A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.

Read a review of one of our favorite tuning pedals here


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.

Check out our review of the DigiTech Synth Wah Envelope Filter Pedal here


Equalizers

eq700

Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.

Check out our review of the MRX MC401 Boost Pedal here


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.

Read our review of the BOSS CS-3, one of our favorite compressors


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.

Check out our review of the Boss NS-2


Pitch-altering pedals

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.

Read our review of the Digitech Whammy 5


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.

Read our review of the Pro Co Turbo Rat distortion pedal


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.

Check out our review of the MXR M134 Stereo Chorus Pedal


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.

Read our review of the TC Electronic M3000


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

8StepProg-large

Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

The Most Famous Music Videos Featuring Puppets

weezer muppet

There sometimes comes a point in a musician or bands’ musical career where they (or their management) get the crazy notion to produce a music video that involves some form of puppetry.

elton john and ms piggy

By puppetry, I don’t mean that the artist themselves decides to take up puppeteering – oh no of course not – rather, they usually “drop” a video that prominently features puppets, or, as it were, marionettes.  Presumably, the desired effect here is a resounding WOW!

Indeed, this is the type of career move that neither a fan or casual music listener of said artist can ever be fully prepared for, with the effect of such as manoeuvre generally eliciting a variety of reactions – from hilarity to eye-rolling, to sheer wonder and amazement, depending on who is watching and their level of self-seriousness.

One thing that associating (or in some cases becoming) puppets does for a musician, good or bad, is that it generally does not go unnoticed by the public.

phil collins puppet

Reasons for making a music video featuring puppets are numerous – whether it’s a band who is generally seen as serious who would like people to know they have a sense of humour, to an artists’ Hail Mary attempt to get attention from the world that has ignored them for so long, to simply desiring to produce something different and creative, the impetus behind unleashing puppets on an unsuspecting fanbase is a desire that has long burned with unmatched brilliance in the hearts of entertainers around the world since the invention of the music video itself.

As a fan, you sometimes have to ponder what is behind such a decision, as the results of puppetry in music videos isn’t always 100% well received in the same way Jar Jar Binks and The Phantom Menace can, at their mere mention, lead to the overturning of tables and the sudden negation of civility and the disintegration of lifelong friendships.

jar-jar-obi-wan-feature

Consider that recording artists, who are usually fairly eccentric to begin with, when combined with the unmitigated zaniness and creativity of puppets, tend to make a lasting impression one way or another.  It is, logically, a decision that any recording artist of note will one day have to wrestle with themselves in their heart of hearts.

Hence, today, I want to present to you some of the most famous music videos featuring puppets, since these are videos which, once you see, you cannot un-see, such is the magnitude of sheer creativity in some of these videos, matched only by the level of ridiculousness at times.  Enjoy!


Elton John – Crocodile Rock

If any one musical artist makes sense to be surrounded by puppets, whether it be for a music video shoot or just in every day life, it’s Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as Elton John!

Here is perhaps the most famous of all Muppet Show musical appearances, with Elton singing his signature song, Crocodile Rock, complete with Animal on drums and singing crocs.

The idea of a campy rocker such as Elton John and the wacky Muppets seem to go together here just like PB & J, making what is essentially a whole lot of unnatural things seem rather expected and totally believable.  I’d almost expect every Elton performance to look something like this.  As fate would have it, he would eventually enter the world of animation, bolstering his mega-stardom even that much more via The Lion King.

In terms of this appearance with the Muppets being a potentially risky career move, there was essentially no risk at all of Elton coming off looking ridiculous, as his inner weirdness has been fairly “out there” for his entire career.  If anything, the Muppets were risking their reputation being seen with him.

Not only that, but Elton John has sort of earned a name for himself doing just about anything and everything, playing for crowds huge and small, and, if you’ve ever seen the biopic Rocketman, or are aware of his history with drugs, this appearance on the Muppet Show was probably one of the more mundane things that he experienced on that specific day.

Visit Elton John’s website here

Visit Jim Henson’s website here


Coldplay – Life In Technicolorr ii

Like U2 before them, Coldplay has garnered a reputation over the years as a fairly earnest band, who sings songs with universal themes for the Everyman, meaning no harm to anyone and preaching nothing but unity in their songs about Life and encouraging people to look to the night sky to see yellow stars.

As competent musically as they clearly are, they have been criticized by their detractors as being fairly self-serious and a little boring at times.  You don’t say…

Enter – Coldplay as puppets.  As mentioned in the intro to this article, there is the idea that a band, aware that they are considered decidedly un-funny by the press and a certain segment of the population, can re-present themselves in a new way to people, showing that yes, they too, like to have a laugh once in a while, displaying to all that they’re not really rich rock stars, but just regular guys.  Yes, that’s right, if by “regular guys” at a pub you are referring to a puppet show spectacular guaranteed to flip your wig right off your head!

This video for Life In Technicolor ii does seem to show, at least to me, that it is possible to have puppets in a music video and have them not be totally ludicrous.  As much as Coldplay plays the “we can be funny too” card here, I don’t find this video to be that funny (or even funny period), although I will say it’s creative and enjoyable even to a sullen whelp like me.

As a puppet video, I think they’ve managed to do the token puppet music video genre some justice, inserting just the right amount of silliness into the video concept, never reaching that career-compromising tipping point.  Bravo!


Mastodon – Deathbound

In terms of clichés, the appearance of puppets in an artist’s music video tends to indicate a desire to make things more fun, or campy, or both.  Perhaps have your band appeal to a new audience of doe-eyed youngsters via a playful charade featuring bobbing, laughing human and animal facsimiles.

But there is another road that may be taken… and that road sometimes points to emphasizing the inherent strange-ness of puppets, resulting in results which may be seen as somewhat “trippy”.  Rarely, however, does an artist employ the use of puppets only to massacre them all.  Such was the prerogative of the band Mastodon, who clearly has had it in for puppets since they were small puppet sized beings themselves.

That said, if you know the band Mastodon, and their style of music that they play being heavy and doom-y as it is, you probably weren’t expecting to see this video when it came out.  Heavy bands like this don’t usually go full puppet-fest.  The above video definitely draws a line in the sand when it comes to puppets, and suggests something to the effect of, the only good puppet is a dead puppet.  Harsh message!

This video even goes as far as to destroy an entire puppet society, complete with puppets that resemble Fraggles, Muppets, and even hardworking Doozers!  Yes, I did even notice that eclipse in the background – ominous.  This is a very artistic video with very strong views, and amazingly it manages to embody the insanity of what would really happen in a puppet society if they were stricken mad, and attacked by larger, more violent puppets bent on destruction.  Clearly there was never any chance of escape.

Visit the Mastodon website here


Genesis – Land of Confusion

Land of Confusion by Genesis is another one of those examples where we have a band that was normally (up until a point) taken quite seriously by their fans and the general music listening public, but then they come out with this.

There’s a few things about “this” to note.  One is that, if you, like me, have grown up listening to the music of Phil Collins through the ’80’s, and sort of getting a sense of who he is, then this video appearing on the scene back when it did is far less surprising.  It may have taken aback Genesis fans back when it came out, but actually, likely not as Phil had been cranking up the cheese over the previous several years with his solo work.  Would the man that wrote “Sussudio” turn himself into a puppet?  You’re darn right he would!

