Old Faithful or Out of the Box? Featured

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Music culture has changed a lot over the years, and to accompany the shift in musical preferences the gear community has also shifted to meet the needs of all players. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to play I-IV-V blues tunes in a dive bar, play to 10,000 people in a stadium, or to make speaker-destroying noise in your room, we’re currently in the golden age of guitar effects where nearly anything is possible. Want to make your tone sound like one of your guitar hero’s? Easier than ever. Want to make your guitar sound absolutely nothing like a guitar? Done. There are so many effects on the market and constantly in development that if you can dream it, there’s a good chance you can achieve it.
 
Recently there has been a slew of unconventional products released by various companies, and the reaction has been a mixed bag at best. There are people who absolutely love some of these pedals and immediately want to purchase them, and there’s also the counter group of players who despise the idea completely and think that the designs are garbage* and want nothing to do with them. It’s a stark line drawn in the sand, and admittedly I’ve found myself hovering over top of the line in regard to a love/hate feeling for some of the noisemakers and more out-there effects. They’re so bizarre that they’re repulsive but intriguing at the same time. Usually, for me, all it takes is one demo with a single cool sound to catch my ear and then the GAS just grows from there.
 
My first thought with a pedal is normally “How is it versatile enough to be usable in multiple musical contexts, while also not overlapping too much with the stuff I already have?” Noisemakers blow that out of the water typically because despite my love of a plethora of different genre’s and styles, noises aren’t in there (except for self-oscillation on a delay, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea either). All that being said, I do totally get why they’re interesting. There’s NOTHING like some of the current pedals being released, or rather nothing widely available at a reasonable price. Curiosity above all else makes me wonder what cool sounds I can coax out of these pedals, even though they’re not in my wheelhouse in the least bit. I’ve seen a lot of comments regarding the musicality of such noisemakers, and if they’re just noise for the sake of noise. That’s to be debated because tone and musicality are generally one of the most subjective things in existence. Out of all of this, I broke it down into two groups of mindset, but there are a lot more people that fall in between or don’t fit into it at all.
 
Ode to the Classics - The classics are classics for a reason, these guitar heroes and their tones are what sparked generation after generation of players to want to pick up a guitar. Many of their setups have become the go-to standards for measuring tone, from EVH’s “brown sound” using hot-rodded plexi’s to Eric Clapton’s “Woman Tone,” and how many people try to nail SRV’s tone…thousands? Literally hundreds of artists that created their niche at the time of their heyday have sparked the love of many players who desire to chase those tones. As we all know, a lot of tone is in the fingers, but that’s part of the equation. The tools were limited years ago, so the players used what they had and literally pushed them to the boundaries at all times. Now there are a plethora of options (amps, pedals, modeling software, etc) designed to take those vintage and sought-after effects and make them accessible in the modern world. All the same while, vintage instrument prices are soaring through the roof because players want that authentic “mojo” that older equipment has.
 
Free Spirits - On the flip side of the coin, you have no non-traditionalists and players who don’t want to sound like anyone else. Guitar and music are voices to the world, and in many cases copying others can make the feeling seem less authentic. Having so many great tones already defined by artists and genres, it’s forced gear companies to think outside of the box in terms of users want to leave their unique mark on the world in their own way. This has led to an influx of stompboxes that give more control than ever to shape tones. Look at Chase Bliss Audio, Montreal Assemble, Hologram Electronics…the list goes on and on. These companies are leading the forefront in terms of “out of the box” tones and tweakablility, with some truly mind-bending effects being created on a daily basis. It’s allowing true artistic freedom by not having any boundaries in the least bit. This can be a bit terrifying for some (me included) because there’s no telling how you can get to a tone, no guarantee that you can replicate it, and that’s the beauty of it. There is no box, so to speak.
 
So where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you a traditionalist with tones built on the foundation of some of your favorite players, or do you like going outside the box and defining your own style, even if it defies convention? Somewhere in the middle? Don't care? Let us know in the comments!
 
*The original words were substituted due to the obscene nature of some comments left online in some comment threads.
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