Monday, February 6, 2012

My Guitar Effects Pedals De-mystified

(Please be forewarned, I am not a "tech geek". I hope I don't disappoint a lot of people with my pedal board's simplicity. However, I'm sure U2's  "The Edge" has some sort of write-up somewhere for those of you wanting more out of a pedal Board...)

Now, I'm going to start on the top row going from left to right, and then the bottom row left to right.
What are those crazy colored stomp boxes?
  • Holy Grail - This is the pedal I use when I want my guitar to sound like I'm wailing in a giant cave. I use this pedal for subtle nuances as well, usually to accentuate a vocal line Dia does. This pedal helps to create a "creepy" atmosphere when I need it. I usually keep it on the "Hall" setting at about 9:00. When using any kind of guitar pedal, I always try not to "over-do" the effect. I hate it when musicians have so many effects going on, I can't  hear the notes they are trying to play.
  • MXR phase 90 - This pedal makes a guitar sound like it's underwater. I use this pedal very sparingly, mostly when I'm soloing. It turns a guitar solo at level five into a solo at level 10! Again, I keep this pedal's knob at about 12:00. Definitely don't want to over-do THIS baby!
  • PRO DI Box - Ironically, the most technical part of this post is for the simplest pedal. The DI Box has no knobs to tinker with. This green box is simply a mechanism that is used to convert a "quarter inch" cable's signal into a "XLR" signal, so that the signal can then plug into a "split snake". What is a "split snake"? (Sorry, I got nothing. I usually just call it the "thingy" and had to ask Nick what a "split-snake" was called for the sake of this post.)
  • Boss Chromatic Tuner - This is a tuner. This pedal is probably the guitar pedal that most of you are familiar with. This little guy makes sure that my guitar sounds pretty and in tune so my band members don't give me evil looks during our set.
  • Boss Digital Delay DD3 - Now this is my favorite pedal of the bunch. It took quite a bit of getting-used-to when I first purchased it, but now I use it on basically everything. It helps give solos that "edge" that helps listeners know that I am now having an "important" instrumental moment. It makes riffs sound "shimmery". I also use it to "butter up" certain instrumental sections. Like the "Holy Grail", this pedal helps to create a "vibey" "atmospheric" sound that I can tweak to sound anywhere from "creepy" to "mysterious" and every nuance in between.
  • Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Most players use this puppy for "crunch" or for "volume". Also, a tube screamer can make an instrument sound generally more "angry". Ironically, I actually use this pedal to "smooth" out my chords. You wouldn't think that could be one of its applications, but if you think about it, adding a little distortion to the sound makes it a lot less "janky". (which is how "clean" tone sounds sometimes) It sort of "blurs" all the tones together. I use this trick on "Walk Away" in Dia's set to "smooth" out my tone underneath the dance beat of that song.

With all the above being said, my take on guitar "effects" is "less is more". I have a tremendous amount of respect for someone like Andrew Allen who plays just an acoustic guitar with only a tuning pedal. (Andrew is the incredibly talented and super sweet singer-songwriter who is the opening artist for us right now. You can check him out HERE!) When there's less "stuff" to cover up your playing the listener is then invited to experience what the artist truly has to offer.

I love watching electric guitarists who carry a tiny 8" - 10" speaker amp on stage (which is extremely small. It's basically about the size of a purse. I'm such a girly girl! ) as opposed to the guitarists who stack a bunch of Marshall 4X12's on top of each other on stage which they don't actually even play out of. (It's just for show.) (A "4X12" means a speaker cabinet with four twelve inch speakers inside.)


I love when pedal boards are very minimal, allowing the musician to just jump up on stage and wail. The greatest musicians can make any guitar through any amp, and hardly any effects pedals, sound great. (I'm not quite there yet. Someday!)

Also, I love simplicity in all aspects of my life. I'm a vanilla with sprinkles kind of girl (well, at least before I became vegan.)

If you would like to get more "technical", feel free to ask me any questions about any of my equipment, and I will do my best to answer.

Honestly,
Meg

15 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this Meg! I share your view on how the best guitarists don't need the flashy equipment and huge amps to be talented. Very helpful as I am looking to get more gear and love your sound. What kind of amp do you have and what is your favorite guitar to use?

    Thanks!
    Savannah

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    1. I play out of a fender Deville. I really enjoy fender amps and guitars. I love my american standard tele.

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    2. My dream guitar would be a Tele... I have an Epiphone LP 100 now, but I'll work my way up there someday. ;)

      Thanks for the reply! :)

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  2. Nice the DD3 is my fav as well..i freakin love delay! Will Dia play a show at SXSW in March?!..Ill be down in Austin the whole week!

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    1. No, we won't be playing south by, but I'll be extremely jealous of you!

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  3. 2 questions, what are the peddles mounted with, and do you ever run multiple effects at once?

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    1. I don't know much about guitars really so you sounded pretty smart and professional to me :)

      I was wondering the same thing - 'can you run multiple effects at once?'

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    2. Believe or not, they are mounted with velcro. Yes you can run multiple pedals at once. I like to use both my reverb and delay pedal at the same time if I'm looking for a totally "blown-out" signal. I also like using the tube screamer with the delay. I get interesting sounds that way.

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    3. ahh yes Velcro, that is what i use for most of my mounting solutions i figure i would ask a pro how it is done :)

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  4. Holy Grail pedal I think is the one i like...that cool far away haunting sound

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  5. Meg,
    As I have a pedal or two that are older than you are, I'll leave the techy questions out (I got that). I am interested in knowing what process you use in order to select a particular pedal. Do you have someone you trust to advise you on them? Or, do you just try them out until you decide on one? And what matters more to you, brand or functionality?

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    1. Carlo, Dia's other guitarist, gives me great tone advice and music advice in general. I usually go out and search for a pedal I like that I randomly come across while we are recording in someones studio. I never actively search out new pedals. (LIke I said, I like to keep my setup simple) However, if one falls in my lap that I get really excited about, I'll buy it.

      Functionality. Although, I must admit, I have really come to trust "boss". Also, I really love "electro harmonix". They seem to offer sound effects that are a bit different than everyone else is offering, so I'm looking into them at the moment.

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    2. Thanks Meg,
      The "Sound Guy" in me says YES!, keep it simple. Find your own signature sound and stick to it. 10 years from now I wanna' be able to walk into a bar, hear the jukebox and be able to say "Hey! That's Meg!".

      Keep on Rockin'!!!
      (And thumbs up on the Ibanez Screamer)
      (AND..., sorry I missed you guys in Madison, maybe next time)

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  6. I'm so glad you posted this! Thanks so much for the insight about effects pedals. I knew little to nothing about them before I read this. I'm an acoustic guitarist and every time I pick up an electric guitar it feels sort of like I know a little bit of another language, but not enough even to ask where the bathroom is...if that made any sense at all. Do you have any advice on how I can maybe resolve this dilemma? I realize, of course, that this is kind of a broad topic but any help at all would be lovely.

    Thanks!
    ~Patty

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  7. This blog is fantastic; what you show us is very interesting and is really good written. It’s just great!!

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