One of my favorite sayings is “the only thing constant in life is change.” In keeping with that I’m running a series of posts dedicated to the change we see happening around us. I’m going to try to highlight both the big things and the little things. Fortunately, I tend to have a lot of both going on.
So it should come as no surprise to most of you that I’m a bit of a gadget whore, especially when it comes to music. Hell, I have a device for my drum set that reads the surface tension of a drum head, so that I can make sure the surface tension at each tension screw is the same and thus the head is in tune with itself. Given that, and my recent change in employment status which I’ve discussed in a previous installment of this series, I felt it was time to play around a bit with my electric guitar rig.
For the longest time I’ve been running off of a Zoom 505II multi-effects pedal and a Dunlop Original Crybaby wah. I love the wah, but as with most multi-effect units, it does one thing really well, and everything else is just ok. Unfortunately, the best part of this pedal seems to be the tuner, and the pedal is just incredibly noisy. However, it has more than served its purpose in letting me play around a bunch with different effects so I could really see what I wanted. The time, though, had come to upgrade to some new pedals that would really give me the sound that I wanted.
Though I’m still using the Zoom pedal for the few things I can’t do anywhere else, or don’t want to buy a dedicated pedal for, and for the tuner, I’ve finally gotten around to upgrading my more commonly used effects.
One of the first pedals I really wanted to get was some sort of fuzz box to get a Hendrix or vintage Clapton sound. I spent a good amount of time playing with the different options, but most of them failed to really scream at me. Even though fuzz is traditionally more of a subdued effect, I still like something that can give me a little bite if I push it. I finally found that in the Fulltone ’70 pedal. It has fairly simple controls (volume, mids, and fuzz), but it actually gives you a remarkable range of sounds. I can get everything from a light fuzz with deliciously scooped mids, to a roaring fuzzy crunch that blasts you in the chest. Coupling this with the cry-baby has given me exactly the kind of Hendrix sound I was looking for.
Once I had spent some time playing with the fuzz box, I began to miss having a really good distortion sound. Again, the Zoom did a pretty good job mimicking a bunch of different sounds, but it just wasn’t quite right in the end. I looked at a bunch of different overdrives and metal distortions pedals, but in the end I just couldn’t beat the Ibanez Tube Screamer. I ended up getting the TS9DX for the added distortion modes control knob. Though the TS9 and TS808 (which is a reissue of the vintage Tube Screamer circuity) sounded good, the ability to pull everything from a Stevie Ray Vaughan crunch to a modern hard rock distortion out of one pedal won the day.
The one thing these upgrades left lacking for me was any sort of embellishment on my clean sound. Though I’ve been having a lot of fun cranking distortion lately, a lot of the stuff I love to play sounds best clean. If I were playing live or for people I might bust out the acoustic, but doing something like that leaves me without a reason to buy new toys, so where is the fun in that. When I went with my roommate Dave so he could look in to getting a distortion pedal, I had a chance to sit down and listen to a guy who was trying out a couple different chorus pedals. I probably don’t play nearly enough jazz to warrant having one, but I do love the sound of a lush chorus. One of the pedals he was playing was the Visual Sound H2O Chorus and Echo pedal, and it won me over in no time flat. The fact that it’s a two-in-one pedal that does both effects well, gives you a ton of control over the sound, and looks really freaking cool made this one of the best impulse purchases I’ve made in a while.
So that is where my electric-guitar rig stands at the moment. I think the next big step is to upgrade my amp, but the options I’m looking at are a little too expensive to think about doing right now. With these added pedals though, I think I can hold out on that for a good long while.