Tag Archives: guitar effect pedals

Beyond The Bench with VFE Pedals

Meet Peter Rutter from VFE Pedals. VFE is one of the finest of the up and coming boutique pedal makers. Learn what makes him tick…

Win This Pedal

Our latest installment in the nearly ubiquitous pedal giveaway fad. This time, we’re giving away a brand new Field Effects Manifold Drive Overdrive pedal.

The Manifold Drive is a pedal that captures the subtle nuance of high quality tube amp overdrive and so much more. Field Effects is the pedal making division of Resonant Electronic Design out of Minnesota.

How can you win this pedal?

First visit Fat Tone Guitars’ Facebook Page and become a fan (or “Like” Fat Tone Guitars).  Next, visit Field Effects Facebook Page (part of Resonant Electronic Design) and become a fan (or “Like” Field Effects). Then, post a comment, or upload a picture or share our page. Whatever you do, make it clever.  Make it poignant.  Last day to post is Friday August 24, 2012.  The weekend of August 25, the Fat Tone staff will choose a winner from all the posts/uploads/shares.  So remember to make ‘em count.

Here’s how we count entries. If you “Like” our page, you get 1 entry. If you make a comment or share, you get 2 entries. If you upload a photo or video, you get 3 entries. From there, the random number generator takes over.

Fat Tone Guitars’ Facebook page is:  http://www.facebook.com/fattoneguitars

Field Effects’ Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/resonantelectronicdesign

To sum it up, here’s how you enter the contest:

  • Go to Fat Tone’s Facebook Page
  • Go to Field Effects’ Facebook Page
  • “Like” both Fat Tone Guitars and SolidGold FX (If you are already a fan or already ‘Like” us, proceed to the next step)
  • Post a comment/upload/share on guitars or amps or effects
  • Wait for us to choose a winner from our Facebook Fans
  • You must post/share/like something on both pages to be eligible to win

Effect Pedal Consulting

Fat Tone Guitars is tweaking its focus. From here on out, we’ll now be known as the authority on guitar effect pedals. This is what we are about:

Fat Tone’s Goal:

  • To provide musicians with the best possible solution for their tone oriented wants and needs.

Step One — Knowing Our Philosophy:

  • Between the endless amount of information available online (via forums, videos, and reviews) and good old fashioned word of mouth, there’s bound to be a little confusion when it comes to effect pedals and what they do. Since effect pedals are so unique by design, categorizing them is not an exact science. Many pedals fall into more than one category, which makes finding the right effect a difficult process.
  • We understand that classifying effects by type helps narrow the search, but by using simplified labels like “dirt” pedals (rather than “overdrive”, “distortion”, or “fuzz”) we can keep our recommendations open to solutions outside the norm. By getting too specific too fast, the perfect pedal can often be overlooked.
  • The end result of finding your ideal tone/sound is more important to us than just finding you the latest version of an overdrive or chorus pedal.

Step Two — Getting Acquainted:

  • We’re here to help you find your ideal tone and voice for your instrument. In order to achieve that, we have to know a few things about you and your setup.
  • What kind of sounds are you looking to create or modify? Are you on the hunt for a new lead guitar sound with smooth violin-like sustain and a hint of echo? Or are you looking to fortify your clean and tight chicken pickin’ tone with a touch of silky reverb? Is there a current artist or band that has a tone similar to what you’re seeking? The more specific examples you can provide, the better the result will be. It may sound elementary, but this is often an overlooked step in the everyday process of choosing new effect pedals.
  • We’d also like to know about your current setup. What does your go-to rig typically look like from your pickups all the way to the speaker in your amp? Do you like the clean tone you have, but can’t quite dial in the right dirty sound? Again–the more we know, the better we can help.

Step Three — Plug In and Play:

  • Once we’ve had a chance to get to know your personal style and preferences, we can recommend the most accurate solution. Not only do we stock an incredible variety of effect pedals, but we have strong knowledge and hands on experience with every item found in our inventory. And thanks to our ever changing stock of used gear, our knowledge base stretches far beyond our current selection of pedals. If we’ve seen it, we’ve played it.

All Playing, No Talking

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog entry–have you missed me? Anyways, I’m working to get back in the habit and today I’ve got guitar gear demos on my mind.

If you are a guitar player and have access to a computer or a smartphone, you no doubt have watched guitar gear demos. They are ubiquitous online–with every guitarist and their brother now producing demos. Needless to say, some are fantastic and some are less than fantastic.

If you’re like me, you suffer from Short Attention Span Disorder. My limit on guitar demo’s is about 2 minutes. Once I hit that threshold, I’ve heard all I care to hear and have formed an opinion.

Fat Tone Guitars has been quietly building our video library with short, to-the-point effect pedal video demos. We’ve passed the 100 video count and will continue to add more.

