Are you tired of moving from gig to gig carrying a bunch of your bass pedals in an uncool supermarket bag? What about taking ten to fifteen minutes just to put them together on the floor and plug them all in while the band waits?
There comes a time in the life of every musician that we graduate from that era and get to the gig with all our pedals ready to go on a board. This is known as the pedalboard era. To pull it off the right way it is crucial to know how to choose the bass pedal order: the power source and the sizes. I’ve been there in the past and would like to share this side of my pedal journey with you so you don”t make the same mistakes I did a long time ago.
Why do you need a pedalboard?
Let’s get started right from the beginning: why do you need a pedalboard? Well, there are several positive points about having a pedalboard let’s go through them:
Easier transportation — When you have a pedalboard. you are taking all the effects in one simple surface: making transportation easier.
You won’t lose any — When you leave a smoky bar with a bunch of separate pedals. you re going to start scratching your head and going “where them. six. or seven?” and next thing you know: your favorite fuzz pedal is gone.
Time-saving — If you stop plugging the pedals together every time you are using them; you “II save a lot of time.
Avoid breakage — You avoid breaking pedals by taking them in a pedalboard instead of loose in a bag. Investing in a pedalboard you’ll save money in pedal replacements and repairs.
Cases vs. gig bags
This is a very important question to have a good relationship with your pedalboard: make it easy to carry. I remember back in the day getting it all wrong and moving my pedalboard around in a case with a trolley and the bass in a gig bag. Unless you fly or have to throw it under a bus: I wouldn’t abandon gig bags.
Let’s talk sizes
In the same line as the upper statement try to make it as small as possible. Instead of buying a bigger model to fit future inclusions try narrowing it down to the minimum you can get away with. Your back will be forever thankful. You can see in this video how legend Juan Alderete built his pedalboard thinking about how he’s going to move it.
Power it all up
What you power your pedals with has a direct effect on sound and reliability. Invest some money on the power source and get rid of a potential headache. There are some models you can fit underneath like the Pedal Train.
Bass pedals you can’t go missing
There are some categories of bass pedals that you cant go missing; well name them in the order they should go.
Many people start their chains with the tuner: but I put it after the distortions so they won’t be noisy when I m tuning. The compressor should always go first; it is a very important pedal for bass players especially and goes first in the chain because you want a compressed signal to feed the other pedals and not to feed the compressor with anything but the pure signal of your instrument. Compressing a distorted sound sounds weird distorting a compressed sound sounds amazing.
If you use any kind of filter pedals (like a wah-wah) or a synth pedal on your bass like the famous goss SY 85 this is the moment for it. You shouldn’t feed this kind of pedal with anything but a clean and powerful bass signal.
If you are using a preamp like the SansAmp or an MXR M89 bass overdrive or both this is the place in the chain where I would put it. Putting them further on will make it difficult to control the final audio.
Going into a higher gain territory. The fuzz pedals and the distortion pedals should follow the preamp and overdrive pedals. You can try and put the filter after the distortion to generate a different more focused and tamer sound than the famous wild filtered then distorted sound we are used to.
This is the perfect place for the tuner because it will mute your entire signal muting the hum and the noise from fuzz and distortion units as well but letting delay effects and modulators fade out.
Modulation and pitch
It’s the modulators (chorus, phaser, vibrato, etc.) and the pitch (whammy: pitch shifters, octave, etc.) effects moment in your chain. They are great for receiving the distorted or filtered sound you are generating so far. Don’t be afraid of the mix: you’ll come up with something new.
Delay and Reverb
Why is bass pedal order important?
The order of the pedals on the board is very important but there is no right or wrong, just suggestions. The order they are following will affect the way they sound and force you to choose the combination you like the best; the one above is the most popular and agreed upon and what my years of experience tell me is the best. You can see Juan Alderete walk you through his and making it clear what goes after what.
Creating your first pedalboard to put all your bass pedals in order and have a hassle-free experience in every gig is quite a treat. I remember my first pedalboard (a disaster!) vividly and all that I’ve learned since is in the advice above. After years of carrying it around it taught me a thing or two.
I don’t want to finish this without also telling you that it will be a constant work in progress because we, bass players, are curious creatures.
Expect your pedalboard to evolve with your ear, don’t fight change and you’ll be just fine. If you have any doubts or comments or do anything different than we d d just drop us some lines and maybe you can help us help other bass players with your same concerns.