Tag Archives: pedals

So much gear, so little time

I already have more than enough pedals, especially reverb and delay pedals, that I don’t need more.

But damn it, I really, really, really want the Boss RV-6 and DD-500. It seems that when I really shouldn’t get more gear, I want gear the most. I’m not even saying these pedals will inspire me to write more and better music, but I can see both being very useful. I’d even trade in my beloved RV-5 for the RV-6.

More pedal suggestions

I’ve stated earlier that I find it absurd to spend $500 on a single pedal. Nothing against the people who make them (or buy them), but I still find this crazy, especially when you can buy 4 midrange pedals for the same price and experiment with them.

I buy most of my pedals used on eBay. So as long as they work, I don’t care really how they look. In the past year I bought a Boss BF-2 for $40 and an OD-2 for $50. Both pedals are long out of production and the current version costs 3x that amount. Both are kind of beat up looking, but that just adds to their charm. They sound great and do what I want them to do.

I’m finding it more and more that cost is less important than utility. Admittedly, I bought both of these pedals because famous people used them. I know Rachel from Slowdive had the OD-2 listed on her pedal board. I’m interested in getting a Boss HM-2 soon, mainly because Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher used them on all the classic MBV albums. Also, if I ever want to do death metal, I can get that Entombed sound with this same pedal.

I’m also less concerned about digital and analog pedals. Some people refuse to buy digital pedals, but that’s nonsense. Even if you have a tube amp (as I do), sometimes digital pedals are the only way to get certain sounds.

I guess if you play blues and country where your dry tone is important it might make sense, but in more experimental genres like ambient, noise rock and shoegaze, I find it less important. In the case of ambient the less dry signal you have, the better, so “tone suckage” is really a non-issue.

Lately I’ve had good luck experimenting with pedal placement. I have a Hardwire RV-7 pedal at the front of my chain, followed by the Boss OD-2, followed by a Boss PS-3 with a TC Hall of Fame at the end. I run it into my Fender Hot Rod DeVille on the dirty channel (with the fuzz turned pretty low) and the presence knob on 5 and the reverb knob cranked up. It’s kind of shrill and trebly at times (probably because of the single coils in my Strat), but I’ve also learning to experiment with tone knobs on both my guitar and amp.

In more traditional forms of rock it’s unheard of to place your overdrive after delay or reverb. But again, in experimental music, it’s best to place your pedals wherever you get your desired sound. This ain’t Nashville.

Basically I plan to muck about more with pedals and tone before buying an 8 track digital recorder. I have one picked out, but I’d rather wait to buy it. My stuff isn’t good enough to record yet (I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere), but the more I prac and the more I experiment, the better my sound is getting. I don’t want to sound like another Brian Eno or Kevin Shields or Rachel Goswell, I want to sound like me, dammit.

Tone chasing

I’m always interested in finding new sounds, new pedals, whatnot. Experimenting with stacking pedals and effects and the different sounds you can get from them. One day I plan to get a Tascam and start recording some of these experiments. Right now they sound like shit, to be honest, but someday I might get something worth recording.

One problem with YouTube videos dealing with echo, delay and reverb pedals is the style of music featured. You rarely, if ever, see ambient, space rock or drone music featured. It’s always some guy with a douchey sense of humor, playing the same boring blues and rockabilly riffs to the same slapback reverb setting. It almost seems like there is a factory producing SRV clones with the same playing style.

Don’t get me wrong, there a couple of channels dedicated to ambient music (a lot of electronic, which is cool, too), but they get lost in the avalanche of bad blues impersonators.

Of course, the same problem applies to your average guitar teacher, or music store personnel.  If you’re gonna go pedal shopping, they’ll always tell you the pedals and settings that Page or Clapton or Hendrix used on whatever song. Again, I don’t really fault them, as the great majority of buyers are going for that sound. I’m an oddball, and that’s fine with me.

There used to be an online community, but I never joined because of busy life stuff, but it’s now defunct. Which is just me always be late to the party.

But at the same time I plan to do more experiments and get my own sound. For one thing, most ambient guitar guys use insanely expensive pedals. Stuff that costs $500 a pedal. The four pedals I will use cost about that much combined. Yes, I use stuff by MXR, TC Electronics and Line 6. That’s just what I can afford. Or justify paying. Maybe if I made thousands of dollars a month at Bandcamp I would put the money towards a Strymon, or a Death by Audio pedal. Some of those Death by Audio pedals are tempting. And they’re made by Oliver Ackermann of A Place To Bury Strangers (one of my favorite bands), but I still can’t really justify or afford the cost at the moment.

Also, when people use the same boutique pedals, often times their sound is too similar. I won’t fool myself into thinking I’m getting a revolutionary sound out of my four, moderately priced pedals. But I like to try. And I like to go for something different.

I’ll be honest for a second and say that if I had a pedal that gave me an instant Windy & Carl sound, I’d be happy. At least for a few minutes, until I realized I was simply poorly replicating music that came about 15 years ago.

For now, I’ll simply experiment and go from there. Most of the fun of ambient music is finding new sounds, and ways of making sounds in different ways. And sometimes that kind of thing is best done alone.