But “Land of Confusion” is more than just “band turns into weird puppet likenesses of themselves for comedic effect”.  Back in the ’80’s, there was a show called Spitting Image, which was British satirical TV show, which had a very specific style of puppetry on display here in this Genesis video.

For many fans, Genesis wasn’t what they once were when they were fronted by Peter Gabriel.  By the mid-80’s, some might say they were just another vehicle for Phil Collins, who, although he is a fantastic musician, also took what people liked about Genesis converted it into his kind of corny dad humour, typified by the Spitting Image puppets.  On the other hand, many would defend Phil and saw the video for Land of Confusion as a landmark ’80’s music video that was just perfect for that era, in large part thanks to the puppets.  What do you think?

Visit genesisfan.net


Alice Cooper – School’s Out

When Alice Cooper was really a household name back in the 1970’s, whose persona rankled the establishment, this song was actually a symbol of his menace to the more reserved families around the United States.  Can you imagine?

Why would this be?  Well, just maybe he represented several things that members of the uptight establishment didn’t approve of – namely, the implication that being in school in some way isn’t good, and the scandalous idea of actually blowing it up (BOOM!).

That I know of, no schools were demolished as a result of this song, and to any reasonable person it is to be taken in good fun, but it must have been a thorn in some parents’ sides at the time just based on how much of an anti-school sentiment it carried.  Whether you are pro or against this song basically depends on how much you yourself enjoy school.  And, as people eventually came to understand over the years, Alice himself is a very educated and erudite man of the world, hehe. (cue clip).

The decision to pair up Alice Cooper with Jim Henson’s Monster Muppet Players must have been interesting at the time, since this combination would have simultaneously made Alice Cooper seem more kid-friendly, while making the normally “PG” muppets seem more “AA”.  In any event, the above video shows a side of Alice Cooper that, prior to his appearance here with the muppets, many people may not have expected him to have – a certain playfulness.

Visit Alice Cooper’s website here

Visit the Jim Henson Company’s website here


Lily Allen – Alfie

Just think, Lily Allen’s real life brother Alfie had this song written about him because he was such a little stoner slacker, and these days he’s been nominated for an Emmy for portraying Theon Greyjoy in the hit series Game of Thrones.  What a turnaround this guy has had!

But, back in those days, when he was the subject of a criticism by his own sister in the song “Alfie”, Lily decided (or someone decided) to portray young Alfie as a delinquent puppet, which then amazingly went on to become the hit that it was.

Lily Allen has done something here which we have yet to mention specifically, although everyone on this list so far has done it more or less, which is the subtle art of the main protagonist of the video not reacting to the fact that there is a puppet in their midst, and treating that totally obvious puppet like he / she / it is a normal person.

The result of this tactic has what must be the desired effect, which is to make the video, which has the gonadulars to parade a sloppily dressed puppet around doing trashy things, seem very cute and quaint by comparison to the perfectly coiffed star of the video.  This is actually a great lesson in both acting and video production for all you young aspiring music video makers out there, which is to learn the age old trick of not breaking that fourth wall.

Overall, the employment of puppetry here is top notch, and by not reacting in any way whatsoever to the atrocious appearance of the puppet with its red eyelids, horse teeth, and suburban lowlife hoody, Lily Allen has entered herself into the pantheon of music videos containing a puppet, and managing to co-exist with it happily on screen.

Visit Lily Allen’s website here


Supergrass – Pumping On Your Stereo

When it comes to music videos, everyone knows there’s a certain alchemy that makes it a “hit”, but it can be hard for musicians or their creative team to know what that might be, or else there would be no such thing as bad music videos.

Back in the year before Y2K, a little English rock band known as Supergrass put out a song that would definitely try its best to become a “hit”, using all manner of methods that the band could muster, including using elements of puppetry.

This song, “Pumping On Your Stereo”, definitely was delivered with a certain wink and wolf-whistle charm, as it went for the trifecta, I believe, of hit song qualities.

First, it delivered a video that basically no one had ever seen anything like.  Yes, there had been weird music videos throughout the previous decade of the 1980’s, and the 1990’s too had their share of one-hit wonder type videos, but simply visually, this video really is uniquely wacky.

Second, the song itself is very very hook-y, to the point where love it or hate it, you’re going to be humming it soon after hearing it.  It uses the Rolling Stones proven recipe of banging out some chords and having a young upstart sneer his way throughout what essentially could be a jingle for just about any product ever made.  Hard to resist!

Thirdly, and most significantly maybe, Supergrass did the ol’ “we’re pretending to say pumping but really we’re saying humping hahaha!” trick, which makes the song not only catch, but slightly more offensive than it has to be, in order to give it that certain “cool kid” snarky vibe that it has.

At the end of the day, it’s really hard to say what makes this song and video so irritatingly catchy.  Is it the chords, is it the words, is it the very freaky puppet stuff?  Is it all three?  All I know is that I don’t know what to think of this, but I had to put it on the list.

Visit the Supergrass website here


Weezer – Keep Fishin’

We come at last to none other than Weezer.  Why are they here?  Well, by now they’ve tried all sorts of gimmicks for their videos, and so it wasn’t a real shocker to probably anyone with eyes and ears that Weezer, the band that needed the love of fandom more than any other band has needed love before, came out with a video featuring none other than the Muppets.  Like, legit.  It’s the Muppets and Weezer.  Whoa.

By the time 2009 rolled around, it seemed almost as if that appearing with Muppets was a rite of passage for a band or artist.  As in, you haven’t really made it unless the actual Muppets are your friends.  Symbolically, it’s a sign that you are now truly a part of popular culture, even if you crammed yourself in there the same way a fat guy puts on jeans that don’t fit him.

Since we are more than a decade past this video now, we can clearly see that since the very beginning, the kind of band that Weezer is is the kind of band that would want to be around Muppets, Weird Al, the Fonz, and Tokyo drift motorcyclists, preferably all at the same time.  Some might even say that they have no shame (that would be me saying that).  Only maybe the Foo Fighters manage to self deprecate themselves with humour and deflate the whole rock star schtick while simultaneously and fairly obviously trying to embrace it.

All of that said, it’s really quite easy to forgive Weezer for any sort of perceived crimes against music they have committed, especially considering the level at which they rock has never really gone beyond just jamming out for their fans.  The fact that Weezer at one point jammed out with the Muppets, while it doesn’t really tickle my pickle, is something that any $2 psychic could have predicted back in ’94 when the Buddy Holly was on MTV every 10 minutes.  Did I mention I actually don’t mind Weezer?

Visit Weezer’s website


Well, we did it, friends…we made it through some of the most famous puppet-centric music videos of all time.  Did I miss any videos that you are aware of that feature puppets?  What did you think of these videos?  Tell me in the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist trying to make my own puppet-y video, with the help of the team over at Broadcast King.  Let me know if I should be in the Hall of Fame, or the Hall of SHAME!?

More from this blog you might enjoy (assuming you didn’t mind this post):

The All Time Best Karaoke Songs To Sing Drunk And Be A Hero

What is the Demoscene?

The Ghost Rider – The Depth and Touch of Neil Peart

neil peart rip

Guest blogger: Curtis James Healy

For those who know me, it seems often I am always just in a sticky wicket, facing some kind of challenge that never dissipates.

For the most part, I face those challenges by taking on an echelon of information and knowledge in books and reading. To paraphrase Richard Wright, “…in books I found the power to save my life’.

