What's your take on subtle effects?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by JazzyJacuzzi, Oct 20, 2021.

  1. JazzyJacuzzi


    Sep 17, 2021
    I often hear bass players say something along the lines of "I want to hear the effect when I turn it on," as in, the effect has to be obvious (sun-melting fuzz, cathedral reverb, for e.g.) or it's not worth putting on. A go-big-or-go-home kind of thing.

    I didn't use effects on bass until I picked up guitar, where, in my experience, a lot of effects are used subtly: slapback delays, light overdrives, small-room reverbs and so on. A clean guitar tone, it seems, is never actually clean.

    It's sort of the approach I took when I incorporated effects into my bass playing. I looked at boosts and light overdrives, not distortions. I toyed around with fast and low-feedback delays to make my tone "breathe," not The-Edge-dotted-eight type of delays.

    What's your take on subtle effects? What are you favourite subtle effects?
    LowActionHero and Peter Torning like this.
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    I like these for recording and doing parts home. Layers of light compression, vague chorus, light crunch, delicate short reverb.
    When playing live, effects have to be in your face or they're useless to me.
  3. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    One of my favorite things! In normal operation it just sounds like a little tape drag. If you engage it’s a flanger but lift your foot and it’s just a little lo-fi shimmer that you can leave on all the time. It simply sounds less sterile to me.
  4. johnk_10

    johnk_10 vintage bass nut Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 16, 2008
    Washington, Utah
    John K Custom Basses
    packhowitzer and kranahan like this.
  5. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you do gigs with in ears, you hear a LOT more detail in things than on a stage with amps blazing away. Subtle effects work with in ears, with amps and wedges you need to be hit over the head to hear stuff.
  6. pbass6811

    pbass6811 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Indy, IN
    This. ^^

    In the studio, there are plenty of ways to make even the most subtle effects, at least, noticeable. You only have to go "over-the-top" if that's what you're going for.

    Completely different story in a live band/gigging context. Nothing worse than getting to that part of a song that has that reverb/delay/chorus that you dig and kicking on said pedal, and hearing...nothing. That's so frustrating. Some effects, on bass, in a live context, really need to be almost outrageous to even be heard. Subtle reverbs and modulations are useless live.
  7. saltydude


    Aug 15, 2011
    boston CANADA
    I understand both sides. It’s fun to play with prominent effects like fuzz, rat, modulation etc. but subtle is where your normal awesome tones reside. The longer you play with them the more subtle your tastes become. It’s a graduation process.
  8. Subtlety rocks.
    My favorite subtle effect is compression. Wouldn't think twice to add a subtle chorus or subtle overdrive when it fits the song.
    FX subtlety may be "lost" to the audience or to my fellow bandmates, but not to me, even when I don't consciously notice it in that setting, I know it is there, so I consider it's worth it. Moreover, even if you can't hear it so obviously...subtlety still registers with the brains of the listeners. It happens on records and live.
    Subtlety rocks.
    Zbysek likes this.
  9. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Most of my effect use is pretty overt, but I tend to use phase shifters less for that conspicuous swirling wooosh they can do and more for just adding a subtle, sublime bit of animation to passages.
    VoodooJazz likes this.
  10. JazzyJacuzzi


    Sep 17, 2021
    What is this? Is it based on anything? I’ve never heard of it before
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Certain effects work more subtly, and others beg to be cranked. Compression is one I like best when it’s subtle. I also like mild OD. But fuzz, hey, I like it crushing brains ;)
  12. drumvsbass


    Aug 20, 2011
    Anytime I step on an effect in a band situation, it should have some kind of boost. As if the bass got bigger in some way. Otherwise what's the point? Subtlety with bass effects in a live situation is almost pointless.
  13. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    I just can't seem to find a point in buying, packing, carrying, hooking up, leveling, eqing, tweaking settings, adjusting, chaining, and not having it be apparent that it's there.
    lomo and pbass6811 like this.
  14. Iristone


    Jul 8, 2017
    I almost always use a subtle compression and overdrive (in a parallel circuit). Sometimes with a slight chorus too. Delay and reverb I'd ask the soundperson to tune to the room for me. I sometimes use a non-subtle fuzz on top with these, too.
  15. I used to have a daydream of a very subtle chorus/very shallow flange with a gated reverb that was just 'seasoning', not a big night/day, just a different flavor for different things. Back when I tried to do it, I coldn't just ease and out of it with BOSS pedals, and I couldn't afford rack-mount Eventide or a REV-1 back then.

    Maybe today it would be possible.
    spatters likes this.
  16. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Subtle reverb and subtle phase are my thing. I don't do subtle fuzz though.
  17. Smurf-o-Deth

    Smurf-o-Deth Nothing to fret over. Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2007
    The state of denial.
    This thread needs a poll!

    ○ Less is more
    ○ More is more
    gtirard, Bob_Ross, lomo and 1 other person like this.
  18. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I use a Bearfoot Blueberry distortion pedal to provide a little grit when I want it and I want just a little bit. Depending on where we are playing and how loud everybody else is that bit of grit will vary. It also depends on how hard I play, if I really dig in I might get a bit more. My wife comes with me to almost every gig and I have explained to her what I'm trying to achieve. I ask her to listen during our sound check to see if I'm getting what I want. I don't feel like I can depend on just my ears and what I'm hearing on stage and I have confidence that my wife knows what I'm after.
  19. IMG_6779.jpg
    This is all I use.
  20. I sometimes play entire songs with a Lovetone Phaser recreation set very subtle. It's not something you'd notice unless you were listening for it, but I think it just adds interest.

    I also appreciate subtle dirt. Stuff that's low-gain and also focused in the lower frequencies, so there's more grunt or grind than anything biting that might outwardly sound like distortion. I'll frequently leave my overdrive on in that vein.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Nov 28, 2021

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