Muse Bass Sound

Like many other bass players, I have been searching for a usable Muse bass sound. Chris Wolstenholme has sh*tloads of pedals and his tone obviously differs from song to song. The idea in this post is not an exact imitation; it is rather about getting a base tone which is passable for various songs. If the audience thinks “Hey, this sounds like Muse”, then our mission is accomplished.
Here is a list of setups I tried, ordered by degree of success.

MXR M287 Bass Sub Octave Fuzz

The product description page says that they have used a long forgotten circuit. Combined with the color of the unit and the two way switch, this might be a nod towards animato.

This pedal is my current favorite for Muse-like bass tones.

On my last gig, it produced a monstrous “Uprising” tone with the following settings, when I started playing on the 10th fret of the E string with the bridge pickup favored:

  • Gain type: Blue
  • Gain: 3 o’clock
  • Bass: 12 o’clock
  • Treble: 1 o’clock
  • Fuzz: 9 o’clock
  • Octave: 11 o’clock
  • Dry: 8 o’clock
  • Mid: 9 o’clock
  • Octave: Engaged

We all know that Chris uses multiple layers on many songs, and this setting mixes three distinct bass layers. My friend Selcuk Usluer, who is the keyboard player of a local Muse tribute band (called Fury), also liked and approved that tone.

For other songs without octaving, I engage the octave switch off and turn the dry knob towards 11 o’clock.

A compressor after the sub-octave is recommended to control volume peaks.

MXR M84 Bass Fuzz Deluxe

This pedal is a close follow-up of MXR M287. Things I really like about this pedal are;

  • It has a separate clean blend, and leaving it on 12 o’clock ensures that you don’t lose any bottom end – the fuzz is added on top of your clean signal. Some other pedals don’t have clean blends as pure as this one.
  • The fuzz circuit has its dedicated tone & level controls, which means that your clean signal doesn’t get affected at all.

Here is how I use it:

  • Dry: 12 o’clock
  • Wet: 10 o’clock
  • Tone: 3 o’clock
  • Fuzz: 3 o’clock

I also have a compressor afterwards, which limits any possible peaks.

Aguilar Fuzzistor

Aguilar’s recent Fuzzistor pedal nailed the tone better than many other alternatives I’ve tried – including a home made Animato.
When using my Fender American Jazz Bass V, the bass was completely flat, and the settings on the Fuzzistor were as followed:
  • Blend: 12
  • Level: 10
  • Tone: 15
  • Fuzz: 13
When using my Lakland 55-02 Deluxe, I had the humbucker mode on and balanced 50% towards the humbucker; with a slight bass & treble boost. Settings on the Fuzzistor were as followed:
  • Blend: 15
  • Level: 10
  • Tone: 15
  • Fuzz: 12
And wham!
The blend knob ensures that no low end gets lost, which leaves the requirement of signal splitting out. The level should be setup so that your signal level is unaltered when the blend is completely off. Tone & fuzz can be shaped to taste, but I figured that the tone needs to be a little further than flat to cut the mix.
Putting a compressor between the bass and the Fuzzistor will help balance the velocity of your notes, which is a good idea on songs like Uprising and Hysteria.

StingRay 5 – Boss LS-2 – Deluxe Bass Big Muff – Boss ODB-3 

This is one of the better (but complicated) alternatives. Basically, you enter the signal into LS-2 and split into two distinct paths:
  • Path 1: LS-2 A Send -> Big Muff -> LS-2 A Return with the following settings:
    • Level: 12
    • Blend: 12
    • Tone: 12
    • Sustain: 15
    • Gate: 9
  • Path 2: LS-2 B Send -> ODB-3 -> LS-2 B Return with the following settings:
    • Volume: 12
    • Bass: 0%
    • Treble: 12
    • Balance: 100%
    • Gain: 15
And here are the settings for LS-2:
  • Mode: A+B Mix
  • Level A: 12
  • Level B: 9
The trick is to add the sound of ODB-3 carefully – all you want to do is to add a little bite, nothing more. Finally, the output of LS-2 went into my SansAmp (almost flat, presence at 12) and directly into the PA.
If I can replace the ODB-3 with an (impossible to find) Animato, I think that I’ll get much closer. I have found the confirmed schematics though, and I’m looking for a custom pedal builder to give it a shot.
The problem with this setup is, running two pedals in parallel produces a monstrous sound. It is tricky to make it sound clear & balance the volume with the clean sound in a club gig setting. Which means; you might want to go with a simpler setting if you are targeting smaller venues.
Another problem is; SansAmp has a built-in compressor , which, to my knowledge, can’t be turn off. It kind of chokes the sound, and there is no way around it. It was part of my sound, but not everyone may like it.