Today, I highly recommend Neil Peart’s ‘Ghost Rider’, not only the eponymous song, but the book that prefaces the album ‘Vapour Trails’.

Among hundreds of volumes I have read, this one obviously stands out today. It recounts how Neil reclaimed his life, after the death if his daughter in a tragic car accident and then his wife’s death a year later in a failed fight against cancer.

He just got on his motorcycle and drove off, from Quebec, to Alaska, down to Mexico and back. I read it five years ago almost, and will forever be grateful to this man, who knew harrows I still cannot understand, not only for his formidable cadre of music, but the fact he felt it important to cast down a portion of his privacy, feeling it worth the telling, for imparting so much wisdom that kept me hanging on, though our experiences were greatly different.

In almost the past five years, I’ve known twenty people who have died, about five a year, formative heroes, friends, associates of friends, and family, and tonight it climbs to twenty-one.

There are so many thoughts and emotions swirling right now, how along with other artists, geniuses, philosophers in the Canadian Hagiography, there is now a trifecta of those who contract and perish from brain anomalies and ailments.

Neil Peart now enters into a trinity with Marshall McLuhan, for which much of his music, though sourced differently, tracked much of Marshall’s speculations and observations of technology, and Gord Downie.

Gord’s speed to another master lost, whose wealth unto this world and your home shall never perish, though the world is poorer this evening, fly by night, Neil, nothing can stop you now.

Tony Iommi Rig Rundown

iommi

There’s hardly any musician out there that’s as influential to metal music as Mr. Tony Iommi.

Widely considered to be the one individual who created the entire genre on his own, it was his riffs and songs he wrote with Black Sabbath in the late 1960s and the early 1970s that brought him the fame he has today.

tony iommi

While it is somewhat debatable on who started heavy metal, it is a fact that without Iommi the modern rock music wouldn’t be as big as it is today.

What’s more, the style he developed can also be heard in many other music genres today, with even mainstream pop sometimes including metal-sounding riffs.

His main strength lied in his writing abilities, implementing elements like tritone the way no one did before him. The riffs were so great that they sounded heavy even played on an average acoustic guitar.

However, in order to achieve their true potential, Iommi had to find the perfect guitar tone. Not the easiest task back in the old days when standard guitar pedals weren’t a thing and achieving distorted tone was extremely difficult.

Nonetheless, Iommi managed to make his tone huge.  You can hear this tone back in the early Sabbath days during their blistering early sets like this one.

While most of the people remember Black Sabbath for the Ozzy era, Tony Iommi kept the band’s legacy over the years, being the sole original member.

Over the years, his music and tone evolved, but you could still hear that it’s Tony. The 1980s and the first half of the 1990s were a bit weird for Sabbath, but there was some great material, featuring his amazing guitar tone.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the original Sabbath reunion and his solo albums, his tone was more in the vein of the older Sabbath stuff.

With all this in mind, we figured it would be a great idea to explore Tony Iommi’s setup over the years and find out more about the secrets behind his tone.

There’s a lot of stuff involved and many of the things are still unknown to this day. So we’ll try to focus on the equipment we know he used, but there will be a few mentions of the unconfirmed guitars and gear. So let’s dig into it!


Guitars

Of course, by now, everyone is aware of his extensive use of Gibson SGs, with these guitars becoming a part of his sonic and visual identity.

However, what many don’t know is that Iommi started his career playing a classic Fender Stratocaster.

TI with guitars from Original Black Sabbath by Steve Tarshis

He used this particular guitar in his pre-Sabbath bands and he also entered the studio to record Sabbath’s self-titled debut with the guitar, but only managed to record one song with it, the “Wicked World.” After the session, the electronics on this Strat died.

Interestingly enough, the famous red 1965 Gibson SG Special was his spare instrument. After using it on the record, the guitar quickly became his number one weapon on choice, with Iommi recording most of the material on Sabbath’s first six albums on it.

1965 Gibson SG Special Monkey

The guitar bares two P-90 single-coil pickups, as well as the “Monkey” nickname due to an unusual sticker. The guitar is currently located in New York City’s Hard Rock Café over at Times Square. A legendary piece.

The next famous early SG is the white 1960s Gibson Les Paul, which was actually an SG before the official use of the SG name. It bears three humbuckers and a Bigsby tremolo. It’s not completely certain whether he used this guitar on any of the recordings, but he’s been seen using this guitar on a few occasions in the early days. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

white 1960s Gibson Les Paul

In 1975, Iommi got his first custom-built SG by John Birch, a guy who previously modded the old “Monkey” SG. This is a completely black guitar with a steel pickguard, 24 frets, and the well-known famous cross inlays Iommi is now known for. The guitar was used on the recordings between 1976 and 1981.

But the most notable of his SGs is his legendary “Old Boy,” made by luthier John Diggins. The story behind this one is kind of odd and long, with one part of the building process being done on a kitchen counter. As a result, the guitar has that recognizable “rotten” paint job.

iommi old boy

Again, the guitar has 24 frets and recognizable Iommi’s cross inlays on the fretboard. The pickups are custom ones made by Diggins himself, while the bridge is a classic Schaller with fine tuners, something that was pretty innovative for the era. Sometime in the early 1980s, it became his No. 1 guitar.

A lot of other SGs went through his arsenal over the years. There were some Gibsons, including some with Floyd Rose bridges. At one point in the late 1990s, Gibson even made a special guitar for him, but that one got stolen in 2010. The whereabouts of this instrument are unknown at the moment.

But aside from many SG guitars, Iommi also had quite a few different models, some of which were pretty unusual. One of the examples is the B.C. Rich Ironbird Pro, which can be seen in the “Star Licks” instructional video where Iommi shows a few Sabbath solos from the early 1980s.

It’s not certain why the collaboration stopped or whether he used this instrument on any of the recordings. But it is known that he had another B.C. Rich in his collection, the standard Mockingbird.

Iommi also partnered up with Patrick Eggle for a few guitars, one of them being the Tony Iommi Artist Model ñ a double-cutaway guitar with somewhat of a Super Strat-style shape. He also had a few SGs made by Eggle, but he sold them later on to private collectors.

In the 2000s and 2010s, Iommi used his signature Epiphone SG Custom.

signature sg custom

There were a few other odd or unexpected models here and there. He was seen a few times using a Les Paul, quite an unusual sight for Iommi.

At one point, Iommi also revealed that he used a certain Les Paul for some songs on the “Paranoid” album. Other guitars also include Steinberger GM4T, Guild Bluesbird Custom, Washburn EC29, Hamer Phantom, Gibson Barney Kessel, Gibson ES-175, and others.

It has been reported that Iommi played a Burns Trisonic and a Watkins Rapier – both of which are very old and pretty obscure at this point. But these have not been confirmed as there are no photos to prove it.

Now going over to his acoustics, there have been a few notable models in his collection. The latest ones we’re certain of are Taylor 815L and Taylor T5s.

He also had a Washburn EA30 at some point, which he sold to private collections. There were some reports about him using Gibson J-45 back in the early days, probably on “Vol. 4” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” albums.


Amps

Aside from his SGs and a few other guitars he used over the years, there were many amps that sculpted his tone.

Unfortunately, there are no official records on what he used in the earliest days of his career, but it is known that he had a certain Marshall 50-watt amp in the pre-Sabbath and early Sabbath era.

