Guitar and bass pedals can look almost identical to one another, but can they be used interchangeably?
As with most things, it really depends; however, this article will discuss some things you should consider before trying to run some guitar pedals through your bass rig and, hopefully, help you make the right purchases in the future.
The Problem With Using Guitar Pedals On Bass
When people wonder if using guitar pedals when playing bass is okay, they are often wondering if they will work or if they will cause any damage to their gear.
The fact of the matter is that guitar pedals will certainly work still because they are just processing a signal. They aren’t harmful to your other equipment, either.
If that’s the case, what’s the problem with using them?
The issue with guitar pedals used for bass playing is that they typically won’t sound right for the instrument.
They might even sound terrible compared to the same type of pedal that’s specifically made for bass.
Both the guitar and bass operate at different frequencies, and many pedals out there aim to work within them or help enhance or remove certain ones.
EQ Pedals are an excellent example since they are built to help you dial in these specific frequencies.
If you get the chance, compare two Boss EQ pedals – one made for guitar (GE-7) and the other made for bass (GEB-7). You’ll notice that the bands focus on different frequencies.
Because of this, naturally, if you’re a bassist, you’ll want to get a bass EQ pedal because the pedal is optimized for your instrument and will help you find a better tone that works within the mix.
It’s also important to consider the compressor you use because the bass is a much more dynamic instrument than the guitar. Most bass compressors will be better suited to control the instrument’s signal and give you an even and stable tone overall.
Take a look at this Empress Bass Compressor demo by Patrick Hunter to see what I mean:
Certain effects like distortion, overdrive, chorus, and flanger pedals for guitar can sound less than ideal on bass, too.
This is because they also alter frequencies, often filtering out certain ones that are important for bass players.
For instance, many of the distortion and overdrive pedals made specifically for guitars will try to cut off a lot of your low-end.
At the same time, there are a ton of people who like this kind of tone. It’s all subjective, and effects like distortion and overdrive for guitar can sound good when applied to the bass because people probably won’t need to worry about sounding too muddy.
However, if you’re trying to add some dirt and grit to your tone, I’d still suggest looking into overdrive pedals for bass first because they can help you retain some of your low-end frequencies and achieve a thicker bass tone.
When it’s all said and done, you can totally use guitar pedals when playing bass, but should you?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so, but your mileage may vary.
Some people like to use them, whereas others dislike guitar pedals and prefer to use bass effects pedals that are actually made for their instrument. However, some, like tuning pedals, are functional for both guitars and basses.
Aside from a few exceptions, I’m in the camp of having pedals specifically made for bass, especially for essential effects like EQ, compression, and preamps, simply due to the frequency and dynamic range of the bass guitar.
Nonetheless, you’re still encouraged to experiment if you’re able to. However, I’d only advise this if you happen to have guitar pedals lying around your house since pedals can be expensive.
Many accessories for bass are interchangeable with guitar and vice-versa, so you can save some money here and there, but pedals aren’t exactly one of those things, and if you’re like most folks with limited resources, I’d recommend just doing your research and finding solid bass pedals for the effects that you want.
I think you’ll probably have the best experience overall rather than buying a guitar pedal and finding out that it doesn’t really suit your bass at all.