I get a lot of comments about my bass rig and today I thought I’d put pen to paper and tell you how you can do it for yourself. There’s no magic involved, and there is more than one way to do it – from a couple of cheap pedals to a full dual amplifier rig. You can build the rig to be used with either a regular guitar or a bass guitar too, although going the bass route seems to be more popular and guarantees a strong bottom end to the sound.
How Did I Come Up With The Idea?
Good question. Well, I’ve always like the twin octave sound of a bass and guitar playing the same riff an octave or two apart. RATM type riffs played this way sound awesome to my ears. I had the idea of putting a simple band together where one person did vocals, one did drums and I did ‘guitar’, and nothing else. I figured there must be a way to get a two octave sign out of my bass, using pedals. I spent a couple of weeks shopping on eBay and bought a Micro POG octave pedal, a Boss LS-1 Line Selector and a couple of overdrive pedals and I had everything I needed to start experimenting. To be honest, I’m not a pedal tart – I don’t like fiddling with gear. I got a sound I liked and I’ve stuck with it. The Eyes Like Twenty Rig of Doom…
Yes, it’s true that the guy from Royal Blood uses a very similar type of rig. Did I copy him? Hand on heart, no I didn’t. I think I just had similar ideas, for similar reasons at the same time. I have had a look at his rig since then and it’s pretty different to mine anyway. Still, it does give a fat double octave sound, no doubt about that. Good on him. 😉
The whole idea of this type of rig is to make it sound like an overdriven bass and guitar playing the same riff, just an octave or two apart. To do this, the basic piece of kit you need is an octave pedal to give you the higher octave. This does require a pedal that can create an octave HIGHER (not just lower as many do – I use a Micro POG). The most basic rig would be:
BASS GUITAR > OCTAVE PEDAL SET 50% direct / 50% octave up > OVERDRIVE > CLEAN AMP
This takes the signal from the bass, creates the octave up sound, outputs 50% direct and 50% high octave, adds distortion and then goes to the amp. Does it work? Sort of. Does it sound like a guitar and bass playing together? Not really. More of a fuzz/mush thing.
Splitting Things Up
To get the sound we’re looking for, we need to treat the direct and octave-up signals separately. Splitting the signal in two, adding overdrive to them, then combining them via a clean mixer of some kind before sending the whole lot to a clean amp. This is how my rig is designed. I use a Boss LS-2 line selector in A/B Mix mode. This gives me an input (when i plug the bass) 2 signal loops each with a volume knob, and an output for the amp where the two loops are combined.
The A loop is for the octave-up guitar sound. This has the Micro POG set to octave up and no unaffected signal, a distortion pedal (well, two actually) and a delay pedal for a bit of grease.
The B loop is for the bass sound. This just has a bass overdrive pedal and a kill switch. This all goes into my Genz Benz Streamliner amp set pretty flat, then onto my GB 2×12 cab with the tweeter turned right off to prevent any fizz.
So how does this sound? Well, it sounds kinda like a guitar and bass playing together! Using the LS-2 / Micro POG arrangement, you can do pretty much any combination of overdrive and FX on the two separate sections. I like to keep it simple as I don’t enjoy tap-dancing at a gig, but you might. Knock yourself out.
Note: You may be able to achieve this with any of the modern crop of multi FX units, but as I don’t own one I can’t say.
The Extreme Rig
If solid state dirt pedals and clean amps aren’t your thing, or if you’re loaded and/or enjoy lugging tons of gear, there is (in theory at least) a better way to do it. Simply plug your bass into your octave pedal. Take the direct output and plug it into a bass amp of your choice. Then, take the octave-up output and plug it into the guitar amp of your choice. Hey presto.
I’m thinking SVT and 5150, but you might have a different idea as to what the best combination might be. Answers on a postcard, and remember: Lift with your knees.