When the band went into the studio, Tony switched over to a Laney amp, a brand he stuck with for most of his career.

tony iommi laney amp

The reason behind this switch is that Laney was a new Birmingham-based company that started around the same time as the band and offered Iommi to use some of their stuff.

While it has not been confirmed, it is suspected that Laney LA 100 BL is the amp he played on the first two albums. Then came the third record with this huge bass-heavy tone.

While it’s not certain, some are suspecting he played through a Laney Klipp. This is a fairly rare amp and can go well-over $2,000 if you happen to stumble upon one that’s in good condition.

laney-klipp-100-2324801

However, it is known that Laney Supergroup amp has been a part of his setup up until the very end of the 1980s. But over the years, he liked to experiment here and there, and it’s known that he used the classic Vox AC30 during the “Technical Ecstasy” sessions in 1976. It is also assumed that he went with a Marshall Super Lead 1959 for the “Heaven and Hell” album.

During a certain period in the 1980s, Iommi went on to collaborate with Sunn for an endorsement. This didn’t last for a long time, but there is one photo of him circulating online, holding the Ironbird signature guitar and sitting in front of a Sunn amp.

iommi sunn amp Ironbird guitar

So he stuck with his reliable Laney amps and the company eventually made a special model GH 100 TI for him, featuring the classic “British” EL34 tubes. In 2012, they came out with the final Tony Iommi signature model, Laney TI100 with 6L6 tubes in the power amp.

It has also been rumored that he used other amps during certain periods, like the Mesa Boogie Mark IIB in the early 1980s, as well as the ENGL Powerball during the Heaven and Hell band back in 2009.


Effects and pedals

Just like any professional guitar player, Tony Iommi also had some interesting pedal and effect setups over the years.

However, only a few pieces are widely known. It seems that Iommi was pretty much secretive about his pedals and other effects units, or that interviewers never really dug deep enough.

Going back to his earliest days, there is one particular device that made his tone stand out. Going back to his pre-Sabbath days, Iommi was a member of a blues-rock band called Mythology.

As the era is known for guitarists not being able to find a proper distorted tone, Tony was one of the guys who resorted to using the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster.

An unknown friend or an acquaintance of his modded the device, ultimately turning it into somewhat of a full-range booster.

As Iommi explains, he’s not sure what the guy actually did, but it sounded great. This way, Iommi was able to use the clean signal boost and drive tube amps over their limitations and let them create distortion in a more “natural” way.

He used it until 1979 when, apparently, one of his tech guys threw it away, mistaking it for a random broken old device.

Another famous pedal in his arsenal is the very rare and peculiar-sounding wah called Parapedal, made by a short-lasting company called Tycobrahe.

Parapedal

It’s a really obscure piece, but if you actually manage to find one of the original pedals, it can go up to $1,000. There have been some replicas, but Tony Iommi used some of the original old models.

This is what you can hear on any of his solos where he’s using a wah, or in songs like “Electric Funeral” where he used it for the main riff.

As for any other effects, it’s been really hard to confirm anything else. Again, it seems that he’s been pretty secretive about his setup.


Legacy

Of course, it was Tony Iommi’s rumbling tone that helped shape metal music. Even to this day, you’re rarely find anything as heavy as the guitar tone on “Master of Reality.”

While he was inclined to experiment, like with the Vox AC30 in the mid-1970s, Tony was still a fan of huge guitar tones, especially on live shows.

After all, he was the only guitar player in Black Sabbath, so it was up to him to make the sound as big and as harmonically rich as possible.

As a result, he’s still being praised by almost all of the metal musicians today. His legacy can be heard in all of the metal music, none of which would be possible without Iommi’s innovative approach in the earliest days of Black Sabbath.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s known as the “Riff Lord.”

Feature Picks

Frank Turner Interview

Written by: Liam Eales

He has been called the hardest working musician in the world. With over 7 albums 4 complication records (With an abundance of originals and covers), 2 books and numerous other side projects including hardcore band Mongol horde, Frank Turner has established himself as one of the most relentless artists of our time.

The closest England has come to producing their own Bruce Springsteen, Frank has a knack for blending his ideas, interests, passions, anxieties and personal life into fantastic sincere rock/folk/country/punk records. The kind of record that can be hard to find on the mainstream market in recent years.

His accomplishments include selling out Wembley Arena and playing at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony in London.

The man is a master of his craft and owns the stage. Having played over 2000 shows and counting, he has no plans of slowing down.

If I haven’t made it painfully obvious yet, I’m a fan (A word he doesn’t like). So even though it is early days in my career, I thought I would reach out to ask Frank for an interview and try to allow him to introduce himself.


Liam: Hey Frank, how are you?

Frank: Good thank you. Happy to be home at the end of the year.

Liam: First of all, thank you for doing this during the busy holiday season.

Frank: A pleasure. It’s good to be home from tour and winding down for the year, if not the decade.

Liam: Awesome, well let’s get started.
So, you’ve just got off the Mongol Horde tour, this past summer you came out with an amazing new album No Man’s Land, your second book and a lot more touring, the album Be More Kind just a year earlier, as-well-as getting married! Where did you learn to have that kind of work ethic?

Frank: I come from two families. My father’s family is characterised by impatience, my mother’s by practicality. It seems to be a good mix.

Liam: What advice would you give to someone who wants to be more productive?

Frank: There are 24 hours in each and every day, you can use them all.

Liam: On top of all this, you still make time to meet and chat with fans, and leave your email open for them to write to you. I know we have met on a few of these opportunities you create.
However “ Fan” is a word I hear you don’t really enjoy using. Can you elaborate on that philosophy?

Frank: The word “fan” implies a permanent divide between the people who make music and the people who listen to it, and I’m uncomfortable with that. My early exposure to live music was through the London hardcore punk scene in the late 1990s, and it was a scene that was very much characterized by egalitarianism. When bands finished their set, they’d jump over the barrier and watch the next band. It’s ingrained in me from back then. I want my music to be part of a wider conversation between equals.

Liam: Speaking of fandom, you were recently name-dropped by the Boss (Bruce Springsteen) himself, on a list of more contemporary artists he enjoys. What was that like for you?

Frank: That was pretty surreal, but something I can be proud of for sure.

Liam: Eton College is a place that hung around your neck for years. Not the most punk rock place on earth. What is your relationship with your secondary school and are there positive things you have you have to say about it?

Frank: I don’t have a current relationship with my secondary school, I’m in my late 30s, that would be weird.
I didn’t enjoy it much at the time, and certainly didn’t choose to go there. I got out as soon as I could and started making my own choices. The education was, obviously, pretty incredible, and I’m grateful for that. But the social milieu was vile, and it’s something I’ve been trying to distance myself from since I first got there.

Liam: On your most recent tour, you did an unplugged set with the Sleeping Souls as well as a solo set for the No Man’s Land songs. In the unplugged set, you opened up about your past and created as sit down storytelling experience from songs across your discography. Why was this important for you to do?

Frank: I’m not sure I can say it was important as such – more that it struck me as interesting, as different, as a refreshing approach. I try not to repeat myself as an artist if I can avoid it. I’ve never tried that approach to a show before, so I got into it conceptually, and found it really inspiring actually. It’s given me a lot to think about going forward, both as a songwriter and as a performer.

