Creating an effective pedalboard for your bass guitar setup can be intimidating. After all, it involves making decisions about what order to chain pedals in, how many to use and how to power them.
But luckily, with a few tips and tricks, you can quickly become a pro at crafting the perfect customized pedalboard enabling you to express yourself through your music without stressing over the details.
In this article, we will provide some helpful hints so that building out your ideal pedalboard is as easy as plugging in and playing!
So without waiting any longer let’s get started with the ultimate guide to build a pedalboard.
Essential Bass Pedals – Essential Items
Ground Rules For A Bass Guitar Pedal Board
Whilst some aspects of building a pedal chain are subjective and based on personal preference, there are also many aspects which need to be done a certain way to ensure you get the best out of your board.
For example, you should always have a power supply on your board instead of plugging into a regular power outlet. Having this will ensure that you always have a clean power source that won’t add a buzz to your sound.
You should always have a bass tuner pedal on your board too. Many believe that you should have your tuner pedal (like the TC electronic polytune) coming out of the aux out from your volume pedal. This allows you to always have your tuner running.
However, sometimes, it’s best to think about the sound you want to create and follow logic and rules of thumb because “set-in-stone” rules for pedals are too simple and won’t help you understand how to get the sounds you want.
See the paragraph below on compressor pedals and how the placement of a compressor pedal within a pedal chain has a knock-on effect on distortion pedals, an overdrive pedal, a delay pedal and the signal path in general.
Let’s Explore Pedal Chain Order
Having the right bass pedal board setup is essential to getting the sound you want. The order of bass pedals on your bass pedal board will affect your signal and, consequently, your overall sound.
If your desired sound comes from using multiple bass effects with their own unique tonal capabilities, be sure to consider the way they interact together when arranging them in order. For example, placing a distortion pedal before a bass booster can provide a natural-sounding boost that retains core bass frequencies for an ensemble sound.
On the other hand, if distortion is placed after the bass boost, it can provide more aggressive crunch with higher bite frequencies.
Make sure to experiment and arrange your bass pedal board in an order that yields the most desirable results for you!
All effect pedals fall into two groups (usually)
I find it useful to think of most bass pedals falling into one of two categories.
The first is metering pedals and the second is effects pedals.
Metering pedals are ones that don’t change the sound of your dry signal but help you monitor various aspects of it. Examples of this would be volume pedals, tuner pedals and, to an extent, EQ pedals, compression controls and noise gates.
Any pedal that alters the actual sound and makes the overall tone deviate from a clean signal would fall into the effects pedals category.
Things like envelope filters, distortion, fuzz, octave pedal, pitch shifters, modulation pedals and the like would fall into this category. However, you could also add compression, EQ or a DI box into this category.
The thing to keep in mind is that, there are a few simple rules but most pedals fall into a grey area and it’s always better to learn how a pedal works than worry about how to categorise it in a strict sense if you’re trying to find a killer tone.
Modulation pedals are an essential part of bass guitar effects, and can drastically alter your tone. Modulation effects are primarily intended to introduce movement in bass guitar sounds by adding vibrato, chorus, flanging or phasing.
For example, a bass pedalboard may include a flanger pedal that creates a sweeping effect. By adjusting the rate and depth on the pedal’s controls, bassists can introduce fascinating chorus-like swells that bring almost any bass sound to life.
With modulation effects bassists will find endless ways to keep their performance engrossing and original.
Delay pedals are a great addition to the sound of the bass guitar. They create delay on the tone of the guitar, introducing a simulated effect similar to an actual delay in sounds in real time. This delay can be set to repeat at a certain timing and/or tempo as desired.
Echo pedals also enhance delay by adding another ‘echo’ whenever you play notes on your bass, making your playing sound more full and dynamic. Reverb pedals add a slight delay between a note being played and its reverb, creating a more natural sounding effect as if you were playing in an acoustic environment.
An example of one such pedal is the Electro-Harmonix DELUXE MEMORY MAN XO, which has delay times up to 550ms and switchable modulation effects for added richness in tone control.
EQ pedals for bass guitar can be a great tool for shaping the sound of your instrument and improving its tone. They allow you to adjust the frequencies of your audible range to give you more clarity in your sound, as well as more control over the tones that come out of your amp.
For instance, a pedal like the MXR M80 Bass DI+ is a popular EQ pedal specifically designed for bass guitars. It has up to 12dB of cut or boost on individual EQ bands, fine tuning controls, an onboard distortion circuit, and even a variable compressor so that you can get the perfect overall sound out of your bass.
