The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Fuzz Pedal is one of the most popular and recognizable tones in rock and roll. The Big Muff was introduced in the early 1970s by Electro-Harmonix and soon after, many of the top artists in rock adopted this effect pedal and appropriated it’s thick, rich sound as part of their own.
Among other artists, David Gilmour famously used the Big Muff on many classic Pink Floyd albums. Pink Floyd Animals, from 1977, features numerous lead guitar runs, accentuated by the Big Muff. Also in the 1970s, many classic Carlos Santana signature leads were recorded with the Big Muff. General characteristics of the pedal include increased distortion and sustain of the guitar tone, a smooth and fuzzy characteristic to the tone that separates it from clean guitar tone as well as the other instruments in a rock and roll band.
Electro-Harmonix was forced out of business in 1982 and for a period of a few years, the Big Muff was out of production. Because of this, original Big Muff effect pedals have become desirable and collectible while a handful of smaller boutique pedal manufacturers began developing their own versions of the Big Muff. In fact, many of these small pedal manufacturers became well known in their own right, and are in business today producing great guitar fuzz pedals. Here is a list of five great BM inspired boutique guitar effect pedals:
1. Blackout Effectors Musket Fuzz — The Musket Fuzz, by Blackout Effectors is a versatile fuzz pedal that takes its inspiration from the early Big Muff sound. The Musket adds a lot to the party, with additional tone EQ knobs which allow the guitarist to further tweak their sound, especially controlling the amount of midrange that finds it’s way to the amplifier. The result is a rich full sound which can be both vintage sounding as well as modern sounding, and can cut through the loudest rock band.
2. BMF Effects Aries Fuzz — The Aries Fuzz, by BMF Effects is a virtual clone of the classic Big Muff. Less tweakable than the Musket Fuzz but still highly musical, the Aries sports very rich tone with wide frequency response. The result is a smooth sound with huge sustain and can be very desirable for lead guitar tone. In my opinion, this really comes close to David Gilmour lead tone.
3. MJM Guitar FX Foxey Fuzz — The Foxey Fuzz is a silicon transistor powered fuzz pedal by MJM Guitar FX out of Montreal. The Foxey has a musical, distorted fuzz tone but isn’t noisy like many early silicon fuzz boxes. The Foxey Fuzz has also improved upon the original Big Muff circuit by adding true bypass. This pedal is great for chunky rhythm tones as well as lead tones.
4. Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz — The Earthquaker Devices Hoof Fuzz pedal is modeled after the Russian made Big Muff but offers a tighter, cleaner fuzz tone than that pedal. Armed with a silicon/germanium transistor, the Hoof Fuzz allows you to tweak the tone knob, basically adjusting the amount of midrange for each tone setting. The Hoof is also a very tweakable fuzz pedal.
5. Way Huge Swollen Pickle Fuzz — Way Huge Electronics, part of Dunlop, has reissued the Swollen Pickle and this fuzz provides a full, BM style sound. Also, tweakable, the Swollen Pickle can add mids for a vintage sound or scoop them for a more modern sound. The Swollen Pickle sounds great on both chords or single note runs.
Fuzz pedals were some of the original guitar effect tones and are still highly popular. When you think of great guitar rock and roll, most likely a fuzz was used in getting that loud distorted rock tone.