Bass effects

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A selection of bass effect pedals at a music store. Bass effects - EH, fulltone, MXR, Demeter, AMT.jpg
A selection of bass effect pedals at a music store.

Bass effects are electronic effects units that are designed for use with an electric bass and a bass amplifier, or for an upright bass and a bass amp or PA system. Bass effects are commonly available in stompbox-style pedals, which are metal or plastic boxes with a foot-operated pedal switch or button which turns the effect on and off. Most pedals also have knobs to control the tone, volume and effect level. Some bass effects are available in 19" rackmount units, which can be mounted in a road case. As well, some bass amplifiers have built-in effects, such as overdrive or chorus.



By the mid- to late-1960s, some bands listed "fuzz bass" in addition to "electric bass" on their album credits.[ citation needed ] Album or performance credits for fuzz bass can be found from every decade since.

In the 1960s and early 1970s fuzz bass was associated with psychedelic music, progressive rock, and psychedelic soul/funk styles. Created by a small and usually simple electronic circuit, fuzz bass tended to be a "warmer", "smoother", and "softer" overdrive-type sound caused by soft, symmetrical clipping of the audio signal which "round[ed] off the signal peaks" [1] them and filtered out the harsher high harmonics.

In the 1990s and 2000s, fuzz bass was also used by indie and alternative rock bands.

Overdrive and distortion

Overdriving a bass signal significantly changes the timbre, adds overtones (harmonics), and increases the sustain.

In the 1980s and 1990s, overdriven bass was associated with hardcore punk, death metal, grindcore and Industrial bands.

Bass distortion is generally achieved by hard clipping[ further explanation needed ] of the bass signal, which leaves in "harsher high harmonics that can result in sounds that are heard as jagged and spikey." [2]

Demonstration of the overdrive effect on a 6 string bass with a Darkglass pedal.

Since the late 1980s, manufacturers have produced overdrive pedals specifically designed for the electric bass, which often maintain the fundamental "dry" signal mixed with the overdriven tone.


A bass chorus is an electronic effect used with the electric bass to create a "shimmering" sound. Fundamentally the same as chorus pedals used on guitar, these circuits are optimized to suit a lower tonal range.

Upright bass

Upright bassists in jazz, folk, blues and similar genres typically use a piezoelectric pickup, which is mounted on the wooden bridge or between the bridge and the body. The pickup is then plugged into a bass amp or the PA system. Before the signal is plugged into a bass amp or PA system, many players use a bass preamplifier, a small electronic device that matches the impedance between the pickup and the amp or PA system. Bass preamps also allow for the gain of the signal to be boosted or cut. Some models also offer equalization controls, a compressor, and a DI box connection, which allows the signal to be plugged directly into a PA system or mixing board with an XLR cable.

Related Research Articles

Effects unit electronic or digital device that alters how a musical instrument or other audio source sounds

An effects unit or effectspedal is an electronic or digital device that alters the sound of a musical instrument or other audio source.

Distortion is the alteration of the original shape of something. In communications and electronics it means the alteration of the waveform of an information-bearing signal, such as an audio signal representing sound or a video signal representing images, in an electronic device or communication channel.

Audio power amplifier audio amplifier that reaches power output sufficient to control a loudspeaker

An audio power amplifier is an electronic amplifier that amplifies low-power electronic audio signals such as the signal from radio receiver or electric guitar pickup to a level that is high enough for driving loudspeakers or headphones. Audio power amplifiers are found in all manner of sound systems including sound reinforcement, public address and home audio systems and musical instrument amplifiers like guitar amplifiers. It is the final electronic stage in a typical audio playback chain before the signal is sent to the loudspeakers.

Instrument amplifier

An instrument amplifier is an electronic device that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal of a musical instrument into a larger electronic signal to feed to a loudspeaker. An instrument amplifier is used with musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, electric organ, synthesizers and drum machine to convert the signal from the pickup or other sound source into an electronic signal that has enough power, due to being routed through a power amplifier, capable of driving one or more loudspeaker that can be heard by the performers and audience.

