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To Effect or Not to Effect? A Discussion for Bassists

Q: What’s your take on effects pedals? Do you use any?

A: I have been exploring many different pedals and having fun with the sonic possibilities, though I rarely use them outside of my home. My most used pedal is my reverb pedal, because I like the what it offers when playing in small group settings (a piano trio, for example). It just adds a touch of flavor and life to each note.

When I’m touring with Gino Vannelli, I have to bring a pedal board because he requires the use of:

  • Reverb (I like the TC Electronic)
  • Synth (I’m using the Markbass Supersynth)
  • Octaver (The Boss OC-2 and the Electro-Harmonix POG2seem to track the best)
  • Envelope (I’m loving the Aguilar Filter Twin)

I also use a volume pedal for quick bass changes as well as the Basswitch IQ DI for my direct sound and as an effects loop.

I’m currently also getting one of my basses set up with a bridge saddle-style midi pickup, so I can have the option of using the Roland GR-55 as a replacement for my pedal board on those tours. I’ve also been messing with some multi-effect units (like the Boss GT-10B), and I always have had a Boss Loop Station nearby for practicing, teaching and clinics.

Like I said though, 90% of my gigs are just me and my bass through my amplifier. Most of this stuff is just for specific effect with one artist or for fun or writing explorations at home.

I love what some guys are doing with effects these days. The one thing I’d warn against is over-using them. I have found that a lot of players will get so into sound sculpting, so much so that they are no longer doing their job in the same way on the bandstand. We’re still bass players, and we need to provide a nice foundation. Not every song needs a huge sub-bass sound, or a twitchy envelope, or even reverb! Use them with taste and discretion.

If you’ve ever done a recording session, you’ll notice that mixing engineers will often add just a dab of this and a touch of that. I believe that this is how live pedals should be used. When you really need a strong and overt effects (like a synth pedal, for example), it makes a huge impact and really does something remarkable.

This is another great topic for discussion

Readers, what’s your take on the use of effects with bass? What do you like? Tell us in the comments!

Have a question for Damian? Send it to askdamian@notreble.com. Check out Damian’s instructional books at the No Treble Shop.

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