Can Guitar Pedals Be Used For Bass? (The Definitive Guide)

With the current popularity and flood of effect pedals coming in all shapes, sizes, features, and sounds. I must admit, there are more effect pedal options for the guitar players than the bass players out there.

And with this, bass players commonly ask can guitar pedals be used for bass?

The Short Answer

Although designed and voiced for a regular guitar. Guitar pedals can certainly be utilized in an effects chain in conjunction with a bass. Some popular guitar pedals commonly used for bass are octave, fuzz, envelope filters, modulation (chorus, phaser) and time-based effects (reverb & delays.)

So now we know that guitar effects are used and popular tools for bass players. Let’s look at what separates the function of guitar pedals and bass pedals.

Guitar Pedal and Bass Pedal Differences

Although guitar and bass pedals can include the same circuitry, tonal structure, components, and a similar sound and effect.

The main difference that separates them is that bass pedals are designed to optimize the ‘low-end frequencies’ of a bass guitar. While guitar pedals are designed to optimize the higher ‘mid-range’ frequencies while paying less attention to the low frequencies.

And with this, you may find certain guitar effects when plugged into your bass will salvage some of the sweet lows. Whereas, some will not be as forgiving and massively cut them off depending on the pedal, effect, and how it is voiced.

For example, one guitar distortion pedal might give you an aggressive and decent overall tone but is lacking in the lower frequencies. Whereas, another guitar pedal might sound bad but give you a lot of character in the low-end.

This is why it is important to test and experiment with many guitar pedals at a guitar store or rent from your friends, to see what works with your bass for your desired tone.

Experiment With Both

Experimenting with both guitar and bass pedals is a good way of stumbling upon a pedal that gives your bass tone a unique sound and flavor bringing something new and interesting to the party.

So with this in mind, guitar pedals should not be limited and strictly used just for guitar. I mean come on where is the fun in that?

It’s always good to think and play outside the box with your sound.

Crossover Pedals

There is certain classic pedals (although designed for guitar) sound just as good and at home on bass known as ‘crossover pedals.’ Some examples of these are…

  • Electro-Harmonics Big Muff
  • Dunlop Phase 90
  • Electro-Harmonics POG 2
  • PRO CO RAT

This video shows classic pedals sounding great on guitar and bass! (Watch Below)

Therefore it is up to you to go out and find a new winning combination with all the great pedals out there that work for your bass rig and sound.

Guitar Pedals Popular with Bass

Now personal taste will obviously dictate what guitar pedals sound good with your pedalboard and desired tone.

Some guitar effect pedals work well with bass (if not better) while others do not match as well. For example, guitar distortions work a charm whereas guitar EQ pedals are not as effective.

However, keep in mind there are no ‘set rules’ when it comes to setting up your effect pedalboard when creating your personal sound.

The great thing about crafting a pedalboard is it is totally subjective to the player and there is no right or wrong.

With that said, there are popular and less popular guitar pedals out there that bass players tend to grab for.

Distortion/Overdrive

For dirtying a standard clean and smooth bass tone. Guitar pedal distortion and overdrives can certainly transform a clean bass tone to ultra dirty adding some grit and bite.

Metal bass players have historically known to use guitar distortion for an aggressive and heavy bass tone, covering a wide range of metal genres.

Mainly because guitar distortion or more mid-focused allowing a bass signal to be less buried in a mix adding additional aggression and bite to a tone.

Guitar Distortion Pedals on Bass Test (Watch Below)

It has to be noted that finding the ideal distortion will take some experimentation for finding the distortion pedal to your ears.

The reason is that not all guitar distortions are created equally. Different distortion pedals enhance certain nuances while paying less attention to other frequencies.

For example, the problem is that some distortions can cut most of the low-end frequencies from the signal which is where a bass primary operates.

Also, certain pedals lend themselves well to a thick sounding bass whereas, the tonal structure of some guitar distortion pedals can be too harsh on the ears when combined with a bass signal.

