I don’t know about you guys, but put me in front of a loaded pedal board and I’m like a kid in a candy store.
There’s something exhilarating about the sheer range of sonic possibilities that guitar pedals offer; whether you’re refining and thickening your tone, or diving into the weird and wonderful world of avant-garde noise making.
Guitar pedals are incredible tools. But, sometimes, the sheer wealth of pedals on the market leads to option paralysis. To put it another way, there are so many choices out there, we end up not actually choosing any because we’re so overwhelmed by it all.
While mulling this problem over the other day, I had a thought. If I were restricted to owning only a handful of pedals, what would I choose? What – for me anyway – are the essential units that help me craft the guitar sound I like?
This ended up being a very illuminating exercise, and as I whittled down the options, it taught me a lot about what’s important to me when it comes to guitar tone.
Eventually, after much deliberation. I settled on three pedals for this minimalist pedal board. And, for the fun of it, I’m listing them and their reasons for inclusion below:
Probably a TU3, though there are other good options available. To some, a tuner seems like a boring choice. But, when it comes to live applications, having a quick way to both tune AND mute your guitar is essential. If you’re a gigging guitarist, this is one you really can’t live without.
I’m a Tube Screamer guy myself, though I’ve also got a soft spot for Boss’ Blues Driver. For me, nothing beats the sound of an overdrive pedal pushing an already cooking amp to greater levels of saturation. Plus, the mid-hump that pedals like the TS give is useful for cutting through the mix in live situations.
Personally, I love the sound of the MXR Carbon Copy. I’ve also gotten good results from cheaper micro pedals like the Mooer Ana Echo. There are two applications I find delay incredibly useful for. The first is to subtly thicken my rhythm guitar sound. The second is for full-on epicness during lead breaks. I’ve gone analogue here purely because I love that warm, dark sound they give.
So there we go. Those are my three essential pedal picks.
But now, I want to throw the floor open to you guys.
I want to hear what you’ve got on your pedal board, what you wish you had and what your favourite guitar pedals of all time are. Oh, and if you were stuck on a desert island with a guitar, amp, and three pedals, which three pedals would you choose and why?
As always, share your stories in the comments section below, and lets us know your thoughts on stomp boxes, expression pedals and everything in-between!
Cal Jam doesn’t get the same love as festivals like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the late ‘60s countercultural cred, happening a full five years after the summer of love reached its peak. Maybe it’s because it was staged to be filmed for television (as part of ABC’s legendary “In Concert” series). Why do I love California Jam so much? It is because it established the record for the largest concert sound system ever assembled? Was it because it featured the first ever appearance of the Good Year blimp at a music festival?
Guitar lessons eventually followed. But, classical guitar didn’t grab me in the same way that my own freeform compositions had. Firstly, I didn’t know any of the songs I was supposed to be learning. Secondly, it required the kind of co-ordination and finger dexterity that I was – at that time at least – far too impatient to master. “I read somewhere that there are these things you can use to hit the strings so you don’t have to use your fingers. I think they began with a P,” I once told my guitar teacher. “The thing that begins with a P is called practice,” he replied. He was right, of course, but that didn’t mean I wanted to hear it.
This week, to satisfy my yearning for live music, I’ve taken a deep dive into my record collection and rediscovered some live favourites. Given how much joy I’ve got out of these records, I thought I’d share them with you today. Putting together this list, I’ve tried to take the road less travelled. I didn’t want to put together a list of classic live albums that everyone already knows like the back of their hand. Instead, my three picks serve as alternatives to some of those classic albums, offering a new look at some legendary bands.