Having some pedals in your setup can be an excellent way to spice up your sound and it can open up many more creative possibilities for you.
This article will provide you with some of the most useful bass effects pedals. These will include devices that are must-haves, along with ones that are just cool and worth checking out.
The most essential effects pedals for bass are the compressor, looper, overdrive, volume, octave, and chorus. Scroll down to the next section to see our top recommendations for each!
Essential Effects Pedals For Bass Guitar
The following groups are ones that you should never go without. Each category will have a pedal that we recommend the most. Many brands make the same thing, so we've removed the guess-work for you.
Compressors are a must-have for any bassist because of the benefits that it brings to the table. This one works by interacting with the loud and soft levels to create a more balanced and even sound.
It works closely with dynamics; for example, you do not need to raise the volume in order to hear soft or quiet notes in your playing. Alternatively, it can make extra loud notes fainter.
Compression can also offer you improved sustain, allowing you to drag out notes for long periods of time before they disappear. This is why it's one of the best bass pedals of all time; other than through one of these, sustain is usually only altered by the construction of the instrument.
Overall, it can provide more control and substance to your tone.
Our top pick for compressor pedal is the EBS EBS-MC, and it's a fantastic choice for a compressor. It's well-made, has true bypass, and many other players love it. Additionally, one of the most unique features on this is the MB setting, which gives you dual-band compression. Another one is the “Tubesim” which emulates a tube sound by adding more harmonics. Check this one out here on Amazon.
A looper is pretty straightforward to explain. Tap the footswitch to record what you're playing, and hit it again to stop recording. It will play back over and over what you've just logged in a loop. This is how it gets its name.
Bass looper pedals are great for those situations where you need to have a part repeat so you can play over it. However, because of this, it can also be a useful practice tool by allowing you to jam and improvise over the notes you've just played. If you're looking for a high-quality looper, this one is your best bet.
Out of all of the Boss bass pedals, their looper is one of their finest ones. The RC-3 can record up to 3 hours worth of loops on 99 different slots. Overall, this one is perfect for practicing, songwriting, and playing live.
Overdrive isn't just for guitars! Some type of overdrive or distortion has played a vital role in the development of so many players' sounds.
If you turn your amp loud enough, distortion will occur, but an overdrive provides this in a controlled manner without having you have to crank your amp up too high. This is why it's one of the most essential bass guitar pedals.
For a more prominent and modern sound, having an overdrive or distortion pedal should be a staple in your bass rig.
The Big Bass Muff by Electro-Harmonix should suit your needs, and it's one of the most versatile overdrive pedals on the market. It's designed for bassists and will help you achieve any tone that you wish.
With this one, you can get anything from a subtle fuzz to some of the most intense overdrive by tweaking the tone and sustain knobs. If your sound needs an extra push, definitely consider this pedal.
Like the compressor, a volume pedal is another one that can give more control over your tone. It might not be at the forefront or have the biggest impact on your overall sound, but it can come in handy at any point in time.
One of the most frequent uses of the volume pedal is for convenience. It works the same as turning a volume knob, except you won't need to move your hands to do so.
Volume can also be used for creative purposes. Perhaps there's a part in your music where the bass takes the spotlight and would benefit from being louder.
You can also use it to give it a gradual increase, such as a swell. Fade-ins can be a potent technique, and a volume pedal makes this easy. This one has everything you need.
If you like Boss bass pedals, this brand has your volume needs covered. Other than being made from aluminum and rubber, there isn't a whole lot to say about this fantastic tool. It's built with strong materials and it will serve you for years to come.
Octave pedals are nifty because they literally can change the pitch of your bass guitar. However, it sends out a lower or higher frequency along with the original one, so it's not like it'd be a replacement to giving your bass an alternate tuning.
Basically, it will sound like two instruments that are being harmonized by an octave. This effect naturally can allow you to come up with some pretty cool ideas. This octave pedal is our top pick for this category.
