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If you use effects live...

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by FilterFunk, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. FilterFunk

    FilterFunk Everything is on the ONE! Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    ...is it hard to be heard in the mix?

    I'm a keyboardist who grew up on '70s funk, and I love bass. I decided to start using effects with my synths about 6 years ago, and quickly discovered that Talkbass has the best effects advice. So...I came for the effects advice and stayed because of the awesome community here. Okay, enough backstory...

    The effects I use on my bass tones - mostly fuzz, filter and phaser - sound great in my recorded mixes. But when I read effects threads here on TB, there's a lot of "effects kill your tone," "effects ruin your dynamics," "you'll get buried in the mix," "you don't need effects,"...you get the picture. So to those of you who can make effects work live - how do you do it? Is it anywhere near as difficult as some say it is? Do you have to go through a lot of adjustments to get your affected sound heard, as opposed to bass-cable-amp?

    I LOVE effects; even with synths that make a virtually limitless number of sounds, effects have opened up a whole new world for me. It's almost like having a bunch of new synths! So I'm definitely NOT trolling here. I honestly want to know.
  2. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    The basic rule I have for making effects work is to try and maintain low end unity gain. My mids will get louder in some cases, but that's okay. I'd rather have louder mids than quieter lows. That and some planning will get you 90% of the way.
  3. Dash Rantic

    Dash Rantic

    Nov 12, 2005
    Palo Alto, CA
    Generally, I find effects help me stand out in the mix more than anything--which is a double-edged sword. Don't want to overdo it, but still want to sound good.

    So, filters and phasers will likely help you pop out of the mix a bit more. The only one you might have to worry about is your fuzz--many distortion-type pedals will scoop your mids and kill your lows, which will lose you in the mix. Some fuzzes (like my Bass Big Muff) have a dry signal blend option, which can help negate this issue. What fuzz(es) are you using?

  4. FilterFunk

    FilterFunk Everything is on the ONE! Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2010
    I forgot to add that I'm purely a home studio hobbyist, so I don't play live. I've just read so many conflicting opinions about the viability of effects in a live context that I wanted to get a better perspective from those of you who gig with effects.
  5. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    The only issue that's markedly different between a live performance and a recording is the ability to overdub and the quality of the engineers.

    If it works without an overdub issue, the only thing holding you back is the guy behind the soundboard.
  6. Sunnburn

    Sunnburn Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2008
    Dayton, Oh
    I gig with alot of effects. Some pedals cut low end real bad. So as a solution I run a dry signal out of my tuner into a bass eq'ed amp into a 2x15. The second out of my tuner runs through my board and into another amp thats eq'ed with more mids and highs. This runs into a 2x10. I use a volume pedal at the end of my effects chain to blend the wet signal with the dry. No low end loss regardless of the pedals used.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Some effects definitely have the potential to wash you right out of the mix, even when you boost them to levels past your clean sound. I quit using a phaser for this reason, and I've rejected dirt pedals that don't have enough or too much of what I'm looking for and not an easy way to control it. But it's mostly a problem with dirt pedals, easily fixed if you know a little about EQ, though.
  8. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    a lot of fuzz pedals do this. my favorite fuzz, the oldschool "musicelectroniX messdrive," the original red one, it sounds so awesome. a mammoth of house-rattling bass. but it has absolutely no treble, or mids, not anywhere within a 2 hour flight i'd say.

    so i can only use that when its the only sound on the track, cause switching is impossible.. nothing will match up with that deep warm pillowy fuzz bass low end, and the way it lays in the mix.

    in practical use, it's important to consider how an effect will sit in the mix. even my VT bass is annoying to switch on/off. luckily i usually just leave it on.
  9. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    GREAT advice!

    Context plays such a huge role, too. If your playing with a band, for instance, kicking on your mid-scooped fuzz at the same time the guitar players are using their mid-scooped fuzz is probably gonna equal "Where did I go in the mix?!?". Filters are eliminating sound too - so it's important to keep an objective perspective on how things are sounding.

    Anything goes in the studio & it's easier to make the 'mix' happen! Live, their are roles to be filled & sonic space to share with a lot less time to make it happen. Live, it's happening in real-time, so it has to be right at once! Like it or not, the bass has a more defined & relied upon responsibility in the vast majority of musical genres. We usually don't have the luxury of the dynamic and tonal freedom of a guitarist or keyboardist.

    Note choice/octave position/part complexity also come into play more when you have to cooperate in the sonic space. Effects seem to make smart note choice even more important than usual in my opinion.