StingRay 5 – MXR M80 Bass DI

Well, MXR M80 is a great box. The distortion channel is good enough for simple setups. For the sake of simplicity, this is my second best choice. You don’t experience the problems of running two pedals in parallel because everything is built into one single box – and beautifully pre-meditated. My settings were;

  • Distortion – On (obviously)
  • Level – 9
  • Blend – 12
  • Gate – 12
  • Distortion – 3
It doesn’t sound exactly like Muse. What you get is a nice passable modern distortion sound with clean blend. Having your DI + distortion on the same pedal is great to keep things simple. This pedal is part of my minimal setup, and I use those settings in smaller venues with good success.

Lakland 55-02 – Red Ripper

Using a 5 string makes a huge difference; especially on songs below the key E – like Uprising. I had fair success by soloing the humbucker (flat) and using the Red Ripper with the following settings:
  • Level: 9
  • Mid: 12 (flat)
  • Low: 13
  • High: 11
  • Rip: 14
  • Drive: 15
  • Low pass filter: Disengaged
The signal went through my SansAmp (almost flat, presence at 12). The amp was completely flat. This tone was satisfying for Uprising, Time Is Running Out, Starlight, and passable for Supermassive Black Hole, Knights of Cydonia, Plug In Baby. However; for fast paced lines as in Hysteria, I could use a better option.
The problem with this setup is, SansAmp has a built-in compressor, which, to my knowledge, can’t be turned off. It kind of chokes the sound, and there is no way around it.

StingRay – Aguilar Octamizer – Boss ODB-3

This is my best 4 string bet so far, with the following settings:
  • Octamizer: Everything at 12, clean tone at 15
  • Boss ODB-3: Level 9, blend 9, treble 11, bass 13, gain 15
If I turn on the Octamizer and ODB-3 simultanously, I can get extremely close to the sound at Uprising. You can’t touch the E-String though, it would sound horrible. Therefore, a 5-string is a better option than using an octave pedal.
When I turn off the Octamizer; what remains is a usable (but far from exact) bass tone for Hysteria, Time Is Running Out, etc.

StingRay – Red Ripper

On my gig last night, I managed to imitate the famous Muse bass sound with the Red Ripper to a certain degree. I played a MusicMan StingRay Classic 4; bass fully boosted, treble backed off a bit. The signal went through a Tech 21 Red Ripper with the following settings:
  • Level: 9
  • Mid: 12 (flat)
  • Low: 12 (flat)
  • High: 12 (flat)
  • Rip: 14
  • Drive: 15
  • Low pass filter: Disengaged
The amp was completely flat. However; I must say that I missed a 5-string on songs below key E.
Although my scratch to buy + try a Human Gear Animato is not completely gone yet, this is very close Surprisingly, my Red Ripper sounded like Chris Wolstenholme much better than my Big Muff Deluxe – especially in the mix.

StingRay / Jazz Bass / RickenBacker – Deluxe Bass Big Muff

Although the name of the pedal sounds promising with a nice blend option and everything, it is not exactly the best choice. It provides a nice passable low-end, but lacks the high-end to cut through the mix. It is known that Chris blends the Big Muff with the Animato, and I can see why.

StingRay 5 – Boss LS-2 – Zoom B3 – Any Distortion 

The idea here was to blend the clean bass signal with octave up + distortion. However, pitch shift effect of Zoom B3 sounds like crap in octave up mode, and has terrible tracking. Therefore, I was not satisfied with that option. Could work with a better octave though – or with Fission maybe?

Jazz Bass – Regular Big Muff

Just no. Lacks low end. Can be used if you want to tinker with mixing the signal though.

Author: Dr. Kerem Koseoglu

Mostly harmless

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