For example, a distortion that oozes a Marshall style tone may not sound great when combined with a bass. The reason is this distortions tonality is ‘mid focused’ and may not offer the ideal tone you desire.

Again the best thing is to try out many distortion pedals as you can in a guitar store or lend some friends. Test and see which distortion lends itself best to your sound.

Popular Distortion/Overdrives for Guitar & Bass

  • Fulltone OCD
  • PRO CO RAT Distortion
  • Ibanez Tube Screamer
  • Boss DS-1

Fuzz

Arguably fuzz is one of the most popular and coolest effects combining perfectly with guitar and bass. Giving your tone an aggressive, saturated and cool dynamic to your pedalboard.

Even better is that pedal selection can be less picky compared to distortion. As most fuzz pedals are designed to process and recreate the signals full frequency range which are ideal for bass players.

The difference is with certain fuzz pedals is that some are designed to be more aggressive and ‘in your face’ than others.

For example, some are designed to thicken up a tone and produce a warm subtle overdrive, whereas other fuzzes stand out to be more aggressive by creating a saturated fuzzy tone that is angrier and ‘in your face’.

Again, the perfect fuzz sound is down to your personal preferences and how you want it to sound in your bass rig.

Signal Blending

Some more advanced fuzz units and pedals include the option to blend in the ‘dry/wet signal’ into the effect. This feature is perfect for using for bass as it allows the overall tone to retain some of the low-end bass frequencies.

Allowing the bass to retain its low-end thump and not be buried and ensure the effect is not over saturating the clarity of the notes. For this feature alone, this is why a fuzz pedal can combine so well with a bass guitar.

Allowing the bass to retain its low-end thump and not be buried and ensure the effect is not over saturating the clarity of the notes. For this feature alone, this is why a fuzz pedal can combine so well with a bass guitar.

Popular Guitar/Bass Fuzz Pedals

  • Electro-Harmonics Big Muff
  • Germanium Fuzz Face
  • Tone City Fuxx Fuzz

Modulation Effects

When it comes to modulation effects I would not suggest total limiting yourself to a ‘bass specific’ pedals such as chorus, phaser, and flangers.

When in actual fact, most guitar pedal modulation effects get the job done perfectly fine when used with a bass.

For example, chorus is a popular guitar pedal combined with bass guitars. Many players do not notice much of a difference when it comes to guitar chorus and bass pedal chorus.

The guitar pedal still creates the noticeable ‘shimmering’ sound of deep chorus when combined with bass.

However, the bass chorus pedal will be able to recreate the sound over a larger frequency range notably the lower frequencies. Again, this is down to personal choice whether the chorus is up to your standard of tone.

There may be slight variation in the low end but the differences are not exactly night and day. Therefore, it is up to you to make your own decision whether you should go for a bass specific pedal or test out a regular guitar pedal with your bass.

Octave Pedals

Octave pedals are the ultimate for both bass and guitar. The versatility of tones from (depending on the octave pedal) range from synth, sub-octave, harmonizer, pitch effects or just fattening a tone.

This can create a wide range of tones from aggressive sounds, ambient soundscapes, detuned tones, and deep lo-fi bass sounds.

There a good amount of crossover bass and guitar octave pedals. Noticeable the Boss Super Octave OC3 includes a guitar and bass input giving players the versatility of both instruments.

The Electro Harmonix POG is also popularly combined with bass and guitar creating a variety of octave and detuned sounds with tons of control and flexibility.

  • Boss Super Octave OC3
  • Electro Harmonix POG
  • Mooer MOC1 Pure Octave
  • Aguilar Ocamizer

Envelope Filters

Envelope filters are a common effect for guitar producing a funky ‘wah wah’ and ‘quaky’ sound. However, these pedals are known to combine perfectly for recreating funky bass tones.

Some argue they sound even better when combined with a small amount of overdrive or fuzz.

Time-Based Effects

Reverbs and delays add color and ambiance to a dry bass tone and primarily ‘set it and forget it pedals.’ Guitar reverbs and delay pedals can happily be placed into a bass pedalboard with no discrepancies in tone and sound.

