Here at Guitar Bar, we’re pedal freaks. We're a small shop that tries to carry as much cool stuff as we can fit. Luckily, pedals are always easy to squeeze in. New, used, vintage -- there’s always a lot of pedals here that keep me experimenting.
When it comes to pedals, there is no right or wrong, just what’s right for you. What I’ve found is that a pedal that might sound great on its own might not sound as good when playing with your band or recording, or vice versa. So while shopping, try and envision what else is going on in the band or recording you’re doing.
For example, if everyone’s tuned down low and using a warm distortion, you might want something that’s a little brighter so it’ll cut through. Depending on the gig or session, I’ll swap pedals out of my pedal board based on the music -- where the singer’s register is, does the drummer play a lot of cymbals, etc.
A little bit of thought might turn a useless-seeming pedal into the star of a particular gig.
That said, some of my favorite pedals are ones that do extra things I sometimes think the manufacturer didn’t purposely set out for them to do. Here are some of my faves -– new and old -– I think you should check out. For photos, check out the photo gallery below.
TECH 21 ROTO CHOIR (New): This is a new pedal that simulates a Leslie rotating speaker. George Harrison and Stevie Ray Vaughan are just a couple of players that come to mind who have used guitars through a Leslie for great effect. I’ve used and/or owned just about every Leslie-type pedal out there, and this is my fave! Also very smart that it simulates not only Leslie but the single-speaker Fender Vibratone amp, which SRV favored. You also can get a very odd, unique tremolo with some fidgeting; and crank the overdrive, drop the effect level, and you get a Hendrix-like flangy distortion. Well worth every penny!
BOSS PS-3 PITCH SHIFTER/DELAY (Mid-1990s): A pedal crammed with a lot of crazy octave stuff that I always have fun with. The delay settings are OK, but this pedal shines when you start adding the suboctaves, or super-high two octaves up. Sounds from a slowed-down record to crazy "Star Trek" space noises come out of this great discontinued pedal. Find one and spend some time with it!
ZVEX BOX OF ROCK (New): A great overdrive pedal that always surprises me. On its own, it sounds OK, but when in a band setting, something about its tonal range sits well with whatever guitar or amp I’m using, and it’s never let me down. The other thing I like is the separate boost switch. It's not only good to boost when the overdrive’s engaged, but you can use it as a clean boost, too. If I’m using a couple of different guitars for a gig, I’ll often set the boost to adjust for any difference in level between the two axes.
FOXX TONE MACHINE (Early 1970s): Any time I use this pedal in a recording, it jumps out of the speakers and grabs your attention. This fuzz box turns your guitar into a sonic razor blade, and adding the high octave makes single-note solos sing. Boost the lower tones and you get a great, unique distortion as well. The reissues aren’t half bad; they're worth it if you can’t find or afford the original.
That’s it for this week. Have fun making noise!
Guitar Bar, at 160 First St. in Hoboken, New Jersey, 201-222-0915, has been serving New York City and New Jersey musicians since 1996. Vintage, new and used guitars, effects, amps and other cool stuff abound, and expert repairs and lessons are done on site. Owner James Mastro is an active touring and recording musician whose credits include Ian Hunter, Patti Smith, John Cale, Health & Happiness Show, The Bongos, Garland Jeffreys and Donovan, to name a few. Ask him gear-related questions (or anything!) by commenting on this and future blog posts.