Pedals. In 2007 or so, I joined The Gear Page forum and learned of a world of boutique guitar pedals that, in many opinions, left the world of Boss and DOD/Digitech pedals I’d always known in the dust.
The very first pedal I bought through that forum was a Zvex Box of Rock and I was hooked. I’ve bought and sold a lot of guitar pedals, especially drive pedals, before landing on my current collection. A few years ago, I had a custom 24″ x 12″ pedal board made and I filled it with as many pedals as possible. In it’s current iteration, which isn’t even up on this site, I have a whopping 16 drive pedals on it.
But it wasn’t a drive pedal that made me realize the days of owning a 24″ by 12″ pedal board full of pedals might be in my rearview mirror.
It was the Keeley SuperMOD Workstation, a modulation pedal that allows you to use two different modulations at the same time. I had just recorded rhythm guitar for “From Beyond the Stars” from Volume Three of my kcwm music. I’d combined two effects: rotary (think the warbly high note guitar part on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”) and phaser (think the intro to Live’s “Lightning Crashes). It was really cool. This slow swooshing effect over this shimmering guitar part was EXACTLY what I pictured in my head.
And then the other parts ruined it. It just became completely lost in the mix of the other guitar part and the bass. You just couldn’t hear the actual notes I played like you could when the part was played alone.
The thing about any effect you use at the time you record your part is you’re stuck with it. There is no magical undo button to take it away. Through the magic of computers (and maybe rack gear in a proper studio), you can add effects after the fact using plug-ins. If the effect doesn’t work or needs to be adjusted, you remove, change, or adjust it.
A year later, before I started recording “Go On” and “It Feels Familiar”, I removed the SuperMOD Workstation from my board and posted it up for sale. It’s a FANTASTIC pedal.
After recording those two songs and recently starting work on two more, I’ve come to realize that I tend to revisit the same drive pedals, even with 16 to choose from.
Now, you MIGHT ask, “Why so many?” and it’d be a valid question. I even have a post on this site about that. I like to think of pedals like one might think of coffee or chocolate. To the uninitiated, the question of “What’s the difference? It’s just coffee!” comes to mind. How wrong they’d be, right? Heck, even the way you prepare coffee can change the flavor of it, right?
While each of the drive pedals might sound similar, they all sound different. For example, I have four fuzz pedals currently on my board: The Danelectro Cool Cat Fuzz v1, a clone of the Zvex Wooly Mammoth, an Earthquaker Devices Black Ash, and a Blackout Effects Musket Fuzz. If you listen to those four videos, you might think the Danelectro and Musket sound similar to one another. However, the Wooly Mammoth and Black Ash are different tones from one another and the other two all together.
While it’s cool to have all of these different pedals, if I haven’t used them in 40 recordings with multiple guitar parts in each recording, why do I have them?
From there, it’s not much of a stretch to ask, “Well, if I’m never going to play live, why do I need to have a pedal board? Why don’t I just pull out the pedals I need, plug them up, and then put them up when I’m done?”
That last question has been gnawing at me for the past week, and while I’m holding onto the pedal board for now, as every day passes that hold loses strength.
I’ve talked to a friend who’s been wanting to buy another pedal board for some time. He’s interested in the board and even some of the pedals I’ve identified as ones I’d get rid of first. That makes the decision easier.
I dunno. This post ended up being more rambling than I wanted it to be, but hopefully you understand.
Variety might be the spice of life, but after a while, you know which spices you keep going back to. That’s where I’m at now. I know what I like and I’m getting better at knowing how to make it fit in a mix.
In a world of noise, be sound,