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.

J Bass – Boss LS-2 – EHX Pitch Fork – Darkglass Duality

This setup is built around Duality, which is one of the best modern fuzz pedals I have encountered so far. Sounds clean, articulate and monstrous at the same time. Here are the settings:

  • Boss LS-2: A+B Mix Mode
    • A: Empty
    • B:
      • Pitch Fork (Octave Up, blend 100% wet)
      • Duality (Blend 17:00, Duality 17:00, Level 09:00, Filter 15:00)
      • Return

On the LS-2, I set the volumes A and B to balance the dry & wet sounds.

If I turn on the Pitch Fork, I get the drive on one octave higher – a good way to simulate rhythm guitar. If I turn it off, I get drive on regular bass signal.

P Bass – Boss OC-2 – Bass Big Muff PI – MXR Phase 90

I set my P bass wide open.

  • OC-2: Oc1 100%, Oc2 off, clean 50%
  • Big Muff: Volume 9, Tone 15, Sustain 15, dry mode
  • Phaser: 10

Now; the deal with Big Muff PI is, it preserves your clean signal at unity level on dry mode, and the volume only determines how much fuzz you want to add on top of that. So, you get a nice bass sound with added fuzz. I use a compressor afterwards to keep the volume under control.

What I like about Big Muff PI fuzz sound is; the fuzz doesn’t get buried in the mix when the drummer and guitarist kicks in. You still hear the fuzz, and don’t lose any bottom end in dry mode.

Although ODB-3 works better on certain songs, I prefer the Big Muff as the desert island dirt pedal because ODB-3 generates excessive treble & bass & additional artifacts.

I kick-in the OC-2 on songs like Uprising for a monstrous effect ,and the phaser on songs like Plug In Baby to give a little sweep.

Jazz Bass – Boss OC-2 – Boss ODB-3

Boss ODB-3 is known to be one of the earlier pedals used by Chris – until he got his hands on Animato. This setup will work well on certain songs – such as Starlight and Plug In Baby.
This is a good 4 string shot, with the following settings:
  • OC-2: Oc1 100%, Oc2 off, clean 50%
  • Boss ODB-3: Level 12, blend 9, treble 11, bass 12, gain 15
If I turn on OC-2 and ODB-3 simultaneously, I can get extremely close to the sound at Uprising. You can’t touch the E-String though, it would sound horrible.
When I turn off the octave; what remains is a usable (but far from exact) bass tone for Hysteria, Time Is Running Out, etc.

However; overall speaking, ODB-3 generates too much bass & treble. You can dime them down, but that affects your blended clean signal as well.

Jazz Bass – Boss OC2 – MXR M84 Bass Fuzz Deluxe

Boss OC2 is one of the favorite octave pedals for the bass (and guitar too). It has great tracking and a very clean sound without any artifacts. Here are my settings:

  • Octave 1: 100%
  • Octave 2: 0%
  • Clean: 50%

MXR M84 is a usable fuzz. 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.

But one big disadvantage is; I experienced M84 getting lost in the mix – especially if the guitarist is using dirt effects as well (which is expected in Muse covers).

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.

For heavy songs; such as Uprising, I activate OC2 and M84 simultaneously. For lighter songs; such as Time Is Running Out, Supermassive Black Hole and Hysteria, I use M84 alone.

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.

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.

Although this setup provides a decent one-in-all solution, there are better individual octaves and fuzz pedals out there; IMHO. And if you want to use the octave individually, you can’t do it with your foot. You need to kneel down and turn off the fuzz volume to zero; which might be impossible in the middle of a song. Therefore; this pedal may not replace your fuzz + octave pedals it seems.

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 – Red Ripper

On my gig last night, I managed to imitate a typical 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.

Jazz Bass – Woolly Mammoth

Actually, I was able to produce the sound in Time Is Running Out when I boosted the Pinch. I might use a clean blend though.

Despite of that shiny success; the coverage of the Woolly Mammoth seemed limited to me. I couldn’t approximate accurate tones for other Muse songs. Since the purpose of this article is to build a generic setup to cover many songs, I had to leave the Woolly Mammoth down in this list.

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.

1 thought on “Muse Bass Sound

  1. […] case you would be interested in getting an agreeable Muse tone, check my post Muse Bass Sound where I share my hits and […]

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