The Jim Dunlop MXR M88 Bass Octave Deluxe gives you plenty of controls and does what its designed to do. It is well-made so you can expect reliability from this one, making it one of the top bass octave pedals.
Similar to the octave pedal, a chorus pedal will simulate two instruments playing at once. However, instead of being in harmony, the pitch that is being processed will sound a bit out of tune and time from the original.
In fact, this is how the chorus effect received its name. It's impossible for a large chorus of people to be perfectly in unison with one another in terms of pitch and time. They aren't robots, and this “human error” is how choruses get their signature sound, like at a church.
By using a bass pedal for chorus, you can thicken up your sound, add atmosphere, and give your tone more color. It sounds lovely with clean sounds, but it also works with overdrive too. Since chorus has some similarities with octave, going with this pedal that's also by Jim Dunlop is a great decision.
The MXR M83 is the perfect choice for all your chorus needs. It offers a lot of customization with its control knobs, from a subtle sound to a very full one.
This particular model also includes a flanger setting, which is something not all chorus pedals have. The X-over feature is also interesting because it keeps the low frequencies in tune, but provides the usual effect for the upper ones so you get a mixed sound. Choruses have been an asset to many players for decades; don't miss out!
Bass Pedals You Should Check Out (But Aren't Necessities)
This section will be dedicated to devices that are cool but aren't quite must-haves. If you are looking for some niche bass pedals to have, you might find what you're looking for right here.
Delay pedals are very popular with guitarists, but bassists can find a use for them too! By using one you can create some very nice textures as well as melodic sections, that can sound cool when even playing solo.
Check out this quick video to witness the delay effect in action with a bass:
Since it most likely won't be used as much as the previous set of pedals, that's why delay falls into this assortment. Bass pedals for delay are worth checking out because it can add another dimension to parts of your music and spark some extra creativity. This is a bass delay that's worth taking a look at!
Historically, Seymour Duncan is primarily known for their guitar and bass pickups, which are some of the most highly-regarded on the market. The same goes for its effects; if you want a warm, lush delay sound, this one is right for you. With an echo, you will be able to expand your creativity and create something inspiring.
Unlike guitar amps, not many bass amps have reverb on them. This is where a pedal comes in. In certain situations, a reverb can sound nice and give your sound that “open room” vibe.
The reason it's not employed as often is that it has the potential to sound muddy. However, if used strategically and correctly, you can create something unique and ambient with a bass pedal for reverb. Check out the Mooer MRV2 Sky Verb Pedal; it sounds great and offers you quite a few different options, allowing you to zero in on your ideal sound.
It's true bypass and consists of a Studio Mode, a Church Mode, and a Plate Mode, as well as a Decay knob. The design of this pedal is more compact than most, but it is still solidly built. Overall, it's an amazing reverb.
Some bass synthesizer pedals might seem like slightly-augmented octave ones - that's why it's important to try to find the best one. At times they can sound quite similar to one another, but a true bass synth will have a lot more features than an octave.
If you like Boss bass pedals, you're in luck because they have the best bass synth around.
The Boss SYB-5 is the top choice because it effectively imitates a lot of the most popular types of synthesizer sounds such as saw, square, and pulse.
Take a look at this comprehensive demo to see how it sounds:
This is an awesome sounding pedal, and if you can find a use for it, it is highly recommended that you find a spot for this one in your rig.
If you don't have any other equalizer available to you, such as a rack-mounted one, a pedal will do the trick.
Either way, if you're looking to fix up and balance your tone even further, you will want some type of EQ. Have a harsh sound that needs taming? You'll benefit from an EQ.
Bass EQ pedals are useful for on-the-fly changes in a song, especially if you need a boost during a solo or stand-out part. Additionally, with a 7-band EQ, you will have everything you need; it's less convoluted than other forms of equalizers.
Boss makes an EQ pedal specifically for bass that you should check out. It's a 7-band EQ, so you won't get overwhelmed by too many bands allowing you to focus on the most important frequencies.
