Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

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Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by MikeRochip » Sun Jan 01, 2012 2:23 am

So recently my very nice RFX-2000 rack unit that I use with my synths fell off my desk and into the floor. The CPU is all scrambled up.

I've decided to buy a pedal or two to replace it, but I'm not sure if I should buy pedals aimed at guitar or bass. The pedal(s) would be used to for making noise with things like the Monotron and Bleeplab products. Which type of effects pedal would be most appropriate?

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by GuyaGuy » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:52 am

Bass pedals will keep the bass end of a synth intact while guitar effects might cut off some of that low end--especially overdrive effects. But sometimes that can be fun.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by cryabetes » Tue Jan 03, 2012 3:19 pm

For delays and modulation it's generally not going to matter.
The "bass chorus" or "bass flanger" type stuff generally just has a blend knob that blends the lows back in.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by nathanscribe » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:41 pm

As mentioned above, delays will be fine - most chorus units will also be fine, but some have a slight bottom end dip and mid boost (which might sound good or not depending what you want) - flangers are also generally fine - EQ is fine - most of that stuff you can buy, try and resell if you don't like it. I like the DOD FX65 or Boss CE-2 as chorus units, and the CE-3 is OK too. Try the Boss BF-2b as a flanger, or even the DOD FX75 stereo flanger. Delays are really worth experimenting with, so just pick whatever you like the look of - try one of the EHX range, or old digital ones for something noisy and gritty. Most modern digital delays are good and clean if you want that.

Phasers I've had mixed results with. The Small Stone and Boss PH-1r are good, the Moog MF-103 is very nice, and the MXR Phase 100 is a good one too. Some don't take well to the higher output level of a typical synth, like the MXR Phase 90 for example. Others are OK, it's a matter of trial and error.

Distortion and overdrive and fuzz are fussier I think. I've had mostly rubbish results from dirt pedals on synth. It's a matter of taste, but the ones I've kept have been the EHX Big Muff, my clone of the MXR distortion+, and an old Yamaha DI-01. If I want dirt on a synth I have other ways of doing it that are more interesting.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by cryabetes » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:49 pm

oh also, envelope filters track really well on synths (go figure) and for the price, you might just want to go with the Alesis ModFX (phlngr, faze, ampliton, philtre, etc) units. They're basically just made to be synth effects.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by zardoz677 » Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:01 am

remember most of the most original and out of this world sounds are created simply from experimenting, especially with running synths into guitar pedals! Venetian snares (if anyone knows who that is) is a sort of experimental breakcore artist with lots of interesting sounds and textures (look up the album: chrome cylinder box) and I read in an interview that he strings guitar pedals together to his synths and drum machines. I would also imagine that the mars volta (omar rodriguez) and John Frusciante do this allot to since they are both guitar players first and have later gotten into electronic stuff.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by nvbrkr » Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:15 pm

Most noise artists use just regular guitar pedals. I don't think bass pedals really give much of an advantage in that regard. Bass pedals tend to be a bit expensive and they're optimized for bass guitar anyway.

Some distortion pedals might cut off some of the bass (ProCo RAT springs to mind instantly), but many of them have EQ on them and usually you can boost the bass frequencies with them. All of my distortions do that.

Some vintage pedals might get easily distorted, because they can't handle hot input signals. Analog delays tend to be a bit tricky in that regard. I think of the newer models at least Electro-Harmonix pedals are like that too.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by pricklyrobot » Fri Jan 06, 2012 10:14 pm

When attempting interface line-level and guitar gear, in addition to possible issues with levels, you're bound to have impedance mismatches (unless you're using the proper combination of DI boxes, Re-Amps, and/or buffers). Some pedals play nice with synths without any of that, but you won't know until you try it out.

Unless you are a guitar player as well, you might be better off going for another multi-effects unit (even the ones aimed at guitar usually allow you to switch between guitar and line level). The Boss VF-1 is small (1/2 rack), full of great effects, has separate guitar and line inputs, MIDI control, and goes for cheap (under $150 usually).
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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by nathanscribe » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:20 am

In my experience, impedance is a non-issue. turn down synth volume, turn up pre-amp. done. Maybe some increased noise, but if that's a worry, don't use pedals.
Last edited by nathanscribe on Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by pricklyrobot » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:35 am

Yeah, now that I think of it, it's probably been in attempting to use guitars with line-level-only effects that I've had to stick more stuff in the signal path to keep the noise down.

Not that it hurts to invest in some of that stuff (DI, Re-amp, etc.); you'll likely use it for something eventually. And as long as you record in mono, you only need one of each.
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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by pflosi » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:42 am

nathanscribe wrote:In my experience, impedance is a non-issue. turn down wynth volume, turn up pre-amp. done. Maybe some increased noise, but if that's a worry, don't use pedals.
+1, I never use DIs with my guitar pedals. Works fine. A nice preamp can be helpful 8-)

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by pricklyrobot » Sat Jan 07, 2012 2:46 am

Although if anyone's interested, or having noise problems, I believe (someone please chime in, for posterity, if I've got any of this wrong) the totally technically correct way to do this would be:

synth > re-amp box > guitar pedal > DI box > pre-amp > mixer (or whatever your final destination is)

-or-

synth > line-level shifter (to change your synth's -10dBV to the +4dBu that the re-amp is probably looking for) > re-amp box > guitar pedal > DI box > pre-amp > mixer

-or-

something like this: http://www.pigtronix.com/products/keymaster/
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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by cryabetes » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:53 pm

I only run into impedance issues when I try to use dirt pedals on synths, and when I do, I want them to sound like garbage anyways.

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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by pricklyrobot » Sun Jan 08, 2012 8:18 pm

Yeah, sometimes you plug a synth straight into a pedal and it sounds cool. Certainly nothing wrong with that.

I wouldn't ever advocate using excess gear for the sake of adhering to some kind of technical orthodoxy. Just suggesting a few things you can try (other than simply giving up on the particular combo you're trying) if you plug a synth into a pedal and it doesn't sound great, straight off.

And like I said, it's not a bad idea to gradually collect some of this problem-solving, utility-type gear if you're going to carry on with recording in the long term.
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Re: Should I use Bass or Guitar pedals with my synth?

Post by MikeRochip » Sat Jan 14, 2012 6:20 pm

Thanks for the help folks, I'll keep these things in my mind when I go pedal shopping.

Although as pricklyrobot suggested, some kind of multi-FX unit would probably be the way to go. I'd probably end up spending more on several pedals than I would on a multi-FX unit.

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