FLASHBACK: 1970s Maestro Bass Brassmaster BB-1 Fuzz

FLASHBACK: 1970s Maestro Bass Brassmaster BB-1 Fuzz

In the early 1970s, Maestro created a pedal that would shed light on the bass player. The BB-1, a bass fuzz/octave pedal, had a relatively short span of production. It was manufactured from 1971-1974.

It’s quite unique in its circuitry and was not a copy of any other pedal at the time. Using a split at the input stage of the pedal, the signal is sent simultaneously through both a clean and a fuzz path. After the signal is run through both paths, it is combined at the preamp output stage where it can be blended for a cleaner sound with a touch of harmonic distortion, or a gnarly, over-the-top fuzz tone. As you turn up the “Brass Vol.” knob, more fuzz is added to the signal. The “Sensitivity” knob is essentially a mix knob that allows you to blend between the dry sound of your instrument and the effected signal. Lastly, the “Bass Vol.” knob does exactly what its name infers. It adds more low end.

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HOW IT WAS USED

Plain and simple. Step on the switch, and the rhythm player becomes a featured musician in the band. This can be useful in live situations and in the studio. Though it was created with the bass player in mind, bassists are not the only musicians that benefit from the BB-1. Guitarists can use it to achieve massive lead tones and inspire soaring guitar solos.

It boasts two extra switches on the front panel. One is labeled “Brass” and it is a filter that controls the tone of the fuzz. “Brass 1” has more bite on the top-end, where “Brass 2” has a bit more mid-range. The second switch on the BB-1 is labeled “Harmonic”. This allows you to choose between two different harmonic characteristics. It can be very useful for making your instrument sit just right in a mix.

You’ve probably heard this pedal on many records. Chris Squire (Yes) and Dave Beste (Rival Sons) are just a few examples of users past and present.

MODERN EQUIVALENT

Though there is no digital equivalent, there are a few boutique pedal companies that have tried to recreate the Brassmaster. One pedal that gets us close to the original is the Black Cat Bass Octave Fuzz. It is priced at $210, which is astronomically lower than the original. The vintage Maestro Bass Brassmaster goes for around $2,000 and is nearly impossible to come by.

LESSONS LEARNED

Throw some dirt on it. Harmonic distortion is incredibly important to the texture and energy of a band or a mix. This piece of gear also allows us to have some fun with it! Get big tones. Get gritty. Oh, and rock n’ roll will never die.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Boullianne is a gear obsessed, full-time recording and mixing engineer based in Tampa, FL. When he’s not in the studio, you can find him somewhere by the ocean. Follow Andrew’s Instagram @drewboull10 for pictures of studio gear and more.

 

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