What’s That Noise?
Musicians love toys. We love tampering and experimenting with noises and gadgets to get outrageous sounds. From the guitar and specific pick-up used, to the amplifier and effect pedals, everything used in a guitarist’s rig influences the resulting sound. As technology advances, the capabilities of various effects processors become astronomical. Companies are still coming up with innovative ways to enhance guitar pedals.
There are many notable guitarists who incorporate pedals and effects into their sound. There are many types of effect pedals, from single to multi-effects. Too many to cover in one conversation. Some guitarists, like many jazz musicians, prefer the simple method of guitar, amp, and chord. Others, like the Edge of U2 or David Gilmour of Pink Floyd use a diverse assortment of effects to capture a certain atmosphere or tone for a song. For instance, the Edge demonstrates how he simply plays a few notes in the song Elevation and lets his pedals transform them into intriguing music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHlU2ukrCoU
The argument of whether to use pedals, is another common debate between musicians. In the end, music is all about creative expression and portraying a mood or idea. The diversity and possibilities are what make music the best creative art form.
Here is a look at three commonly used guitar effects in blues-rock music..
Overdrive is probably the most used pedal effect in music, not just blues. However, it was the original electric blues guitarists who discovered and pioneered the over driven sound in their playing. Before there was a pedal that replicated the sound, they would crank the volume up on their vacuum tube amplifiers. Tube amps, which are making a great come back, offer a warmer and more natural sound versus digital amps. By turning up the volume and increasing the gain, or power of signal, the wave-form of the sound will clip or “deliver an output voltage beyond its maximum capability.”
The idea for overdrive was born when the classic Chicago bluesmen like Elmore James and Buddy Guy began experimenting and trying to emulate iconic blues voices. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf had a pure, raw element to their voices that perfectly captured the essence of blues music and the meaning behind it. That was the main inspiration for what would become the most sought-after sound in music.
Popular Overdrive Pedals
Ibanez ‘Tube Screamer’ Ts808 (Debuted in 1979 in Japan)
Iconic users: Joe Bonamassa, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Gary Moore, Philip Sayce, and Ana Popovic
Ibanez TS9 (Debuted in 1982 in Japan)
Notable Users: Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Clark Jr., Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Trey Anastasio, John Mayer, Carlos Santana, and Greg Howe.
Klon Centaur (1990)
Iconic Users: Jeff Beck, Joe Bonamassa, Peter Frampton, Warren Haynes, Nels Cline, Trey Anastasio, John Mayer, Philip Sayce
Reverb is essentially the great grandfather of effects. In fact, this sound effect existed well before the creation and introduction of electricity. Think about going into a church or a large, open space with high ceilings. Now clap. That echo you here bouncing off the walls, floors, and other objects is the sound reverberating back to you “at varying times and amplitudes.” The idea is similar to the way bats or dolphins visualize their surroundings through echolocation.
Before the 1950’s musicians and performers were at the “mercy of their environment.” Some areas would add cool effects and textures, but at times it was an unreliable method to get reverb. By the 50’s technology was created to make “more convenient ways to create reverb.”
Then, spring reverb tanks were placed in tube amps to make a more convenient way to play the effect. Amps like the Fender Twin Reverb, and Princeton Reverb are still a few of the most sought-after amps on the market. Over time, different types of reverb have been created: Hall, Room, Plate, Spring, and most recently, digital. Reverb is a very common effect and can be heard in almost every style of music from jazz to electronic.
Popular Reverb Pedals
Strymon Blue Sky
Notable Users: Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Bob Lanzetti, and Ben Monder
Hall of Fame Reverb
Notable Users: Robben Ford, Steve Vai, Joe Perry, Albert Lee, John Scofield, Larry Carlton, and Aynsley Lister.
Notable Users: Joe Bonamassa, Gary Moore, John Fogerty, and Jason Mraz
The Wah-Wah or just wah pedal is a foot-controlled effect that “alters the tone and frequencies of the guitar signal.” The resulting sound is quite interesting, as it mimics the human voice. This sound is used by a lot of rock players now, but the concept was designed way before. In the 20’s, trombone and trumpet players would alter their horn’s sound by placing then removing a mute from the bell hole.
The technology was produced in a pedal so guitarists could recreate this sound and add a funky and new element to their soloing. Vox was the first company to produce this kind of pedal. Perhaps the most iconic musician to ever use one of these pedals was Jimi Hendrix. The effect can be heard in the intro of Voodoo Child (Slight Return). Later on, the auto-wah or envelop filter pedals were created. This is an automatic simulation of the effect without the use of the feet.
Popular Wah-Wah Pedals
Notable Users: Jimi Hendrix, Gary Clark Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Philip Sayce, and John Scofield
Dunlop Cry Baby
Notable Users: Warren Haynes, Yngwie Malmsteen, Mick Ronson, Prince, and Robert Fripp
By Patrick Ortiz