From Pedals to Multi-Effects and Back Again

SMG_Effects_Pedals

Who doesn’t remember their first pedals without feelings of nostalgia? For me it was back in junior high. I had recently bought an electric guitar (cream white Squier Strat that I still cherish and play to this day) and a raging Peavey practice amp with raunchy distortion and mega output for such a small box (I kept it for over 20 years). The next step in my discovery of everything guitar was effects pedals. My newspaper route didn’t allow for higher end gear, at least not as soon as I wanted to get my hands on those suckers, so I went with the cheapest I could find – Arion. Anybody remember these? All plastic chassis and controls, but rugged. The easiest battery access I’ve seen in any pedal since with the 9V hiding just under a clip-on plate between the foot switch and controls. The name of the pedal was printed in bold black letters on this plate which was a different color for each pedal. I LOVED these things! I didn’t have anything to compare them to but they sounded great. I started with the stereo chorus and this opened my eyes so wide to the possibilities of limitless tone crafting that it was followed quickly by a stereo phaser and stereo flanger. When it came time to grab a delay, I was so entranced by what I had already experienced, I saved up extra coinage for a bright yellow metal encased Yamaha pedal. I can’t even begin to count the hours spent dialing in wacky space-aged sounds as I tweaked the repeats and delay speeds on the fly.

Eventually my small pedal collection and guitar playing took a backseat to college and establishing life in the “real world” (a downright horrible excuse and one of much regret). It wasn’t until the advent of amp and effect modeling that I was sucked back into the pure joy of rocking my 6-strings. I was at a friend’s house and he pulled out this red kidney-shaped object with a bunch of dials and a wicked cool amber display. Line 6’s POD. The heavens opened and a string symphony in my gut announced the Second Coming of guitar nirvana. I was 15 again, but 15 on auditory steroids. How pathetic those four cheap Japanese pedals when I now had in front of me a multitude of amps and effects in a single unit. Fast forward to the internet in full swing and Line 6’s interface with which I could not only download custom tones but tones designed specifically for my favorite songs! What would you do? Exactly. I joined a cover band. I bought Line 6’s way cool short-board to bring pedal power to the POD and downloaded dozens of tones to match the songs the band was learning. I would practice at home through headphones and the sh-t sounded amazing. But a funny thing happened at rehearsal.

I played rhythm to the band leader’s lead guitar. There I was with my fancy POD, slick short-board, and custom tones. He had a simple pedal board with a handful of kickers. I felt smug. And then we started jamming. He played with ease transitioning smoothly between songs clicking on a pedal here, off a pedal there. His tones were rich and organic. I scrambled between songs to remember which patch was where and I sounded…kinda synthetic. I no longer felt smug.

It was a tough decision considering the investment of time and money I put into what I thought was the quintessential guitar effects rig, but ultimately I had to face my feelings of inadequacy and come full circle – back to rocking pedals. The effects of my youth vaporized a long time ago but I’m now running a Crybaby wah, Fulltone GT500, Keeley compressor, MXR Carbon Copy delay and 6-band EQ, and a BOSS TU-2. I’m keeping it simple (for now!). My tone has improved, everything is simpler and more manageable, and there’s just something grounding about stomping on pedals – I feel closer to my rig. I’ve even gone so far as to design and build my own pedal board, but those details are for another article.

  • Danny

    I grew up playing a Strat and ES-335 through a 72 Twin hooked up to an EchoPlex, a CryBaby, an Arion Flanger, and Ross Chorus. I’ve come full circle too, and yet again I’m doing it with a Fender Cyber Deluxe. Thankfully, I can just use the amp tones and add my own toys in front if I want through the FX loop…When will I ever learn?

  • When will any of us ever learn? The simple answer is “never”. My first reaction to your comment was, “I wonder what HIS rig sounds like?”. I don’t think any of us can ever be truly satisfied.

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