Liam: Forgive me if I’m wrong, on No Man’s Land, it sounds like each song is sonically and lyrically tailored to stylistically fit the time period of each song’s story as-well-as tonally match the subject matter. Personally I find sounds incredible and incredibly, sonically diverse as a result (Jinny Bingham sounds like it could be ripped from Sweeney Todd, and Dora Hand sounds like it was being played by an actual cowboy). Was it difficult to write in various styles and learn so many new ways of crafting a song, all for one project?

Frank: That wasn’t the case on every single song – there’s precious little link between the music of “The Lioness” and the life and cultural world of Huda Sha’Arawi. But where I could make it make sense, I did.  Trying to write a jazz piece for Nica Rothschild was a major challenge for me, and one I enjoyed. I always want to try my hand at pushing my own boundaries a little, every time I make a record. I guess it was just more at the forefront this time around, given some of the subject material.

Liam: Have you ever thought about writing a musical?

Frank: I can’t say I’m a huge fan of musicals alas. That said, I have friends in that world more recently who’ve given me a deeper appreciation of the artistry involved. Still, not really for me.

Liam: Sierra Leone charity group WayOut Arts, is something you’ve been working with for a few years now. What can you tell us about them and how it’s inspired you?

Frank: They’re a group who use music as a conduit to reach some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world. It’s really quite mind-boggling, visiting the slums and the camps, but then also meeting a lot of the people involved and hearing their stories, and seeing how much of an impact a group like WayOut can have on individuals’ lives. It’s a small group, they’re not going to change the world, but then again their size makes everything they do more personal. I like to think I have some genuine friends out there now, which is a lovely thing, and the fundraising I do for them enables them to make a huge impact.

NOTE: If you are interested in making a donation or finding out more about WayOut Arts their website is https://www.wayoutarts.org/

Liam: Known for being always on tour, you are finally making the rounds in South America. What took so long? and how does it feel to finally get over to that area of the world?

Frank: Touring in South America is, it turns out, not the easiest thing to organize, the scene there is still pretty wild west, there are a lot of sharks and you have to be careful about committing to travelling so far. Thankfully I finally found the right promoter, so I’m going at last. I’m excited, it’s a completely new part of the world for me. There are people excited about the shows, which is cool, and I hope to learn something new while I’m there too.

Liam: Author/Critic Clive James recently passed away. You often plugged him, and his writings as an inspiration for Be More Kind. Care to say a few words on his work and how it impacted you?

Frank: I was aware of his work as a television critic, but it was only comparatively recently (the last 10 years or so) that I became aware of his work as a cultural writer and poet. His erudition and wisdom blows me away, he might be my favourite prose writer ever, and he’s certainly hugely broadened my cultural horizons. The book “Cultural Amnesia” pretty much changed the way I think about everything.

Liam: Your catalogue is huge and a lot has been released in a short amount of time especially compared to other artists. What in your career are you most proud of? and/or what would you like to be remembered for?

Frank: In a way, the thing I’m proudest of is still being here, still standing. It’s a rare thing to sustain a career at this level for more than a decade, to release 8 albums, and still be selling tickets and making some kind of an impact. It was unlikely enough that I’d ever succeed, but to continue to do so after this long feels like a real achievement to me. Spending your time considering how you’ll be remembered strikes me as a slightly foolish thing to do, it’s quite narcissistic, plus I won’t be here then anyway by definition, so I can’t see why I should care that much.

Liam: The roaring 20s are about to begin! As I understand it you’re a man of history and learning as much as you are a musician. You went to University for 20th-century history, any reflections/analysis on the past decade and anticipations for the next?

Frank: I feel like we’ve lived through a decade that has seen a lot of political fragmentation and division in the west and north. That’s pretty worrying. But from a statistical point of view, we’re still living in the wealthiest, healthiest, most peaceful moment in the history of our species, and that’s something to consider and cautiously celebrate, in my view. There are huge challenges ahead, not least the state of the climate, but then I think we’re discussing that more than ever before, which is some small kind of progress

Liam:  What does the next decade look like for you? and any plans for next year, that you are at liberty to reveal of course?

Frank: I have no idea how the decade as a whole will go – in 2010, I’d have been surprised to see myself here, I’d imagine. Next year will be about touring, but also finishing off a new record for 2021. So there’s that.

Liam: Frank, thank you for joining us, it been a pleasure.

Frank: The pleasure was all mine.


So there you have it!

Frank will be on tour in 2020 and a new album 2021!

You can buy his latest album No Mans Land on his website https://frank-turner.com/

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Horns-Simpsons-Drooble

When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.

And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.

Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.

guitar metal face

Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

Feature Picks

In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).

Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…


Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff

MetalMuff-large

The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.

In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.

The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.

It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.

However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.


KHDK Dark Blood

khdk dark blood

Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?

This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.

The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.

There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).

A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.


Wampler Triple Wreck

triple wreck wampler

This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.

This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.

Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.


Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal

ht-metal-front-view-large

Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.

This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.

It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.

Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.

The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.


MXRM116 Fullbore Metal

FullBoreDist-large

MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.

This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.

Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.

True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.

Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.


Conclusion

Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.

Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.

Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.

Recommended Rig Run Downs

John Frusciante Rig Rundown

Have you ever had a moment where you listened to a guitar player, and you’re thoroughly mesmerized not just by prodigious amounts of skill and musicality, but by the graceful ease they work wonders on their guitars?

Some of these musicians play so incredibly, yet so naturally that you never feel even a hint of envy – you’re just grateful that such a being exists and you simply take the moment in.

However, due to their usually quiet natures, a lot of them go by unsung, or at least without receiving credit equal to their prodigious talent.

One such guitar player is John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  We almost said formerly but John just yesterday rejoined the band for the second time, after ten years absence!

john frusciante rig rundown

In addition to his own unobtrusive nature, the reason that John Frusciante doesn’t spring up in everybody’s minds when talking about great guitar players is that emotional response to the whole package rather than pure skill was always the driving force behind the Chili Peppers’ success, and the latter was more often than not overshadowed by the former.

However, it is undeniable that the lasting beauty of the Chili Peppers’ music was in significant part due to John’s playing, and that John always was and remains a majestic musician.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what gear John used to create his iconic sound, and as you’ll see, there’s quite a bit.

But first, a bit of backstory…


History with the RHCP

john frusicante

We’ll be taking a quick trip down the memory lane and talk about how John came to be an integral part of the Chili Peppers, his path to becoming the musician he is today, and how he evolved alongside the iconic band.

John Frusciante joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1988 when he was only 18 years old. In addition to his young age, he was a peculiar choice for the band that mostly focused on funk at the time, and John had no prior experience with the genre.

Of all his early influences, John said that Frank Zappa was the greatest, stating: “By the time I was 15 I owned all of the records and was spending about 70% of my musical life studying and learning his music. For me, striving for the perfection he was known for demanding from his bands was a powerful motivation and force behind the huge amount of practicing I was doing back then.”

However, back in those early days he was still pretty much just a replacement to the original guitarist Hillel Slovak and was stuck with trying to emulate his sound.

During the recording of “Mother’s Milk”, John still had very little creative freedom to speak of, as he was pressured by the producer Michael Beinhorn to play with a driving heavy metal tone, which is evident in songs like “Higher Ground”, “Knock Me Down”, which were a clear step away from the Chili Peppers’ previous sound.

