Tag Archives: 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

Can You Yelp Yelp?

I’ve been thinking about the following situation for some time now and have finally gotten around to writing about it.  I’m not making any accusations, I’m only stating facts and a timeline of events.  Everything contained is as objective as I can make it.  You be the judge.

Fat Tone Guitars is an online and brick and mortar guitar dealership with a huge lineup of guitar effect pedals.  We’ve been in business now for 4 years and now, our sales are approximately 85% Internet and 15% in the store.  Some months, that ratio is closer to 90/10.

With our Internet sales model in place, the Fat Tone showroom is only open to the public on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with Tuesdays and Thursdays reserved for our web upkeep/shipping activities.

About 1.5 years ago, soon after we opted to close the showroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a customers left us a voicemail.  He was extremely upset that he’d driven an hour to our shop and found it closed.  To say he was upset is an understatement–he was super pissed.  I never did speak with the customer, even though I called him back to apologize and explain our rationale for our limited business hours.

A week or so after his voicemail, I noticed a negative Yelp review stating that “this store closes without warning” and some additional complaints.  Putting two and two together, I believe that the Yelp review was left by our upset customer.

Since that initial negative Yelp review, we’ve received 4 positive reviews so that finally, our Yelp status was pretty decent.

Back in April of this year, I received a sales call from a Yelp inside sales rep, based out of their San Francisco headquarters.  The sales rep wanted to sell us an updated corporate account as well as advertising on Yelp’s site.   I told him that we had an Internet model and that Yelp advertising wasn’t the right vehicle for us in our growth plans.  He ended up calling us 2 more times, and I had a total of 3 conversations with him.

I told him that our Internet model suited us fine, that we didn’t need a large sales staff or extended retail hours to maintain our growth via the web.  During the conversation, he pushed me, saying “don’t you want more customers?”

Of course we want more customers, we just want more web customers.  I didn’t want to commit marketing dollars to Yelp in order to drive walkup business.  I didn’t want to extend our retail hours, nor did I want to hire additional sales staff, worry about security, and other retail headaches.

What happened next?

Within 1 week of my third and final conversation with the Yelp sales rep, our 4 positive Yelp reviews suddenly became “filtered”, meaning they were no longer visible to casual browsers, nor did they figure in our overall Yelp rating.  We were back down to 1 star and our original review from the upset customer was the only one attributed to Fat Tone Guitars.

More recently, on July 9th we received another positive Yelp review.  It was visible on Yelp’s site giving us 1 negative review and 1 positive review.

Guess what?  As of this morning, that recent positive review is now “filtered” and we are back to a negative. We can’t get ahead here.

I’m just sayin’…

Do Not Mess Around with a Grizzly Bear’s Pedal Board

Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear said it best when speaking about his use of effects: “ I am a slave to my effects chain.” The Brooklyn based group features Taylor on bass, backing vocals, and various instruments, Edward Droste on vocals, guitar, omnichord and keyboard, Daniel Rossen on vocals, guitar, banjo and keyboards and Christopher Bear on vocals, drums and, of course, the glockenspiel. Needless to say these guys hit every section of a music store. The folk-rock band creates dreamy atmospheres with tinges of psychedelic and experimental pop that creates a unique listening experience that has left anyone who has seen them live in awe.

Grizzly Bear don’t just use effects pedals; they incorporate them into the soul of their music. This isn’t a case of stomping on a fuzz pedal for some extra boost. The band weaves the effects in such a way that it creates an aura of sonic deliciousness that was definitely not described in any of their effects users manuals.

But what effects does this adventurous group use? That is tricky as their pedal boards are a sea of effects. Thanks to finefornow.com I was able to come across a virtual cornucopia of pedals the bands uses that would make Guitar Center sweat bullets if anyone came in with such a wish list. This can be all found at Fine For Now.

Edward Droste uses and abuses the following:

  • Boss dd-6 (digital delay; used with vocals, employing the ‘hold’ feature, allowing him to harmonize with himself; possibly used with other inputs)
  • Boss rv-5 (digital reverb; probably used with ‘normal’ vocals, as opposed to vocals with heavy reverb)
  • Boss tu-2 (chromatic tuner)
  • Electro-Harmonix Big Muff pi (distortion; probably used with keyboard)
  • Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail (reverb; used with vocals)
  • Electro-Harmonix small stone (classic chassis; analogue phase shifter; used with omnichord, particularly on ready, able)
  • MXR carbon copy (analog delay; probably used with omnichord)
MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay
  • Radial JDI duplex direct box (used with keyboard and omnichord)
  • Radial JDI passive direct box (used with vocals)
  • Tech 21 sans amp bass driver di (used with keyboard and autoharp)
  • Voodoo labs pedal power 2 plus (power supply)

Daniel Rossen does his damage using the following:

  • Boss tu-2 (chromatic tuner)
  • Boss dd-3 (digital delay)
  • Boss dd-5 (digital delay)
  • Boss rv-5 (digital reverb; used with vocals)
  • Budda Budwah (wah pedal)
  • Electro-Harmonix holy grail (reverb)
  • Electro-Harmonix pog (polyphonic octave generator)
  • Electro-Harmonix tube zipper (envelope filter/distortion)
  • Ibanez ad-80 (analog delay)
  • Voodoo lab pedal power 2 plus (power supply)

Bass player and multi-instrumentalist Chris Taylor goes off the deep end with:

  • Akai Headrush e2 (digital delay; e.g. used to loop clarinet and radio sounds on Colorado)
  • Boss ab-2 (2-way selector)
  • Boss dd-3 (digital delay)
  • Boss oc-3 super octave pedal (polyphonic octave pedal)
  • Boss ps-5 (pitch shifter)
  • Boss rv-5 (digital reverb)
  • Boss sp-303 dr. sample (sampler)
  • Boss tu-2 (chromatic tuner)
  • Electro-Harmonix classics deluxe memory man (analogue delay)
  • Electro-Harmonix hog (polyphonic guitar synthesizer)
  • Electro-Harmonix pog (polyphonic octave generator; used with vocals)
  • Electro-Harmonix small stone (classic chassis; analogue phase shifter)
  • Electro-Harmonix xo #1 echo (digital delay)
  • Mackie 1202-vlz3 (mixer)
  • Moog bass murf mf-105b (filter)
  • Moog mf-101 lowpass filter (filter; used with vocals)
  • Mu-Tron phasor II (electro-optical phase control)
Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter

Moogerfooger Low Pass Filter

Blog post by E.M.Kaplan

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.