserves! Small cheap pedals with amazing sound and full on accessibility that really gives you a lot of control over the final sound product.

I play with a band that uses a lot of flange and phaser effects from time to time and having the echo means I can add to that effect without losing the low end of the sound spectrum. It is important if you are going to go with an echo you get one that is not like screaming into a cave but more accustomed to an empty ball room.

Sweet Affordable Sound

Another Echo Pedal To Consider

The Best Pedal In The World For Bass...... Well I Think So

My sound would not be what it was today without Behringer's V-Tone BD121 pedal. This bad boy allows me to emulate amps from ages past as well as to modify my sound however I see fit. It comes with a ton of settings to get you sounds all the way from deep blues to hiphop and everything in between.

The pedal acts as a bass amp modeler but also a very efficient DI box. I use it to give my bass an added thump but also to help me get that signal I need when my sound leaves my bass, travels through my pedal board, and finally hits my amp. Having the ability to get that vintage tube amp sound for around $30 is a priceless thing my friend.

I would highly endorse this pedal as a go to and if you can only get one pedal with your budget let it be this one! It will not disappoint you.

Behringer in action.

In Closing

When you are purchasing pedals remember while it may look impressive to have 40 pedals on a board if you only use 3 of them what are you accomplishing. Only buy what you know you will use. Pedals are great for shaping your sound but to may will hurt your tone in the end. Until next time my friends live long and jam.