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Knowing when to use an effect

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by BassPlummet, Mar 7, 2014.

  1. Sorry if this is already somewhere on the forums, but how do you know when you should use an effect or not?

    Thinking about it myself, definitely in the chorus, but where else? Is it something you just have to feel or are there guidelines that you could follow?

    I mean if I have a tone I like that requires a pedal to always be on. Wouldn't I just keep it on? Or would it be better to reserve it and keep a more original tone most of the time?
  2. Use it where you think it sounds good
  3. grunge_freak


    Aug 3, 2010
    ^+1. It really depends on the pedal but there is no rule about it. Just whatever you think sounds good and whatever sound you're going for. I have a song where during the verse I have a Boss BF-2 flanger on to make the bass trippy in the background, then for the chorus I switch to a distortion cause it's a heavy chorus. That's just one small example of pedals at work for different things but you can do whatever sounds good and encompasses the style you're trying to play.
  4. AlexBassMP


    Feb 5, 2014
    IMO there are no rules or "Fx user's handbook" .

    It's all about experience. Soemtimes the style you're playing guides you in a tonal direction or some FX. I use a compressed overdriven tone with my metal band , but I use a clean sound with my covers band .

    The more you play the more you'll know about using fx. Sometimes you dial in a great tone in your bedroom.. and when you try it with the band it doesn't work...sometimes your're playing and a inner voice whispers you : this part would sound better with a chorus

    In one sentence : Try by yourself and if it works, thats's great, if it doesn't , try another thing.
  5. Ah, I see. Yeah that makes sense. Thanks! (to all)

    At the moment I only have an AGRO. So really it's slightly Overdriven or clean. A compressor would probably be good to get next I think. Get a bit of variety going and open up more options.
  6. I find the best time to use effects is when the guitarist isn't looking. They get jealous when they see your board is bigger than theirs.

    Really I find music to be a creative outlet so do whatever sounds good, and maybe you should ask when people use effects and then do the opposite. Forget about rules and listen to your playing. Eventually you will learn what you like to use with the different ways you play.
  7. Haha xD

    Well yeah, I think the biggest problem for me is I have only recently started to use a pedal and I am still fiddling with the settings, trying to find the sound that makes sweet love to my eardrums.
  8. Matt Dean

    Matt Dean Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF (North) Bay Area
    The only rule of thumb I follow besides if it sounds good do it, is when one of my guitar player's using a lot of distortion, I tend to go clean and when the guitar player is playing clean, I go dirty.
  9. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    There's something in that. I think John Taylor said that in Duran Duran, they agreed that they would only have one effect going at a time to avoid muddying up the sound - distorted guitar/clean bass and vice versa. That's a particular stylistic choice, though.

    I usually think about it in terms of the mood of the song. If I need to fill more sonic space (say while the guitar is soloing and we don't want it to send empty underneath), I'll kick in some effect. If we're playing something with more of a funk/electro/dance vibe I'll kick on the envelope filter - stuff like that.
  10. vegas532


    Nov 10, 2006
    Melbourne, FL.
    I do it to accentuate a mood, or drive a particular feel. I almost think of it as the Renaissance Era concept of "word painting", where the singer would use tonalities in their word inflection to add a literal translation to the meaning of the story line.
  11. zwkoch

    zwkoch You can't do that on bass enthusiast Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2012
    Twin Cities, MN
    Exactly right. Effects are an expressive tool for me, not a technical tool. The important thing is not to change your tone so much that you lose your presence as the bottom end support, or worse, make the song too muddy and complicated. Like Matt said, if those around me are busy, I simplify. I also only use effects like chorus, delay, and reverb when I am the featured rhythm instrument. Ultimately, the tone and attack need to match the emotional tone of the song or moment of the song.
  12. Trust me if you are overusing or abusing a certain effect or pedal, someone in your group will tell you.

    I remember back in the day, when I wore a younger mans clothes, ma boy Jay Dawg looks at me after the third song and says "Are you gonna use that wah pedal on every song?"

    It was his subtle way of asking me to tone it down a bit.

    thnx J
  13. sillyfabe

    sillyfabe keeping the low-end silly since '06 Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2009
    San Bernardino,CA

    Also the clean guitar/dirty bass - dirty guitar/clean bass is usually what I do in my band. If we both have some sort of od/dirt/fuzz then it will be on much different ends of it (i.e. guitar= mild od/ bass= aggressive fuzz or vice versa: avoids the pitfalls of stepping on each others frequencies and overall tonality)
  14. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    Just don't leave your flanger on all night. Too much dirt can lead to ear fatigue but using the same effect on too many tunes gets really annoying.
  15. 8strings0hair


    Jan 28, 2011
    I would suggest a slightly different approach: Don't just think like a bass player. Think like a producer/arranger.
    Record your rehearsals as much as possible and listen to the SONG, not the bass.
    Then, if during any given section something calls out to you (this would sound great with X, or Y), throw it on at the next rehearsal.
    Once you get comfortable with that, you can actually step out of your own world WHILE performing the song, and add whatever feels right.
  16. JensCambre


    Feb 3, 2014
    I have some pedals that are practicaly always on, just fore my tone. Aside from that i only use my other effects from time to time. Mostly in bridge parts, but sometimes a verse requires a little extra... i play in a powertrio, so that gives me a lot more freedom as a bassplayer than when i have to take another guitarist or keyboardplayer into account.

    However, our guitarist uses a lot of effects himself, os i can't over do it, otherwise the drive will be taken out of the music