By the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” was released, not only did John find his genuine place within the band and come into his own as a musician, but it was this iteration of Chili Peppers that introduced the band to the mainstream audiences.

who-is-john-frusciante

In 1993, John left the band due to it becoming “too popular” as well as personal issues and came back in 1998 after Dave Navarro’s departure.

He had matured during that time since he sounded much more articulated and in control on songs like “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and “Around the World” when compared to his former aloofness in playing.

On “By the Way” and “Stadium Arcadium”, John Frusciante arguably reached his full potential within the band, resulting in his tasteful and original experimentation within those albums, despite them being much more pop-oriented than the previous ones.

During his time with the Chili Peppers, John evolved into a guitarist extraordinaire – but one who emphasizes the melody and the organic quality of his playing.

Read our feature article about John’s musical life, Who is John Frusciante?

Despite his vast knowledge of music theory and enviable virtuosity, John’s prodigious qualities as a musician often went unnoticed due to his lack of interest in showing off and always putting the melody first.

young-john-frusciante-1989

However, John achieved his seemingly simple sound with no small amount of both gear and skill. John is known to have used a staggering amount of instruments, amps, and mods, most of which aren’t officially recorded.

What follows is a rundown of gear that John confirmed to have used in various instances, and that was integral to achieving his signature elegant sound.


Guitars

Throughout his two bouts with the RHCP, John has used a plethora of guitars, and putting down a definite list would be nearly impossible to put down –some sources state that there over 40 guitars that he had used during those years.

Here, we’ll take a look at a few that he’s the best known for using, and that made the biggest impact on his sound, playing style and appearance.

Fender Stratocaster

A 1962 Tobacco Sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard, with the body scratched-up marrow-deep above the pickguard is perhaps the most famous of John’s guitars and the one that he’s associated with the most often.

frusciante-stratocaster-1962

More than once, John himself has stated that this is the guitar that he is sentimental about the most, and the one that was the “most important” to him.

It was this guitar’s mellow, bright, single-coil sound that was responsible for songs such as “Scar Tissue” and “Can’t Stop”, and especially his early works with the RHCP like “Mother’s Milk”.

In fact, you’ll hear this guitar in instances of the vast majority of the songs that John played for the band.

Initially, he used stock pickups but later swapped them for Duncans which were almost the same. John also used a ’55 Strat nearly identical to this one, except for the ’55 having a maple fretboard.

Fender Telecaster

Although John is known for his love for the Stratocaster, in an interview with Vintage Guitar Magazine (you’ll notice that John has a strong preference for vintage instruments), he stated that “Around ‘By The Way’, I played Teles more than a Strat.

frusciante_feature

A telecaster he’s most widely known for using is a stock 1963 model with a rosewood fretboard.

If you listen to the songs from “By The Way” closely, you’ll notice that they resonate with the signature Telecaster twang.

Given that he almost never modifies his instruments, John is a living testament that you don’t need crazy mods to sound great.

Gretsch 1955 White Falcon

This is the guitar that John is seen playing during the iconic “Californication” live concert at Slane Castle from 2003.

While talking to Vintage Guitar, John said that the Gretch White Falcons are among his favorite guitars from his collection (as we’ve already mentioned, he has quite a few).

In fact, he revealed that he stumbled upon the Falcon purely by accident during a period in which he was guitar-shopping intensely because he thought his playing would change from guitar to guitar.

He said: With the white Strat, it was a neat experience because it made me play different, and made the band sound different.

If I hadn’t gone through a phase of buying, I never would have come upon the White Falcon…” The Falcon’s hollow body and Filtertron pickups give it a distinctive, rich-yet-resonant sound that clearly stands out from the Strats and Teles, and you can hear it in action on the album’s title track, as well as on “Otherside”.


Amps

Like with his guitars, John seems to like to keep things straightforward, yet elegant. However, when it comes to amps that John has been using all these years, there is even less reliable info available than for his numerous guitars.

With that in mind, we’ll take a look at the three main amplifiers that he’s been known to have used the most: Marshall Silver Jubilee, Fender Dual Showman, and The Marshall Major.

Marshall Silver Jubilee

Among guitar aficionados around the world, the Marshall Silver Jubilee amplifier is famous for its incredibly short, one-year production run and has since become tremendously difficult to obtain.

Marshall-Silver-Jubilee-John-Frusciante-Amps-Slane-Castle

This dauntingly pricy 100-Watt amplifier is a reincarnation of the 1962 Marshall Head of sorts, and it is the obvious choice for John’s sonic output given his preference for vintage sound and instruments.

In addition to being expensive, the Marshall Silver Jubilee is known for its reliable, balanced frequency response and is powered by EL34 valves which give it a clear, ringing overall sound with a smooth top end.

Fender Dual Showman

Now this one is a strange beast in regards to the other two, as John explicitly uses it only in combination with his Gretsch 1955 White Falcon.

fender dual showman guitar amp

The classic Fender reverb it produces complements the White Falcon’s ringing hollow-body sound perfectly. Furthermore, the only effect that John used with this combo was a BOSS DS1 distortion pedal.

Marshall Major

Essentially, what we’re looking at here is the essence of JCM 800 in a different package and 200 Watts of power.

Marshall_Major

The power amp stage boasts KT88 valves, whereas the preamp contains two ECC83 and one ECC82 which pour out that creamy, controlled distortion which makes this amp so well-loved.

His on-stage combo is wrapped up by two 4×12 Marshall cabs for each of these three, making the sound of his guitar powerful enough not to be engulfed by the rest of the band.
Effects

Whether you listen to John’s gentler guitar contributions or the more hectic, funkier ones from early on, the first impression you’d get is that the man uses virtually no added effect (and that he needs none, but that’s beside the point).

However, it is now known that John actually used a wide variety of devices to further tweak his sound.

For instance, during the “Stadium Arcadium” era, he used whopping 20 different pedals for his live performances, including six Moog Moogerfooger units in addition to multiple delays, distortions, modulation, filters, and wah.

However, apart from the BOSS DS1 distortion pedal reserved exclusively for the Gretsch 1955 White Falcon, he really didn’t have a mainstay of devices that he used throughout his time with the Chili Peppers, but instead relied on intuition, current mood and desire for experimentation when deciding which effect he would keep using, and which ones he’d discard.

If one had to find a pattern behind his utilization of various effects, it would be that he had preferred effect for each of the Chili Peppers’ epochs, with both him influencing the band’s sound and vice versa.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of John’s favorite effects.


Effects

First off, we have the humble MXR Micro Amp, a pedal used for boosting your main signal for solos or as a buffer for other guitars.

mxr micro amp

John’s grittier tones are mostly owed to the tried and true combination of BOSS DS-2 Turbo Distortion and EHX Big Muff Pi.

The BOSS DS-2 is perhaps the few mods that he used since his first day with the RHCP and continued using ever since.

In fact, this little gadget’s clipping effect is the one that can be recognized in almost every Chili Peppers’ song where John does the guitar duties.

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

The fuzz provided by the EHX Big Muff Pi is especially characteristic of the “By The Way” era, which replaced John’s previous fuzz device, BOSS’ FZ-3, that he used more around the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” came out.

As far as John’s modulation is concerned, there is the BOSS CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, a simple yet reliable chorus with normal and vibrato modes.

boss_ce1

This is the other pedal that remained ever-present in his setup in addition to the DS-2.