Guitar amplifier Electronic amplifier for stringed pickup-equipped instruments

A guitar amplifier is an electronic device or system that strengthens the weak electrical signal from a pickup on an electric guitar, bass guitar, or acoustic guitar so that it can produce sound through one or more loudspeakers, which are typically housed in a wooden cabinet. A guitar amplifier may be a standalone wood or metal cabinet that contains only the power amplifier circuits, requiring the use of a separate speaker cabinet–or it may be a "combo" amplifier, which contains both the amplifier and one or more speakers in a wooden cabinet. There is a wide range of sizes and power ratings for guitar amplifiers, from small, lightweight "practice amplifiers" with a single 6" speaker and a 10 watt amp to heavy combo amps with four 10” or four 12" speakers and a powerful 100 watt amplifier, which are loud enough to use in a nightclub or bar performance.

DI unit

A DI unit is an electronic device typically used in recording studios and in sound reinforcement systems to connect a high-output impedance, line level, unbalanced output signal to a low-impedance, microphone level, balanced input, usually via an XLR connector and XLR cable. DIs are frequently used to connect an electric guitar or electric bass to a mixing console's microphone input jack. The DI performs level matching, balancing, and either active buffering or passive impedance matching/impedance bridging to minimize unwanted noise, distortion, and ground loops. DI units are typically metal boxes with input and output jacks and, for more expensive units, “ground lift” and attenuator switches.

Scholz Research & Development, Inc. or SR&D is the name of the company founded by musician and engineer Tom Scholz to design and manufacture music technology products. Scholz was an MIT-trained engineer who developed many of his skills working on audio-production equipment as a product design engineer at Polaroid in the early 1970s. A musician in his off-time, he developed a recording studio in the basement of the apartment building where he lived, utilizing many home-built devices. Recordings made in his home studio later became the debut album of the band Boston, while the Scholz's proceeds from the success of his band were used to found the company to further develop and sell market versions of his inventions. Many of the devices were marketed under the Rockman brand.

Electro-Harmonix Guitar pedals company

Electro-Harmonix is a New York-based company that makes high-end electronic audio processors and sells rebranded vacuum tubes. The company was founded by Mike Matthews in 1968. It is best known for a series of popular guitar effects pedals introduced in the 1970s and 1990s. Unknown to most people, EH also made a line of guitars in the 70's.


A fuzz-wah pedal is a stomp box containing both a fuzzbox and a wah-wah pedal in series allowing the user to distort "wah" and the "fuzz" sounds as an aesthetic effect on an electric guitar or bass. They were developed in order to combine the iconic sounds of the more psychedelic bands of the late 1960s and 1970s.

Ibanez Tube Screamer guitar overdrive pedal

The Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS9/TS808) is a guitar overdrive pedal, made by Ibanez. The pedal has a characteristic mid-boosted tone popular with blues and rock players. The "legendary" Tube Screamer has been used by countless guitarists to create their signature sound, and is one of the most successful, widely copied, and "modded" overdrive pedals in the history of the electric guitar.

Bass amplifier

A bass amplifier or "bass amp" is a musical instrument electronic device that uses electrical power to make lower-pitched instruments such as the bass guitar or double bass loud enough to be heard by the performers and audience. Bass amps typically consist of a preamplifier, tone controls, a power amplifier and one or more loudspeakers ("drivers") in a cabinet.

Guitar tech

A guitar technician is a member of a music ensemble's road crew who maintains and sets up the musical equipment for one or more guitarists. Depending on the type and size of band, the guitar tech may be responsible for stringing, tuning, and adjusting electric guitars and acoustic guitars, and maintaining and setting up guitar amplifiers and other related electronic equipment such as effect pedals.

Distortion (music) form of audio signal processing giving "fuzzy" sound

Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonly used with the electric guitar, but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Guitarists playing electric blues originally obtained an overdriven sound by turning up their vacuum tube-powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes, which caused the signal to distort. While overdriven tube amps are still used to obtain overdrive, especially in genres like blues and rockabilly, a number of other ways to produce distortion have been developed since the 1960s, such as distortion effect pedals. The growling tone of a distorted electric guitar is a key part of many genres, including blues and many rock music genres, notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music, while the use of distorted bass has been essential in a genre of hip hop music and alternative hip hop known as "SoundCloud rap".

