The majority of effect pedals are made for guitarists and therefore, many bass players fear the contact with the small (and sometimes big) devices that can add a special character to the sound.
In the first part of this two-part series, I would like to present some effect categories, every bass player can use without taking any risks. In the second part, we will have a closer look on effects, that require a bit more sensitivity.
So, boys and girls behind the fat strings: go for it!
A compressor might be the most common effect pedal for bass players. By using it, you can add more punch to the signal and make the bass lines sound smoother.
Of course, the compressor has also sonic affects. It emphasizes the less audible frequencies. If, for example, your sound has only few mids, these will be accentuated. Depending on the circuit, the signal will become crisper or darker.
Overdrive pedals as well are very suitable for bass players. They thicken the sound.
If you are using an overdrive pedal with a lot of gain, like a Proco Rat or a Big Muff, it makes sense, to add the clean signal as well. Thereby, the bass will cut through the mix pretty well.
Overdrive pedals that have been constructed for bass guitars mostly offer a blend pot. But there are also some mixing pedals like the Lehle Parallel or the Xotic Blender, that allow to add any kind of overdrive pedal.
Octave/pitch shifting pedals
Although bass guitars mostly produce darker sounds than a guitar, an octave pedal can be interesting for bass players as well. By adding the low-pitched octave to the clean signal, the sound will become even punchier. But pitch shifting pedals as well might be suitable to create interesting sounds by adding a higher octave or whammy effects.
In combination with a little distortion, your bass will be able to provide sonic variations from a Moog Taurus to a lead synth.
In the next part you will learn about more fancy guitar effects that are also suitable for bass players.