Bass Pedals: The History Of The Bass pedal

If you are a massive follower and fan of progressive rock music, taking into account bands (especially from the 1980’s) such as Rush, Yes & Genesis then you have possibly seen and definitely heard the bass being used in action. The bass pedal should not be confused with bass guitar pedals. However the only similarity that they carry is both happen to be pedals.

What are Bass Pedals?

A Bass pedal is essentially an electric instrument much like that of a synthesizer or keyboard. The bass pedal has pedals which you control with your feet which allow you to play the low notes (Bass notes) similar to that of a piano.

The first incarnation of what we know bass pedals to be were seen as easily as theĀ  70’s which was comprised of of the bass pedals along with a a fully analogue synthesizer tone generator which was slapped together as a single unit.

However, since the introduction of MIDI, bass pedals have taken on the technology and are now connected via midi to a computer or digital module that can produce a whole host of sounds and triggers, not only just bass notes despite the fact that this is its primary function.

How Do Bass Pedals Work?

When you think of the way the pedals of a church organ work, that is kind of how the bass pedals work. Pushing down on these pedals will gives you a range of notes like a piano of usually no more than one octave. The need for the bass pedal came as a result of a musician wanting to play more notes with their feet along with another instrument such as guitar, bass or piano.


Despite the earliest forms of the electric bass pedal being seen in the 70’s as what we know it today, the bass pedals were actually first seen on old church pipe organs way back hundreds of years ago. Famous and legendary electric organ manufactures, Hammond, came up with the first bass pedals at the beginning of the 20th century.

Since organs were becoming more and more portable and smaller in size, there were more companies offering bass pedals which could give musicians a lot more flexibility and the ability to play more instruments and fill more sound by using their feet.

Bass Pedals In The 1970’s and the 1980’s

One of the most popular bass pedals ever made was by a company called “Moog” who are very well known for their analogue synthesizers, made the Taurus bass pedal. According to the “Moog”company, this unit was not marketed/advertised as a bass pedal but rather as a synthesizer pedal.

The reason Moog advertised as such was because the unit could do more than just make bass sounds and could produce a wide array of synthesizer sounds. However, the pedals popularity was directly attributed to the use of the bass sound and since then the name bass pedals have been the go-to word to describe these units.

These Moog bass pedals from around this era are of course considered to be vintage instruments and fetch a pretty penny if you are ever lucky to see one come up. Most musicians hold on to these bass pedals.

Rock bands from the 70’s along with progressive rock from the 1980’s all made use of this very pedal by Moog. These bands include The Police, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Yes and Phil Collins from Genesis. Those are some pretty big names in music, so you can imagine how the popularity of bass pedals took off.

Bass Pedals in The 21st Century & Other Uses for Them

In the late 80’s midi was introduced and in the 90’s up until this very day, midi is still used to control digital instruments via a computer or a module.

The introduction of midi meant that pretty much any sound can be attributed to a particularity trigger of the pedal and this allows for an incredibly large variety of sounds to dedicate to a pedal. Bass pedals can even be triggered one to play full sequences and chord progressions. This allows smaller bands (in size) achieve much bigger sounds as they are essentially able to have another instrument(s) being played via the midi.

Another interesting use for bass pedals is to assign each pedal to that of a different drum sound. For example, bass/snare/hit-hat/tom etc. By doing this you can play drum beats with your feet and control another instrument such as a guitar, piano or bass at the same time.

The things that musicians can do with Midi as a controller are quite endless however, this was a very important and game-changing introduction to bass pedals and music production & composition in general.

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