People often ask, can you use guitar pedals for bass and for the most part the simple answer is yes, yes you can indeed.
Plugging a bass into any guitar pedal will not cause any damage to your rig at all.
They will behave differently as what you put in affects what you get back out.
Some pedals are optimized for Bass such as our Alien Bass Station (as used by bass royalty, Pino Palladino).
In this blog, we will cover some of the main factors to consider when planning a bass pedalboard and mention which effects traditionally work best on the bass.
Compressors and limiters can prevent unintentional under and over-picked notes from popping out of the mix or leaving empty feeling parts of a performance. They do this by setting a minimal low point and bringing the volume of any quieter picked notes up to that set limit. The same thing for over-picked notes, a threshold is set to prevent notes from exceeding a certain volume.
Many compressors now have clean blends which help us to balance the compression with our dynamics and find a happy medium. For us, compression is the secret tool of the pro musician, providing control over great tones.
Most amps have an EQ section and often bass amps have more control over the tone than a standard guitar amp. However, adding an EQ to your rig will provide you with much greater control.
These are one example of where the difference between bass and guitar pedals is more than just having “BASS” written on the face. The EQ frequencies on Bass EQs are much different from those you would see on a Guitar EQ. Check out the frequencies on these two for example.
Placing one at the start of your board will allow you to sculpt back in the tone of your guitar when you find a particular stage, room, etc changes the overall tones you’re familiar with.
Placing an EQ after your drive section will help you to dial back in any frequencies the drive pedals dial out that you’d like to retain.
If one pedal suits bass perfectly it’s filters. Envelope filters can turn your tone into a synth monster or provide so much funk you’ll think you are in a 70s X-rated movie.
Wahs also do the funk thing very well but provide much more direct control over the tone and allow your body to get in on the action. Bass versions of these filter different frequencies than the guitar counterparts but that doesn’t mean you cannot use either, so long as it sounds good to you.
We love a good octaver and there are many great examples on the market to pick from. These generally duplicate your sound one or two octaves down or an octave up. Some of these circuits have tone thresholds wherein they choose a range of notes to affect. So if you just want the octave effect on the higher strings, you can.
Gojira’s octave generator pedal allows individual control over sub 1, sub 2, unity, and + 1 octave so you can dial the perfect octave solution for you.
Most modulation pedals can be used to great effect on bass and guitar without worry. Our friends over at JAM Pedals have a great bass range including some spectacular modulation pedals like this chorus.
What you will find is modulations sound thicker and have less presence because once again, you only get out what you first put in.
Fuzzes work so well with a bass guitar that you would be forgiven for thinking they should all be called bass pedals from the very start. That is all, use fuzz on bass!
Overdrives and distortions often sound very weak on bass, although we’re proud to say our bucket seat sounds fantastic used this way. Many drives cut a lot of low end to focus the sound and this is not what bass players want. There are some dedicated bass drives on the market and some of the best bass tones ever have been overdriven such as Chris’s bass line on Muse’s Hysteria.
All in all, you could use a single board for both guitar and bass if you wish but it would be better to have different boards as at the very minimum the settings would certainly be a lot different. With that said we would be remiss not to point out that the Alien bass station has been developed as a bass pedalboard in a single pedal so this can work both as part of a small bass fly rig or be a part of a much bigger rig.