All playing, no talking. Just saying…

How Mark Knopfler Got His Groove

You know the sound. Smooth but with just the right kick of distortion to let you know you are dealing with some real rock n’ roll. You know what I’m talking about. That perfectly even tone that has you walking with a bit of a strut because you just heard “Sultans of Swing” on the radio and can’t get the guitar lines out of your head.

Mark Knopfler and his Strat

Mark Knopfler and his Strat

Mark Knopfler possesses one of the most distinct tones in all of rock. With Dire Straits and beyond, Knopfler has been combining fluid solos and chord passages that walk the line between understated and flat-out jaw dropping. Although the beautiful music comes from his head and fingers (he plays without a pick), Knopfler did have a bit of help in developing such a persuasive and sexy tone. The atmosphere and shadings he creates on such tunes as the aforementioned “Sultans of Swing”, “Down to the Waterline” and “Lady Writer” was created with the help of the Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer Compressor pedal.

The Orange Squeezer is a basically a compressor pedal. A compressor is a circuit that compresses the signal so if it exceeds a level, the compressor limits, or puts a cap on, the signal. What this means is that the soft tones are lifted and the loud tones are limited resulting in an even sound. A listen to early Dire Straits recordings is a perfect example of the benefits of using a compressor. The Orange Squeezer enabled Knopfler to keep a flush sound, not too loud and not too soft, which has played a huge role in the guitarist’s unmistakable tone.

Of course, there is the Strat that Knopfler played that helped create such a signature sound. Strats often possess a biting tone that is great for cutting through a thick rhythm section. Combined with the Orange Compressor pedal, Knopfler was able to use the Strat to create the perfect timbre that set his playing style apart from everyone else. Knopfler’s style is so distinct that Fender has issued a Mark Knopfler Stratocaster which features three Texas Special single coil pickups in inside of a Hot Rod Red ’57 ash body with a ’62 c-shaped maple neck. This guitar along with the Orange Compressor is the perfect recipe for creating smooth lines and chords that pop with an even controlled resonance that will have you rolling with the Sultans of Swing in your basement or at the gig.

Analog Man Mini-Bi-Comp Compressor Pedal

Analog Man Mini Bi-Comp. Orange Squeezer on the right.

blog written by E. M. Kaplan

Which Effect Pedal Goes First?

Do you place your wah pedal before your distortion pedal?  Or do you run your fuzz before your wah?  While there is the conventional wisdom surrounding effect pedal order, there are as many different schools of thought as there are guitar players.  The fundamental question you want to ask yourself is:

Do you want your distorted guitar sound wah’d or do you want your wah’d sound distorted.  Splitting hairs?  Not really.

A wah pedal is by definition a filter and when thinking about it in those terms, should be placed first.  Placing a wah first in your pedal order will allow that effect to see your unadulterated guitar tone and to sweep that signal.  In many ways, that produces a natural, sweet wah tone.   Another reason to place a wah or other filter first in the chain is that most are very touch sensitive.  Your fingers and pick attack can most affect the first pedal in your chain and therefore, a wah makes most sense.

Talk to other guitarists and they’ll tell you to place your fuzz or distortion pedal first.  Many fuzz pedals react best when hit with a straight guitar signal.  Secondly, a distortion or fuzz pedal is often the core tone for many guitarists and therefore is a good base for building tone, including wah.

Ibanez Wah Pedal

Ibanez Weeping Demon Wah Pedal

Other effect pedals like delay, chorus and other modulation type effects should come later in your signal chain.  We’ll discuss these later.

Distortion And Overdrive

It’s pretty common knowledge that guitar distortion and overdrive tones were discovered by accident. And enterprising guitarists the world over have been improving on those accidents ever since in the never-ending quest for tone.

Dave Davies of the Kinks ripped his speaker cone and the result was the unforgettable “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night”.

Link Wray dislodged one of his guitar amp tubes and liked how it sounded so he kept that configuration when recording “Rumble”.

What exactly is happening when you use an overdrive pedal or amp? Technically, distortion refers to any aberration of the waveform of an electronic circuit’s output signal from its input signal. In the context of musical instrument amplification, it refers to various forms of clipping, which is the truncation of the part of an input signal that exceeds certain voltage limits. Because both vacuum tubes and transistors behave linearly within a certain voltage region, distortion circuits are finely tuned so that the average signal peak just barely pushes the circuit into the clipping region, resulting in the softest clip and the least harsh distortion. Because of this, as the guitar strings are plucked harder, the amount of distortion and the resulting volume both increase, and lighter plucking cleans-up the sound. Amps that are good at this are referred to as “touch sensitive”.

Great early distortion effect pedals include the Ibanez Tube Screamer that tried to cram an amps power stage clipping tone into a pedal. Early TS-808 Tube Screamers are highly in demand. A great modern day pedal that utilizes the same tones as the Tube Screamer is the MJM Phantom Overdrive Pedal. The Phantom Overdrive delivers some very warm, amp-like overdrive sounds.