Despite its straightforward nature (or perhaps exactly due to it), the CE-1 remains ever popular due to its ability to maintain the qualities of the original signal while complementing it with an organic sound.

The EHX Deluxe Electric Mistress is another mod that saw steady use throughout John’s career.

DlxMistress-large

Its classic analog Flanger with its unique Filter Matrix mode disengages the auto sweep and lets you position the filter manually, and is very prominent in “By The Way”, for example.

He also uses a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeller that comes with programmable filters and monophonic synth sounds (which replaced the Electro-Harmonix synthesizer he used during the “Californication” era).

John’s choice of time-based effects was also led by a philosophy of reliability and straightforwardness.

There’s the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, a digital reverb that like a spring one, which he used until he replaced it with Fender’s vintage tube reverb unit.

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

Another delay unit that John used was the LINE 6 DL4 Delay Modeller, which yields more control over delay effects than a standard digital delay, or an analog one.

Interestingly, John tends to supplement the DL4 with two DigiTech PDS 1002, which give him even more control over delay effects.

As we’ve seen, although simplicity seemingly is the key to John’s distinctive sound, there is a whole lot of thought, experimentation, and gear behind the unique and elegant sound of his guitar playing.

As such, John Frusciante truly is a living testament to the wonders that a meticulous, yet sincere love for the instrument and the simple joy of playing can bring to life.

Thanks for reading!  If you have and comments or questions, leave them below!

Synyster Gates’ Rig Rundown

synyster gates

Heavy metal music has come a long way since its inception back in the late 1960s. From the bluesy, yet really doomy, songs by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, it began going into multiple different directions.

As a result, we got some unexpected subgenres, that even led to some more extreme territories. But, at the end of the day, the classic elements of the genre remained, and some bands keep this legacy alive even to the present era.

One of these bands is Avenged Sevenfold, where the lead guitar duties are taken by Brian Haner, also known by his unique stage name Synyster Gates.

synyster-gates-avengedsevenfold-gettyimages-647264106

Forming back at the very end of the 1990s, Synyster Gates joined the band sometime before the release of their debut album. It was an unusual time for heavy metal, and new movements were emerging all around.

Avenged Sevenfold started off as a metalcore band, but they slowly moved into the classic metal and hard rock lane. This was a rather exciting turn of events as they added some modern metal elements and twists to the old genre.

These days, they’re even experimenting with some progressive elements. And that’s all thanks to Syn Gates and his approach to songwriting and playing.

Another vital component in this story is Syn Gates’ tone.

With this in mind, we thought we could dive deeper into the topic and explore all the gear A7X’s axeman has been using over the years. There’s an abundance of great instruments, pedals, and amps, and we just can’t afford to skip over this guitar master. So let us begin.

Guitars

The most recognizable part of his whole setup and the one that became his personal stamp is the Schecter Synyster Gates signature model.

syn gates custom guitar

Almost all of the studio recordings and the live performances were recorded using some of these guitars. The band blew up early on in their career, so it wasn’t hard for Syn to land a deal with Schecter for his one-of-a-kind model.

As the years went by, this guitar evolved, and there have been many iterations, finishes, designs, and different hardware and pickup combinations. There are even some exclusive models that were sold as limited series.

As for Syn’s guitars, there are a few notable models. For instance, the one that he often today uses is the Custom-S. This is one of the newest iterations and has a few variants.

It’s a prestigious and expensive instrument and an all-round versatile instrument capable of delivering different styles.

The Custom-S has a mahogany body and a three-piece mahogany neck that’s enforced with strong carbon rods. The guitar features a 25.5-inch scale neck with a 24-fret ebony fretboard.

synyster gates

The neck profile proves that the Custom-S model is made for real shredders. It’s the so-called “thin C” neck, the same as the classic “C” profile, only thinner. Seeing that the guitar also has a Floyd Rose 1500 Series bridge, it’s a pure heavy metal mean machine.

One of its strongest points is the addition of the Sustainiac pickup on the neck position.

There have been plenty of other versions of this guitar over the years. Some of those include the Bat Country Avenger model that has a classic tune-o-matic bridge with strings going through the body.

bat country avenger

These other Syn Gates signature models are pretty similar in construction, although they have a few different features here and there. Custom-S still stands as his No. 1 weapon in the arsenal.

But he’s also used a few other guitars over the years. In the band’s earliest days, Syn could be seen holding a Parker Fly Deluxe model. It’s a classic instrument, used by many guitar players of countless different genres.

What some may not know is that Syn Gates is also deeply rooted in old school stuff like blues and jazz. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to see that he has a Gibson ES-335 in his possession. The guitar was used for studio sessions over the years.

gibson ES335 DOT

Of course, it’s not unusual to find a Gibson Les Paul in his collection. He owns one LP Custom, and you can see him rocking it out in the “Unholy Confessions” video. However, this guitar hasn’t seen that many live shows.

Another electric worth mentioning is his Schecter Blackjack PT that he used earlier in the band’s career.

Schecter Diamond Series Blackjack PT

It’s a two-humbucker Telecaster-shaped guitar with the strings going through the body. The Blackjack is a very playable piece and a great solution for all the heavy tones that Syn certainly needed over his career.

As for acoustics, there are a few exciting pieces worth mentioning in his arsenal. Since he’s been a partner of Schecter for so long, they also made signature acoustic guitars for him – the Synyster Gates 3701. It’s a single-cutaway guitar with a slightly peculiar twist on its design.

Just like the electric Custom-S, it features the easily recognizable Avenged Sevenfold logo on the fretboard’s inlay. It also includes a Fishman pickup and a preamp, along with a 3-band EQ. It’s a very versatile acoustic guitar and an overall quality instrument.

Then there’s a surprising addition of Godin ACS-SA that he began using since 2016’s “The Stage” album. This thin profile nylon-string guitar is often used by jazz players.

Godin ACS-SA

But since Avenged Sevenfold began diving into some unexpected proggy territories, it comes as a great addition to Syn’s collection.

Generally speaking, the Custom-S still remains his primary weapon and his main workhorse. It’s really easy to play, it has good access to higher frets, and certainly delivers the classic metal punch, kind of in the vein of standard Gibson guitars, although it had a bit of a sharper edge to the tone.

Amps

Quite a few different amps came through Synyster Gates’ setup over the years. Unlike his choice of guitars, he wasn’t stuck with one particular brand of amps. If we were to look at all of his choices, the picture is pretty clear ñ he likes heavy sound with an in-your-face mid-range punch.

So let’s start with his Schecter amp. Yes, the company is not that well-known for their guitar amplifier line, but the Hellwin model is a powerful 100-watt all-tube amp in the style of classic Marshalls.

schecter hellwin

This can be seen with the implementation of EL34 valves. He always used it in pair with the Hellwing SYN412 cabinet. For some reason, Synyster Gates stopped playing it after a while.

While we’re at Marshall amps, he’s also known for using the JVM205H 50-watt head. These are pretty versatile amps, and cranking up a 50-watt amp is a great idea for larger gigs.

JVM205H-large

Since it can be miked up for live shows, he’s able to get that authentic “organic” drive out of them by pushing the volume all the way up. It features the classic configuration of two channels – clean and drive.