    I hate to say it as a bass player (and avid effects advocate & user), but more often than not when checking out young local talent - the bass players get totally lost in the mix when they step on something. Of course I've also heard and been inspired by incredible sounds too! :)

    just my.02 cents & in my experience. Your mileage may vary! :)
  10. It's just like figuring out the right part to play. You go one direction, you get totally buried; you go another, you stick out like a sore thumb. You find the right space and it will work out fine (and sound great!!!)
  11. ...yes....this..... well said :)
  12. NoxNoctus

    NoxNoctus The Crushinator

    May 9, 2004
    Annapolis, MD
    Get a blender. Low end's there, no matter what. Problem solved :)
  13. danielfnj96


    Jan 29, 2012
    NJ, USA
    I use effects live, the general rule IMO is just to see how you sound in the mix with the effects and if it gets muddy or something then don't use it for that song live. How your effects sit in the mix isn't as simple as a good or bad pedal; it depends on what everyone else in the band is playing, with what effects their using, and also the area you are playing in. So just try it out at rehersal or soundcheck or a show or whatever and then decide what you want to do effect wise.
  14. fasto


    Mar 4, 2007
    Amsterdam, NL
    clean-blending is the key and magic for using effects live ... my Xotic X-Blender is the "brain" on my effects-board.
  15. I play live in a hard rock/metal covers band with a pretty sizable board. And I never use clean blend, ever. The biggest reason why I can get the fx to sound good and not get washed out is because:

    1.) We handle our own sound. My band saved up our gig money for well over a year and sank a good amount of money into our PA system so that we can make sure that we're all mic'ed up with good mics, we each have exactly the monitor mix we want, and we EQ everything exactly the way we like it.

    2.) During soundcheck, I have my singer pick up my bass, turn on some pedals and bang away at it for a minute while I walk the room myself. If I don't like the way it sounds, now at least I know I have to make some adjustments to the EQ, whether its on the pedal, the amp, or the PA.

    3.) For drive, distortion and fuzz, it's a matter of trying out a bunch of them and finding the one that does it for you. I know that a lot of people around here just say to pick whatever fuzz you want and slap a clean blend with it, but I freakin hate the sound of clean-blended fuzz or distortion. It just sounds gross to me. So I spent a long time, and tried out dozens and dozens until I found the fuzzes and distortions that do what I want, without resorting to clean blends. For overdrive, I use my amp.

    4.) For modulation, I found that it's really hard to hear if your signal is really dark and thumpy. Modulation really needs some upper harmonics to be heard. So I'll either turn on some dirt before it, or change the EQ of my bass to give it some more sparkle. Then the modulation can really sing. This goes for wah's and filters too.
  16. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
  17. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    A lot of good points, but I disagree with the notion that clean blends always sound bad. I agree with you that bad clean blends sound bad, that doesn't mean that all clean blends sound bad, however.

    Wren and Cuff for instance did a very good job IMO of offering a clean blend that actually, well, blends as opposed to just sits on top of a fizzy sounding mess. My Pickle Pie B probably wouldn't be one of my absolute go to pedals if it didn't have the carefully selected built in clean blend.

    For external blenders, I really get a good use out of my Xotic X-Blender, although I don't use it with my dirt pedals for logistical reasons, it isn't intrusive or overpowering, especially with the built in eq and boost controls, just fills out the missing space that is inevitable when switching tones.
  18. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    As far as "the gear" goes, it's always gonna be different strokes for different folks!

    Clean blending works great for me, but maybe not you. A RAT works great for you, but not so much for me. I look goofy in scarves, you probably look cool as all get-out in a scarf! ;-)

    In my humble opinion, the gear is not nearly as important as how well you use your gear which is then even less important than how well your parts/note choices serve the music and ensemble. You can spend an eternity chasing down sounds (lord knows I waste way too much time doing it) or look at other possible reasons that you aren't happy when hitting that stompbox. Often, it's probably just not the right time to stomp it! ;) BUT- when it is the right time, LET EM HAVE IT!!!!! :)
  19. All of what I said is definitely IMHO, I wasn't trying to imply that clean blend is objectively bad. I just don't like it, that layered sound just turns me off. With that being said, my Dwarfcraft Hair of the Dog has a blend (although I rarely use it) that sounds decent. But that's because it's not really a clean blend. The "clean" signal is really dark and kinda dirty, so it doesn't stand out from the fuzz sound, it sits in the background. But I still prefer it without, when all is said and done.
  20. spaz21387


    Feb 25, 2008
    Portland oregon
    which fuzz are you using? Id recommend the blackout effectors musket. I have been through over 15 different fuzzes and the best turned out to be a whiteface rat and the blackout musket. go try one Its well worth the 175$ price tag.

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