MJM Phantom Overdrive Pedal

MJM Phantom Overdrive

Leo Fender of Fender guitars and amplifiers observed these trends and engineered many of his amplifiers to “compress” and/or “overdrive” slightly without drastically distorting the signal. The early Fender “Tweed” and “Blackface” amplifiers are considered a good example of clean electric guitar tone.  Many later amplifiers are based on these designs, such as the Tone King Imperial and Metropolitan.

Tone King Metropolitan Amp

Tone King Metropolitan

Tube distortion is commonly referred to as overdrive, as it is attained by driving the output tubes in an amplifier at a higher level than can be handled cleanly. Multiple stages of tube gain/clipping can be “cascaded” to produce a thicker and more complex distortion sound. In some modern tube effects, the “dirty” or “gritty” tone is actually achieved not by high voltage, but by running the circuit at voltages that are too low for the circuit components, resulting in greater non-linearity and distortion. These designs are referred to as “starved plate” configurations, and result in an “amp death” sound.

Funky Wah Pedal

If I say wah wah pedal, you would probably think of Jimi Hendrix playing “Voodoo Child” or Eric Clapton playing “White Room”.  In my opinion, the most under appreciated application for the wonderful wah pedal is good ol’ funky music.

That ultra funky “Theme from Shaft” (shut yo mouth) is probably the most well known funky wah jam but there are countless others.  A wah pedal is basically an ingenious tweaking of the tone knob and it goes great with a staccato rhythm guitar.  Think Prince playing the wah on his ultra funky hit, “Kiss”.

One of my favorite all time groups were The Meters, from New Orleans.   I’ve appropriated much of George Porter Jr.’s bass licks to my own repertoire with much less success.  But Leo Nocentelli, the original guitarist from The Meters was a funk master.  His wah sound and technique on the following track “Just Kissed My Baby” from the “Rejuvenation” album is uber funky.  Check it out here.

Shoutout To Gearmanndude

I’m betting that many guitar players partake of the numerous guitar gear demos on YouTube.  You’ve probably seen great demos and some not so great demos.  A friend of Fat Tone Guitars and a super guitar player and fuzz pedal demo master is Gearmanndude.  GMD as many of us refer to him puts out demos like no one else.  Besides some great playing, he infuses some humor and personality into his demos.

He also sounds a lot like Jack Black.

Anyhow, I wanted to thank Gearmanndude for his hours of service to the guitar players and fuzz pedals and delay pedals on the market.  He makes it a lot more fun for us watching YouTube gear demos.

Enjoy…

The Customer Is King

We are in business because of customers.  We are not here because manufacturers make great stuff.  We are here because there are customers out there that want great stuff.  And customers tell us what stuff they want and how they want to procure that stuff.

They also tell us when the stuff they have bought isn’t great, or if their experience getting that stuff has been less than great.  It’s less frequently that we hear from customers when their buying experience is pleasurable.  However, when we do, it absolutely makes my day.  And if you are wondering, Jon is our shipping manager.  Check these out…

“Hello Fat Tone (or to Jon, who wrote “thanks” on my invoice),

Thanks for the 11% off the Catalinbread Merkin fuzzbox.  I think it was August 8th or something, and it was like 3am, and I couldn’t sleep, and I was all annoyed… then I saw a clip for the Catalinbread Merkin fuzz on I LOVE FUZZ . COM and then a post from one of you about 11% off until midnight.
So I was like “Shit, I can’t sleep; might as well by a pedal.”  And I did and the Merkin is dope.  Thanks again for the deal.
Yer pal,”
and…

“Wow, Phil! If Jon isn’t hip to this thing yet, turn him on quick! I
just plugged the Tone Reaper into my Marshall Studio-15 and Fender Blues
Jr. in series, playing my Gibson SG, and I have now formally ended my
eternal Tone-Bender quest. This thing outdoes my MJM Britbender and
Phoenix Electronics Lady Stardust pedals, hands down. I used to have an
original USA Vox Tone Bender in 1969, and this completely captures that
same, unmistakeably heavy sound–it is totally unique, and you can’t
touch it with a Fuzz Face or any other pedal, really. It has incredibly
chimey harmonics and feeds back in a controllable fashion. I do
believe the Tone Reaper actually has more volume on tap than the old Vox
did. I am just so amazed at the power and the tone that this thing puts
out. I haven’t played my Les Paul through it yet, but I’m sure it’s
gonna shake the room. You know, the packaging of this pedal is
deceptive–I first saw it and thought, oh this is another high-gain,
heavy metal, silicon death-fuzz. Turns out this thing is one of the
best Tone Bender replicas out there, with that distinctive T/B hollow
tone and in-your-face, fuzzy nastiness. It does Yardbirds, Zep I & II,
Mick Ronson/Spiders from Mars, Tommy Iommi, and Jeff Beck/Truth
perfectly. This is the real deal! I haven’t played a D.A.M. replica
yet, but dollar-for-dollar, this has got to be the go-to Tone Bender to
have. Please pass my point-of-view on to anyone who expresses an
interest in this pedal. I endorse it heartily.”