So if you’re serious about improving and tailoring the sound of your bass playing, then investing in an EQ pedal is definitely worth considering.
Wah and filter pedals are special effects for bass guitar that give a wide range of sounds. Wah pedals, in particular, makes the signal of notes sound like they’re crying or calling out – very similar to that “wah” noise you’ve probably heard before in music.
Filter pedals are more versatile, allowing the player to adjust things such as delay and overdrive to give bass guitar tones a whole new shine. Delay pedals provide an effect where note echoes after being played, giving the bass line a unique flavor and make it stand out from other instruments.
An example of one such pedal is the Boss OC-3 Super Octave Pedal. With this unit, players can switch between octave-up for one octave higher than original or two octaves higher, plus some added selections like drive mode for more distortion and a polyphonic feature that expands the tonal range even further.
Bass guitar players have a variety of options when it comes to finding the perfect sound for their instrument. Fuzz, distortion and overdrive pedals can help you create some unique sonic effects, such as providing added sustain or producing a grungy sound.
For instance, one popular fuzz pedal used by bassists is the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi, which is capable of creating intense distorted bass lines.
It’s easy to use and can help you achieve some truly incredible tone-shaping possibilities.
Tell me the signal chain?
A signal chain on a guitar pedal board is simply the order of pedals placed on your board. You can think of it like a chef thinking of the sequence when cooking a meal; the order of ingredients matters!
Generally, you should have pedals that act as filters or cancellers, such as distortion and wah pedals, towards the start of your signal chain, to shape the output and create tonal synergy.
Then come modulation effects such as chorus and delay, then expression pedals such as volume, wah and pitch shift pedals at the end.
However, there are no hard-and-fast rules to creating the ultimate signal chain for you; experimentation is key in finding what works best for you – for some musicians, having an overdrive pedal in front of distortion creates a more dynamic sound than the other way around.
Have a go and find out what sounds best for you!
Octave pedals are awesome accessories for bass guitar that allow you to dial in unique octave-shifting tones. For example, octaves up create a blazingly high pitch sound, octaves down can thicken the sound and octave/delay combinations produce shimmering octave effects.
A great octave pedal to use with a bass guitar is the Sub ‘N Up Octaver from TC Electronic. This pedal has five distinct octave effects, providing everything from smooth octaves to crazy polyphonic textures perfect for funk and metal styles.
There’s also built-in TonePrint technology that lets you access a huge library of downloadable artist presets and further customize your sound.
Pedals For Bass
It’s not easy for anyone to determine a pedaling option for bass. Sometimes bassists plug into the amp and put that in. Others prefer a wide variety of effect options which give more tonally flexibility. Let’s see which type of effect bass musicians use and why.
Common Bass Pedal Order
Typically, a sound is broken into four groups: Bass tuning, Compression, Wah/Filling and Octaves. Noise suppressor. Some bass players connect directly to an amplifier while others prefer to select multiple effects for more tonal choice.
The pedals can be used without delay or modulation. Placed at end affects the volume of each pedal’s predecessors. It may also be placed in an FX loop if desired to control and shut down signals.
Pedal Order – Get The Best Bass Sound
Conventional wisdom says ideal pedals should contain filter wah reverb delay and reverb. Tell me the reason for it?
Compression – A Game Changer For Bass Tone
A compressor pedal reduces the dynamic range of a signal by compressing it. This can be good or bad depending on what sound you want and where within the signal path you place the compressor.
For example, if you want every single note you play to have a punchy sound and really stick out, then it’s best to place your compressor at the start of your chain with quite heavy compression settings and then add any other pedals after it.
However, if you’ve got other pedals that like a synth bass, wah pedal, distortion, fuzz or overdrive that become more active and present as a stronger signal is sent into them, then it’s probably better to put the compressor after them because this won’t restrict the amount of signal being sent into the wah, distortion or whatever other pedal you want to make use of.
Where to place effects pedals in a signal chain can be a very personal thing and depends a lot on what sound you want to make so it’s really best to experiment with a few options.
Delay and Reverberation
As a bassist, deciding where to place a delay or reverb effect pedal on your pedal board can be an important decision that can drastically impact the sound you produce. For most configurations, it is best to place your delay or reverb pedal at the very end of your signal chain.
This ensures that the entire signal path has already been processed and amplified before it reaches the modulation of the delay or reverb. Having your delay/reverb as the last in line also makes it easier for you to control any possible feedback issues that come with using these effects, thus providing a smoother transition between settings on stage.
