Bass Pedal Tricks with Michael League of Snarky Puppy

To Michael League, bassist and de facto leader of the massive collective of musicians known as Snarky Puppy, experimenting with tone is a lot less about what you can do and a lot more about what you should do. Although he takes much of his sonic inspiration from keyboard bass players like Bobby Sparks, the late Bernie Worrell, and of course, Stevie Wonder, trying to make his bass sound like a keyboard is only the goal when it makes musical sense. A question League often asks himself is, “Is this the most musically appropriate thing?”

But when it is musically appropriate, League has a carefully selected arsenal of pedals to really get in the groove and carve out the desired tone. For instance, his meat-and-potatoes octaver is the MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, which only requires a tone roll-up if his riffs are replete with sixteenth notes. For a more electronic sound that pairs well with a Bootsy-like swing, League clicks on the EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery envelope filter. Another of League’s favorites is the Boss OC-2, which has a distinctive club sound that lends itself particularly well to sparse playing.

Although he’s partial to octave pedals, League actually discovered a method of natural octaving during a gig in an Italian restaurant in Dallas. He says if you find yourself down an octaver but want to achieve a subtle sub-octave, you simply have to attack the note you’re playing from a pure octave above.

For soloing or intros, League hits the delay. His choice? The perpetually popular MXR Carbon Copy. However, because he finds the sustain of a bass less melodically satisfying than that of, say, a guitar, he’s often sparing with the effect.

One thing League likes to use a lot of, however, is fuzz and drive. When the occasion calls for it, he loves to throw on something like the Moog MF Drive, which gives you tons of tonal opportunity, varying from super muted dark sounds to crisp brights that verge on actual ‘70s Moog synth tones. A favorite fuzz is the EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General, which sucks out some of your low end in favor of a punchier, nearly guitar-like sound. And when League wants some serious distortion, he just throws the two on together.

Watch the video to hear Michael League demo some more nifty bass pedal tricks and to learn more about his musical philosophies and favorite bass players.

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