Some tools and options to open up your bass possibilities
Having some effects for bass in your arsenal can be a valuable tool for recording, performing, and composing. While no amount of effects will cover up bad playing, having more than just your fundamental tone can really open up a world of possibilities and affect the way you approach playing your instrument.
Lastly – I realise there’s a lot of other effects I could have included here (phaser, filter, synth, auto wah pedals and the like). I think they are super useful and creative tools but they really are a diverse bunch however, and almost need their own dedicated column to dissect further (hence me leaving them for a further discussion!).
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Doubling your note an octave (or sometimes two) either above or below is a great tool for thickening your sound or creating synth-styled tones. Blending your direct signal can add some girth while just running the affected signal can take you to sub-low land and beyond.
Some favourites among the masses are the Boss OC-2, EBS Octabass, MXR Vintage Bass Octave, and even the Digitech Whammy. The famed Boss OC-2 (and especially the Japanese version in particular) is held in high regard by players and aficionados alike for its warmth and round tone. Anything from sounding like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman’ to ‘80s synthline wildness.
While distortion, overdrive, and fuzz are slightly different beasts, they all add some gain and harmonic content to your tone. There are a range of ways to utilise these with your bass rig and indeed you might be surprised to hear that some of your favourite recorded bass tones are dirtier than you think. Distortion, overdrive, and fuzz can really fatten up the low mids and low end and support both guitars and keys and blend with the kick drum.
Vintage rock through to prog, metal, and even EDM and modern funk can really benefit from some low end distortion when used appropriately. Check out SansAmp, Darkglass Microtubes, Ampeg Scrambler, Way Huge Pork and Pickle, Boss Bass OD, and Big Muff for starters.
Compressors have been used on bass for many moons. Typically it’s used to even out the level of your playing/dynamics and add some overall punch to your sound. Compressors have often been employed when playing slap to help boost some of the softer notes and limit the louder ones, as well as adding a ‘sheen’ to the overall tone (especially on super clean solid state or even DI’d rigs).
Just be careful with applying too much compression. While this can create a certain ‘sound’ (if that’s what you’re going for), it might also suffer from an overall lack of dynamics. Some established and current favourites are the MXR Bass Compressor, Origin Effects Cali 76, Darkglass Hyper Luminal, Aguilar TLC, and TC Electronics Spectra Comp.
A mainstay of many ‘80s bass rigs, chorus adds modulation to your sound creating a thicker, wider, bigger, and wetter tone. Effective with a pick chorus is still heard in metal, hard rock, and prog, but can also blend nicely with distortion for some wilder alt rock, punk, and experimental tones.
The rate and depth controls will balance the amount of warble and extremity of the effect with some units also having a blend control for adding your dry signal to the mix. Boss Bass Chorus, MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe, Electro Harmonix Bass Clone, and Eden World Tour Chorus are some good examples to get your chorus expedition underway.
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