10 Pedal Tips You Might Not Have Thought Of!
Here's 10 tips that may explode your mind about how to best make use of the pedals you have and offer new sonic ground possibilities other than the usual ol' "stick the pedal in and turn everything up til noon" way of thinking. Enjoy!
- Stacking Overdrives - It always tends to amaze me that a lot of guitar players tend to use overdrive and distortion pedals 1-at-a-time-and-never-shall-that-change. They have their Tube Screamer. They have a RAT. They have a Klon.They treat them like holy relics blessing their tone. Sure you can use them that way. But you're missing out on a whole area of experimentation and fun. Stacking tends to compress the signal, dirty it up like hot sex, saturate the signal revealing new overtones. Works wonders on bass as well.
Compressors Misused - Compressors are sort of the quiet guy at the party they no one bothers to get to know, so they go home alone sad wondering why no one appreciates them. Their most obvious role is when they chicken pick spank and squish. However, there is a whole lot more to them. They can be used as sustainers. Limiters. An EQ pedal. A pre-OD boost. Think of them as guitar signal magicians.
- Short Delays "Crisp" - Don't hear this sort of application of delays much. You can set up a digital delay to short time, multiple repeats, turn up the volume, no reverb to get a helicopterish kind of staccato effect that can sound massive. A kind of paradigm shift of what an electric guitar can sound like.
- Barely on Effects - It's easy to turn everything up on an effect pedal. That can be satisfying. But how about turning things down to barely perceptible levels? How about adding delay, but setting the volume so low that it's almost not there at all? How about adding a dirt pedal and turning the gain all the way down? This leads to the next point...
Effect As EQ - If you turn down effects a lot of times you'll realize that a lot of pedals add a distinctive EQ. Think of the vintage Echoplex preamp, where people came for the delay and stayed for the preamp! They even made it into a pedal now.
- Reverb as Infinite Tail - We all the standard reverb sounds: Spring, Room, Hall. Guitarists tend to use reverb mostly as a way to add little breathing room to their core tone. But how about thinking of reverb as a way to extend the hard spike and short tail of a guitar signal to a sort of infinite grace note. Like an ebow but more nuanced. Nick McCabe of the Verve with the wonderful Alesis Quadraverb used this to push boundaries of what a guitar could sound like - the tides of nature, groaning satellites, the infinite cosmos.
- Reverse and Gated Reverb - Continuing on the reverb thread, a lot of players haven't experimented with reverse and gated reverb. A really fascinating effect that pulses and distorts especially if you add some whammy bar a la Kevin Shields of MBV. It's like turning guitar on its head.
- EQ Pedals - It's shocking that a lot of players don't have an EQ pedal on their board. They're game changers, allowing you to tweak frequencies to cut through, cut off others when to stop (or encourage) feedback, boost pedals in their own right, final extreme influencers of your guitar signal, the last gate between your signal and the world hearing it.
- Buffer Pedal - You'd be surprised how much a guitar signal changes as it flows through your pedal board even when all your pedals are off! Experiment: play through your pedalboard with all pedals off. Then take the input lead of your guitar out of the pedalboard and go straight into the amp. Listen. I bet you'll hear some differences. A buffer pedal is supposed to mitigate the small changes introduced from your pedals, bringing you closer to the pristine original sound of your guitar straight to your amp.
- Hard Connectors - I'm a big fan of hard connectors between pedals instead of patch cables. Pedal cranks, pedal connectors - these are rock hard connections that don't twist or fray with time. Less movement = Less problems. Of course, not all pedals can be connected this way, but if you minimize the amount of cables in your rig, you're also minimizing the chance that during the gig a faulty connection will lead you to a scratchy or silent troubleshoot.
Got any tips of your own you've discovered over the years? Please share in the comments below!