Even better is with the flood of affordable pedals on the market. There are more than enough options for choosing and adding a great sounding time-based effect to your rig without breaking the bank.

Guitar Pedals Not to use for Bass

Guitar Graphic EQ pedals are not recommended for bass as they are designed and optimized for the frequency range of a regular guitar.

Using standard tuning as an example, the low E string of a guitar is around 82 Hz and the lowest frequency range available to a standard guitar graphic EQ pedal would be around 100 Hz.

Now the low E on a bass guitar would be around 40 Hz and most Bass EQ pedals lowest band are around 50 Hz.

As you can see these band frequencies are designed and matched for one another and will not match up well tonally if you want to get the very best from your pedals.

Other Differences Between Guitar and Bass Pedals

So why do bass-specific pedals exist if guitar pedals work so well on bass? Well, the difference is that a bass guitars sound operates around the low-end frequencies which are the sonic identity of a bass.

With this in mind, manufacturers produce bass specific versions of pedals designed and voiced to enhance and boost the rich ‘low-end frequencies’ after processing the signal.

This is to optimize the effect and give you the smoothest and genuine sound to your bass pedalboard.

It’s also to ensure that the effect does not sound muddy or loose and give a broader range of tone. Some bass pedals will also give you the control of how much low end you want in and out of the signal in the form of a low filter dial.

Likewise, It’s very possible a guitar pedal can give you a cool and interesting sound on bass.

On the other hand, a different guitar pedal could give your bass tone a loose and muddy sound as it does not priorities the bottom-end frequencies.

Dry/Wet Signal Control

A noticeable feature of bass specific pedals is the inclusion of a ‘dry/wet’ signal blend which is absent on guitar pedals. This allows the player to blend in some of the basses dry signal with the effect.

The reason this feature is absent on regular guitar pedals is that guitar effects do not need a lot of the guitar’s dry signal, mainly because a dry guitar signal is boring and bland.

However, a good blend of the bass’s dry signal is needed to support the low-end frequencies of the bass. The dry signal is needed in significant amounts in order to offer clarity to the notes and support the basses optimal frequencies.

Differences in Output

Another noticeable difference that separates guitar and bass specific pedals is that bass pedals are designed to handle the higher output signal of a bass. Bass pickups naturally produce a hotter output than regular guitar pickups.

This is pretty obvious why because bass strings are much thicker than regular guitar strings and vibrate in a wider pattern.

With this in mind, bass pedals circuity and components are adapted to handle the higher input level from the hotter and higher output bass signal.

Reasons for Using Guitar Pedals with Bass

  • If you are a guitar player but play bass on the side or vice versa
  • A cheaper alternative -paying more for an effect pedal for specifically bass guitar can be more expensive
  • More affordable guitar effects than bass effects.
  • Guitar pedals can in some cases sound better than ‘bass specific pedals’
  • Experimentation
  • Finding a unique sound
  • Good ‘set it and forget it’ pedals
  • Cheap guitar pedals make good backups

Recap of the Main Points

  • Guitar pedals can be used and can sound great with bass
  • Some guitar pedals will cut low frequencies more than others
  • Certain guitar effects work better with bass than others
  • Experiment with pedals frequently to uncover a unique sound
  • There are no rules when crafting your pedalboard

Related Questions

Can bass pedals be used for regular guitars?

Bass pedals can 100% be used for regular guitars. The reasons why some guitarists may use bass pedal effects is to enhance the bottom-end frequencies of a certain effect. A bass pedal is primarily designed to enhance low-end frequencies which can work with guitar also.

Thanks for reading my post, I hope you got a lot of great information but before you go…

I have an awesome related article you should check out called “plugging a bass into a guitar amp.” Explaining everything about whether it is safe, practical and good tonally playing bass through a regular guitar amp.

Thanks For Reading

Do you use any guitar effects in your bass pedalboard? Or likewise, bass effects in your guitar pedalboard? What’s your opinion on doing so? Let me know in the comments section below…

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