The best way to describe the Royal Blood sound is like a Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pimpkins meets Led Zeppelin or The White Stripes. The key is a single bass guitar split into two signals using a tuner or A/B into a higher octave or chord generator. We send the bass signal to a traditional rock bass setup, but the single-octave, double-octave, or octave-fifth chord are distorted and sent to an electric guitar amp. Without distortion, the setup approximates a 12-string bass.
Guitarists have used “octavers” for years. The pedal produces a lower octave note far simpler than a POG by halving the frequency, say from A440hz to A220hz, which is easily done. The POG artificially generates an octave higher using more complicated math, for example from A440hz to A880hz.
One key is to send the generator a smooth, round note, so there’s as little noise as possible in the octave generation process. Distortion and tubes are happy to restore some noise to the signal once the transition is complete. While killer bass tone is central to the formula, I’ll focus on the higher octave chain.
The Electro-Harmonix POG2 accomplishes this effortlessly. It tracks well, has a million options and tones, and costs nearly $400. A killer investment for Royal Blood, who tours with two on his board with different settings for the double-octave and the octave-fifth setting, which can also be accomplished with a Boss Octave OC-5 (with a new higher octave setting on the model #5) or Harmonist PS-6 ($135–155).
The ZOOM bass and guitar MultiStomp series contain pitch options that simulate these pedals as well as the tuner, splitter, EQ, distortion, and amp-simulation. BUT. These pedals have serious latency issues and do not track well. For around $99 they are indispensable for trying out sound concepts with dozens of stomp and amp simulators, but poor for tracking on account of a significant delay.
The best recommendations below have little or no latency or delay and track basically as well as their Electro-Harmonix and Boss counterparts.
VSN Guitar Octave Effect Pedal For Electric Guitar Precise Polyphonic Octave Effects Generator Octpus Guitar Pedals True Bypass Mini Size
Two higher octaves notes aka 1/2 octaves or 12/24 steps – Nails the classic Royal Blood tone.
So I have a friend that plays lap steel in a number one song country band and he told me the strangest thing: During rehearsals for their world tour, the producer gave each member of the band a 7-band EQ and told them to pick a frequency that best represented their instrument and kill everything else. As the story goes, my buddy would get his world renowned tone, then activate the EQ and sound thin and hollow.
Get the perfect tone, then do what? Kill it? So the next step in this unbelievable exercise was to have everyone turn off their new friend/enemy and play the hit single as a pretty big group with violins and guitars and the like.
Nobody could hear themselves. It sounded like mud. Problem was, everybody in the band had world renowned tone.
Now, depress/activate the EQ and play same song. Band sounds full, everyone can hear themselves, the clarity and intent of each player is instantly present in the mix.
When the singer introduced the band and during solos, he was allowed to deactivate the restricting pedal and wow the folks with his full spectrum.
Don’t you need a sound man for that? No.
Is it really that simple? Yes.
Robert Sledge revealed in an interview once that staying out of Ben Folds’ low end was the hardest and most enjoyable part of playing with the pianist. The trick is easy with a Big Muff and an Orange cab.
But what about the rest of us? What about the folk players and the power trios?
Here goes nothing. Perfect your solo tone, then rip it to shreds with the new 10-band EQ pedals available. I’ve got two examples.
My power trio guitarist and I bought MXR M108 Ten Band EQs and spent some time splitting up the ten bands 50/50. We proceded to put the pedals last in our chain, get everything perfect, then suck the life out of our tone. Big intro, guitar comes in wailing, bass and drums hit, click the pedals. Clarity. If he soloed with it on it sounded a little thin, but when we were both full playing rhythm, the proof was in the pudding.
The drummer from that band just texted me that those pedals were smoke and mirrors and wants to know the name of the lap steel friend. Haha.
So I have another interesting gig coming up with a Wallflowers-esque band and was already thinking competing with the rhythm electric and hammond was going to be a beast. Hence, Caline’s CP-24 10-Band EQ Pedal for less than $50 on eBay. I hope the guitar player and hammond guy can pick one of these up too and I look forward to experimenting with each of us maybe picking up four bands with a little overlap.
Another text from Antago-drummer.
Case in point. Smiley face EQ was a huge part of Nirvana’s sound, but what’s that have to do with this? When you kill the mids on a guitar and fill that void with highs from the bass and kill the bass mids that would otherwise conflict with the guitar’s lows, suddenly, we can all move around without stepping on any toes.
A word of advice. Most people don’t want to believe this works, but folks who focus hard on mixing and mastering have been using more advanced versions of this trick for centuries. I’m sure there are shared notes on upright basses, cellos and violins, but everyone can play together because they’re filling different parts of a spectrum.