Re-amping is a process often used in multitrack recording in which a recorded signal is routed back out of the editing environment and run through external processing using effects units and then into a guitar amplifier and a guitar speaker cabinet or a reverb chamber. Originally, the technique was used mostly for electric guitars: it facilitates a separation of guitar playing from guitar amplifier processing—a previously recorded audio program is played back and re-recorded at a later time for the purpose of adding effects, ambiance such as reverb or echo, and the tone shaping imbued by certain amps and cabinets. The technique has since evolved over the 2000s to include many other applications. Re-amping can also be applied to other instruments and program, such as recorded drums, synthesizers, and virtual instruments.

Glossary of jazz and popular music

This is a list of jazz and popular music terms that are likely to be encountered in printed popular music songbooks, fake books and vocal scores, big band scores, jazz, and rock concert reviews, and album liner notes. This glossary includes terms for musical instruments, playing or singing techniques, amplifiers, effects units, sound reinforcement equipment, and recording gear and techniques which are widely used in jazz and popular music. Most of the terms are in English, but in some cases, terms from other languages are encountered.

BJFE Guitar Effects is a company which manufactures effects pedals for use with instruments such as an electric guitar. These pedals are commonly used by guitarists to modify the sound of their guitar before it reaches the amp. The company is located in Sweden, and was founded in 2000 by Björn Juhl. "BJFE" stands for Björn Juhl Förstärkarelektronik. Pedal types include distortion, overdrive, "vibe" (vibrato), compression, and equalization (EQ). Due to the limited production and handbuilt nature, these pedals are considered "boutique" guitar effects.

Fuzz bass style of playing the electric bass or modifying its signal that produces a buzzy, distorted, overdriven sound

Fuzz bass, also called "bass overdrive" or "bass distortion", is a style of playing the electric bass or modifying its signal that produces a buzzy, distorted, overdriven sound, which the name implies in an onomatopoetic fashion. Overdriving a bass signal significantly changes the timbre, adds higher overtones (harmonics), increases the sustain, and, if the gain is turned up high enough, creates a "breaking up" sound characterized by a growling, buzzy tone.

Keyboard amplifier

A keyboard amplifier is a powered electronic amplifier and loudspeaker in a wooden speaker cabinet used for amplification of electronic keyboard instruments. Keyboard amplifiers are distinct from other types of amplification systems such as guitar amplifiers due to the particular challenges associated with making keyboards sound louder on stage; namely, to provide solid low-frequency sound reproduction for the deep basslines which keyboards can play and crisp high-frequency sound for the high-register notes. Another difference between keyboard amplifiers and guitar/bass amplifiers is that keyboard amps are usually designed with a relatively flat frequency response and low distortion. In contrast, many guitar and bass amp designers purposely make their amplifiers modify the frequency response, typically to "roll off" very high frequencies, and most rock and blues guitar amps, and since the 1980s and 1990s, even many bass amps are designed to add distortion or overdrive to the instrument tone.

Klon Centaur guitar overdrive pedal

The Klon Centaur is a guitar overdrive pedal developed by Bill Finnegan between 1990 and 1994. The pedals were made manually by Finnegan. The Centaur is characterized as a "transparent" overdrive, meaning it adds gain to the signal without significantly altering the tone of the guitar.

Heavy metal bass

Heavy metal bass is the use of the bass guitar in the rock music genres of heavy metal and hard rock. The bassist is part of the rhythm section in a heavy metal band, along with the drummer, rhythm guitarist and, in some bands, a keyboard player. The prominent role of the bass is key to the metal sound, and the interplay of bass and distorted electric guitar is a central element of metal. The bass guitar provides the low-end sound crucial to making the music "heavy". The bass plays a "... more important role in heavy metal than in any other genre of rock."


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