With a good compressor such as the EBS EBS-MC, you will have more control of your tone than ever before. An EQ is one of those devices that has to potential to instantly make you sound better. As usual, you can expect dependability from this brand and their products.
The envelope filter is one of those effects that can be hard to describe in words. To provide you with a rough idea of how it sounds, this one is closely related to the wah pedal for the guitar.
Although they can sound similar, most bass envelope filters don't require you to keep your foot on the pedal to adjust the sound, as you would with a wah. Instead, the sound is modified based on how hard you attack the strings of your instrument.
Wahs have found their place in a lot of music, and so do envelope filters for bass (especially for funk), which makes it worth trying out. Here's our favorite envelope filter pedal you'll probably like.
The most important parts that you really need to know about the Jim Dunlop MXR Envelope Filter is that it's versatile, has more than enough controls (such as decay, dry, and Q controls), and it's very responsive. You won't be disappointed if you're looking to get a big, funky sound in a portable package.
Last but not least, the final pedal you should check out is a tuner. “Why should I buy this, if I already have a different type of tuner?”, you may ask. Well, the answer is pretty straightforward.
If you are playing live, what would you prefer – detaching your instrument cable so you can put it in your ordinary tuner, or would you instead have it part of your effects chain, so you don't have to do anything other than step on it to activate it?
More than likely, you'd prefer the second option because it's effortless and convenient.
You don't have to be performing live to take advantage of a bass pedal for tuning either, if you're playing at home and you have some already, you can still add this to your effects chain. You'll never have to track down your tuner again because it's with your other ones. It's difficult to misplace.
With tuners, you don't need anything too fancy – just something that is accurate and reliable. This tuner will always have your back.
This one, by Donner, is relatively inexpensive and quite comparable to other types of tuners. It comes with a nice LCD display and will let you know how far off you are from the desired note, which is what's expected from a tuner. It's also well-built and responsive, which is why it's our favorite tuner pedal.
Even More Stuff You Might Need
When using multiple devices, it's recommended that you put them all on a pedalboard. This one from Amazon has a lot of space on it, and the package has performers in mind by including a gig bag with it.
Nearly all of these will require the use of a 9V, 12V, or 18V battery, depending on what it says. You will also have the option to use an AC or DC adapter, again, whatever is specified on the gadget. It's a good idea to use the brand's adapters for consistency.
However, if a few or more are being used simultaneously, running a bunch of adapter cables might not be the most viable option. In this case, you will need a power supply. This one is perfect because it supports all voltages, comes with link cables, and is solid all-around.
Lastly, if you want the effects, but you're unsure about having a lot of different devices, you might like a bass multi effects pedal. You will have a lot of sound effects all packed into one apparatus, so you will save more space and draw less power. You can also create presets, which makes your favorite sounds easy to retrieve.
Summary & Conclusion
With an extensive selection of the most useful bass effects pedals provided to you, you can pick and choose the best candidates that you want the most. Half of these are essential, so you'll want to at least start with these first if you haven't already done so.
The most essential pedals such as the compressor, volume, overdrive, etc. are ones that you will want in your rig at all times. These are the bread-and-butter of shaping your bass tone.
Followed by these are the ones that you should give a chance because they're pretty cool. Some of them won't be used as regularly as your must-haves, but they will have their time and place. The one that you will probably use the most often in this category is the tuner.
Once you have chosen your ideal effects, you will want to get a pedalboard, since this will be the most intuitive way to organize them.
Additionally, a power supply will be needed. You won't want a tangled mess of long AC or DC cables. Power supplies often come with connector cables that are shortened, so it alleviates this problem, allowing for a clean look.
Bass multi effects pedals are also a viable option, and you can opt for one of these if you want most of your stuff in one device. It's a matter of preference though – some people like individual products.
Hopefully, this guide on the best bass pedals has been useful and has helped you precisely find what you were looking for. You can't go wrong with picking these.