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Confessions of an Effects Newb I: Intro

For the longest time (which means from when I picked up an electric bass, saying “surely this will get me the chicks!” to now), I really wrote off effects as gimmicks. I was fully immersed in the “I can do it all with my fingers” camp, and to be honest, to an extent I can.

However a couple of years ago my guitarist friend (the one and only Troy Benton) got me to buy a Line 6 BassPod XT Live, for the purpose of amp modeling, and having all of the other bass effects as a bonus. While unwieldy at first, I finally got the hang of how to dial in some usable tones, what certain effects do (and learning the difference between overdrive, fuzz and distortion) and the effect they have in the signal chain.

For the people not in the know, putting a distortion pedal before a chorus pedal will have a dramatically different sound than if you flip the orientation. The more I spent time with this board (and used it on many gigs and theatre runs), the more I realized that effects aren’t gimmicks. Like a box of Prismacolor markers to an artist, effects pedals can help you add a lot of color and nuance to a song.

Granted, it could look like you’re just using all the colors that came in the box too.

This past month, I ended up selling the BassPod. I’m sure the big question would be “If you liked it so much, why did you sell it?” and rightfully so. From what a lot of articles I’ve read, multi-effects boards (of which the Pod is one) are seen as “gateway” effects, meaning that a number of people get their feet wet with effects that way, and then go off into building their own board with standalone pedals.

That’s what I’m doing. With that comes a lot more questions in regards to cables used for connecting pedals, powering all of the pedals (I’d rather not buy 9v batteries by the truckload), the pedal board itself (should I build one or buy a prebuilt one)…and we haven’t even gotten to buying single effects yet.

It’s times like this, my comment of “I can do it all with my fingers” wasn’t so much a rebellion against using effects, but trying to keep things as simple as possible. Oh well, it’s too late now.

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