With proper placement, you will have access to the maximum spectrum of harmonic possibilities afforded by these effects!
Overdrive,Fuzz and Distortion Pedal
Finding the perfect spot for your overdrive, fuzz, or distortion pedal in your bass guitar rig can be tricky but is worth the effort.
In general, these types of pedals are best placed close to the beginning of the signal chain, before modulation and time-based effects like delays or reverbs.
This ensures that they will shape and saturate the original signal evenly before it’s sent to those other effects.
Experimentation is key though; you might find that placing them after other drive-type effects achieves a unique sound that accurately reflects your vision.
So don’t be afraid to try different power chain configurations until you get exactly what you’re looking for!
Modulation and pitch-based effects
When figuring out where to place modulation and pitch-based effects on your bass pedal board, it’s important to consider the order of your signal chain.
Typically, these types of pedals are best placed near the end of your chain. This allows any other distortion, delay, or compression effects you might have placed earlier in your chain to already be accounted for while you’re performing.
Additionally, if you find that one particular effect needs tweaking after all the other effects are applied and set in the chain, having a modulation or pitch-based effect at the very end makes it much easier to make quick adjustments on stage without altering your entire sound.
Wah-wahs and Filters
The placement of a wah or filter effects pedal in the signal chain of your bass pedal board can have a big impact on the overall sound.
Generally, it is best to place these types of effects pedals either first or last in the chain, as this will ensure that their effect is applied to each instrument or vocal track.
Placing the wah or filter at earlier locations in the chain tends to give a broader range and more subtle envelope changes, while placing them at later locations tends to bring out more intensity and saturation in the tone.
Experimentation is also key when finding the best placement for these types of effects – try different configurations until you find what works best for you.
Do bass players use pedal boards?
Yes, bass players do! In fact many bass players prefer them to amps when touring because they are much more portable and ensure a very consistent sound from gig to gig.
What pedals should every bassist have?
Every bassist should have a tuner pedal, a volume pedal and a good DI or preamp because most bassists need a great sounding clean signal to do gigs. Beyond that, things like a good fuzz, octave and compressor pedal are optional but still very common.
You may also want to look at a looper pedal.
What do you need for a bass pedal board?
A good power supply, a good DI box, a tuner, a volume pedal are all essential. Other things like compression and effects are up to you.
If you want to do something advanced with your board then adding an ABY splitter pedal can be great.
Can you use guitar pedals on basses?
You can but the problem is they are designed for the guitar and not the bass. Often, guitar pedals used on bass don’t capture the low end properly and can result in a very tinny or thin-sounding bass guitar signal which makes them less than ideal.
Will a bass damage guitar pedals?
Not necessarily but it’s worth noting that guitar pedals are built for guitars and not basses. when you use them instead of bass effects you won’t get the purest signal and you will likely experience quite a bit of signal degradation too.
Using bass effects pedals instead will ensure a much more consistent signal and a better overall tone.
How do you arrange pedals on a pedalboard?
It’s best to think about what kind of wet signal or dry signal you want, what kind of sound you are trying to achieve and then work from there. Use the steps written above in this article to help you figure out how to order your pedals.
What order should a pedal board be?
It’s best to have a tuner and volume at the start of your pedal chain. From there you should experiment with the placing of a compressor, DI and any other pedals to achieve the exact sound you want.
What 5 pedals should every guitarist have?
A volume, a tuner, a preamp, a compressor and an overdrive. Some reverb and delay can also be good.
What bass pedals should I get first?
A volume pedal, a tuner and a good preamp or DI pedal are a must. You could also look at a compressor, a fuzz or distortion and an octaver pedal.
Where do you put the bass compressor in the pedal chain?
Either at the start or the end of the signal chain depending on what sound you want to get from it.
How do you mount a pedal board?
It’s best to mount a pedal board on a rack such as a pedal train. These come in many shapes and sizes, you can buy cases with them too to make them more transportable, they are fully customizable and many professionals use them so you can rest assured you are using something of quality.
What pedal make a guitar sound like bass?
Using the sub-octave setting on any good octave pedal will get you close but it might sound more like a low end or bass synth than a bass guitar. If you want to sound like a bass guitar then it’s best to play an actual bass guitar or hire a bassist to play for you.
How do you set up a bass pedal board?
First, experiment with the order of your pedals before you mount them to your board. This ensures you will get the sound you want. Once you’ve found the order you want, get a power supply, mount your pedals on your board and enjoy using it on your gigs!