Bass distortion has a very specific purpose on a bass guitar. While not common in genres like jazz that maintain a cleaner tone, it is ubiquitous in rock and heavier genres like metal. In fact, if you are in search of a bass tone like legendary bands like Black Sabbath, Motorheard, and hard rock and roll hall of famers, you're pretty much guaranteed to want to invest in a good distortion pedal.
If you’ve been looking for a bass distortion pedal, or if you’ve been researching the effect, you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you all the information that you need to make an informed decision as to which bass distortion pedal is right for your needs, as well as giving you five great recommendations for specific pedals.
- Why Distort A Bass Guitar?
- Do I Need A Special Distortion Pedal for Bass? Can I Use a Regular Guitar Pedal?
- What Should I Look For In A Bass Distortion Pedal?
- How Did We Select the Best Bass Distortion Pedals?
- The Top 5 Bass Distortion Pedals
Why Distort A Bass Guitar?
There’s not a set rule on this, but bass distortion has a few different uses. For example, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers used distortion very effectively on Around the World.
The effect has also been used on tracks from bands like Ben Folds 5, Black Sabbath, and Motorhead.
The basic idea behind bass distortion is the same as guitar distortion. It doesn’t make you sound better, it just changes your overall sound. You can play in genres that use a lot of distortion without distorting your bass and sound great, likewise you can fit in a distorted bass riff in a wide variety of genres. Just like any other effect it’s really all about your personal taste and what type of sound you are trying to achieve.
Do I Need A Special Distortion Pedal for Bass? Can I Use a Regular Guitar Pedal?
You definitely can use a guitar pedal to distort your bass, it just generally won’t sound very good. Guitar specific gear (whether that’s pedals or amplifiers) aren’t designed to handle the low end frequencies you get from a bass guitar. If you plug your bass into a pedal designed for a guitar odds are you’re going to lose the vast majority of your instruments definition. It might sound okay in your room or a small practice space, but as soon as you play at any sort of venue (whether that’s a coffee shop or a bar) you’re going to be basically inaudible.
What Should I Look For In A Bass Distortion Pedal?
Thankfully, living in the internet age makes it incredibly easy to find great gear. Generally anything that’s around the $50 mark or higher will be perfectly serviceable. Once you get to that price point it’s really all about personal taste. Kurt Cobain did use a Boss DS-1, which was both inexpensive and mass produced. You don’t have to break the bank to get a great sound.
How Did We Select the Best Bass Distortion Pedals?
As always, our pedals are chosen by both personal experience and research on the part of the author. We try to make sure that we find an option that’s applicable to everyone, which is why we recommend both high-end boutique equipment as well as cheaper options at the end of every article.
The Top 5 Bass Compressor Pedals
Hopefully this article helps you figure out which bass distortion pedal is the right fit for you, your setup, and your budget. If you feel anything else should be included on this list feel free to let us know in the comments section below!
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
BOSS pedals have always been known for one thing, and that’s their reliability. You would be hard pressed to find any piece of gear that will hold up to the rigors of performance as well as a BOSS pedal, making it the perfect option for the gigging musician. And just like any other BOSS pedal the ODB-3 will compare well against just about any pedal on the market when it comes to sound.
MXR M85 Bass Distortion
The MXR M85 Bass Distortion pedal is a great option for the musician who admires versatility in their gear. The pedal comes with the option to select between LED and silicon diodes, with the LED diodes offering a smooth and open sound while the silicon diodes offer more aggressive and biting tones.
Electro-Harmonix Bass Soul Food Distortion Pedal
A companion to the incredibly well received Electro-Harmonix Soul Food, the Electro-Harmonix Bass Soul Food Distortion is a great option for the bassist on the hunt for a smooth and versatile overdrive. As an added bonus, the pedal also has a switchable -10dB pad for bassists with higher output instruments.
Tech 21 RIP Red Ripper Bass Distortion Pedal
The Tech 21 RIP Red Ripper Bass Distortion Pedal is a great fit for any bassist who won’t compromise on his/her tone. The all analog construction ensures that your instrument retains its signature sound, and the solid metal housing ensures that the pedal won’t let you down when you need it the most.
Darkglass Electronics CMOS Bass Overdrive
The Darkglass Electronics CMOS Bass Overdrive is tweaker’s dream. If you love sculpting your sound you are going to love this pedal. The pedal allows you to tweak every facet of your instrument’s tone, which will guarantee you’re always able to dial in your perfect tone.