He also owns that real beast of an amp, the Mesa Boogie JP-2C. Yes, the John Petrucci signature model, based on the good old Mark IIC+ amp. It’s an extremely versatile piece of gear and can create anything from smooth jazz up to big crushing tones for riffs and screaming leads.

jp2c john petrucci signature markIIC

While we’re at it, Syn’s also known for using the legendary Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amp. Another great example of the company’s rich and tight-sounding guitar amps.

Now, Bogner Uberschall is a really delicate piece. A real jewel in his collection, it’s a 120-watt amp head with some of the most mindblowing tones you’ll ever get the chance to hear.

However, a real change came when Synyster began using the Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX III. Just like Kemper and a few other examples, it caused quite a stir in the guitar community.

axe-fx-iii-1920-front-white

Since Syn himself is all about modern technology, the addition of such a piece to his rig was inevitable. Needless to say, this powerful amp modeler successfully replicates any of the most advanced tube amps we’ve ever heard.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see his entire rigs replaced with one or two of these.

His love of modelling amps came some years ago when he began using the Axe-FX II. However, he used it only for some features and effects and not actual amp models. The story goes that he really likes the harmonizer in this digital processor.

Effects pedals

When it comes to pedals and other effects, he never really had too much of a complex layout. There have been a few compressors here and there, delays, boosters, wahs, and a few other occasional pedals.

His choice of wah is pretty interesting. Steering away from conventional pedals, he has Dunlop’s rack module Cry Baby DCR-2SR.

Dunlop+DCR+2SR

It’s a potent piece that allows you to shape your own wah and to determine what kind of sweep will it add to your tone. This is as pro as it gets with wahs.

He’s known for using a few different compressors over the years. There’s the classic choice of Boss SC-3 here, which is a continuation of the old CS-2 pedal. Then we have another piece like the very simple MXR CSP202.

Among modulations, delays, and other effects, there’s one rather interesting piece in his signal chain that Syn uses even today. It’s called Visual Sound H2O, and it’s a chorus and echo pedal in one.

visual sound h20 V1 liquid chorus and echo pedal review

This unconventionally shaped 2-in-1 pedal gives delays between 10 and 800 milliseconds and allows you to use a chorus or delay individually.

As for the aforementioned clean boost pedals, he uses a very simple yet effective MXR MC401. This little piece can do wonders when paired with the kind of tube amps that he’s using.

And just to throw in another one in here, Syn’s been seen using Electro-Harmonix POG, or the so-called “Polyphonic Octave Generator.” It’s a very intricate pedal, although we’re not sure how much he’s been using it in actual songs.

MicroPog-large

There have been a few other pedals here and there, but the ones described above are worth mentioning. Like we already said – Syn Gates has always kept it simple when it comes to the signal chain.

Accessories and other gear

Being a professional player that he is, it’s only expected to see a whole bunch of different accessories in Syn Gates’ setup. For instance, there’s Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator in his setup.

Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator

This one allows the elimination of unwanted noise from AC adapters and other electrical interferences. Although small, it’s a very complex piece that does magic to your tone.

Since he has a few different pedals and devices, there’s got to be a reliable power supply in there somewhere. For this purpose, Syn uses the classic Dunlop DC-Brick – a 1-amper device that can power up to 10 pedals and effects at the same time.

lg_brick

Avenged Sevenfold are the classic arena metal band, so it’s only expected to see them using wireless systems. Synyster Gates’ choice for this is Audio Technica AEW-5111a.

It’s a very advanced and expensive rack-mounted wireless unit that provides stable operation in these large venue settings.

Feature Picks

 

Schecter 6 String Synyster Gates Custom-S, Satin Gold Burst (1743)

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Schecter Hr412-Sle Hellraiser Stage 4X12 Slant Cab

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Marshall Jvm M-Jvm205H-U Guitar Amplifier Head

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Truetone V3H2O Liquid Chorus And Echo

 

Buy On Amazon

Final thoughts

From looking at this brief guitar setup and rig rundown, it’s pretty evident that Synyster Gates has evolved over these past two decades, along with his band. It’s always welcome to see this kind of an approach.

A great surprise came when Syn revealed that he’s interested in jazz music and that he plans on recording a full-blown jazz album. There are a few videos of him online playing some swing jazz.

With this being said, it’s highly likely that we’ll see his setup evolve even further. And this is already taking place with his use of Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. His overall tone and setup will depend on the direction that Avenged Sevenfold as a band will be taking in the future.

axe-fx-iii-1024-transparent-1024x271

Hearing “The Stage” that they launched back in 2016, we’re pretty excited about what they’ll do in the future.

After all, now that all the old metal bands are retiring one by one, they’ll be the one to continue carrying the torch of the genre, and they’ll be free to take it into any direction they want.

Fender Bassman ’59 Reissue LTD Amp Review

59 bassman

There’s just something about those thick and bottom-end heavy tones that makes every guitar player satisfied. Whatever it is the genre that you’re into, every now and then, you really need to get some of that stuff going.

Sometimes even you might even feel like plugging into a bass guitar amp. Well, that’s nothing unusual since way back in the 1950s, that’s exactly what some of the 6-string players did in order to thicken their tone.

One of the most famous examples that we can remember now is the use of a Fender Bassman amp.

Initially intended as a bass guitar amp, it soon became more than just that. Guitarists, pedal steel guitarists, and even harmonica players began using it for their performances.

fender vintage reissue '59 bassman

But since this series of amps got the most attention from 6-string players, it began developing in that direction. One thing led to another, and it became known as one of the most popular and influential amps of all time.

Even to this day, you’ll find some models that replicate the old tones. And there have even been some solid-state Fender Bassmans over the years.

In this article, we will be focusing on the more modern version that we can find today, which is a recreation of the old 5F6-A model from 1959.

Introduced in 1990 and still produced to this day, you can find it labeled as Fender Bassman LTD or Vintage Reissue ’59 Bassman LTD.

So let’s dig into it and find out more about this great amp that’s a continuation of this legendary long-running and game-changing series.

Features

First off, it’s designed to be as true as possible to the original model from ’59. The first noticeable thing about it is that it’s a combo amp but with a configuration of four 10-inch speakers.

The speakers in question are Jensen P10R. The output power is at 45 watts, and the sound is shaped through three preamp tubes, the classic 12AX7 ones. As for the power amp section, we have the classic American configuration of two 6L6 tubes.

The whole thing is rounded up with one rectifier tube, the 5AR4 (interchangeable with the standard British GZ34).

The amp has two channels on it, “normal” and “bright.” It comes with the classic vintage configuration of four inputs, two for each channel. The No. 2 inputs are for higher gain instruments, or can just be useful if you prefer to have your own pedals instead of going directly into the amp.

Each channel has its own separate volume control. As for the other parameters, the 3-band EQ and the presence knob control both of the channels.

What’s kind of unusual, at least for today’s standards, is that the amp has the fuse compartment right on the front panel. While some might find it odd, it’s a really practical feature for changing the fuse when it goes out.

For those willing to experiment with different power amp tubes, Bassman LTD also has a special internal bias pot. But that’s mostly for advanced users.

Design

As for the design, we can see the classic “tweed” style finish on the Bassman LTD. Some would argue that it looks exactly the same as these original amps made back in the day. While there are some small differences, the similarities are pretty obvious and it’s a great tribute to the old original pieces.

What’s really unique about the amp’s front panel design is that all the labels of the control knobs go from 1 to 12 instead of the standard 1 to 10. We wonder what would Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel say about this.

Since this is an old blues rock (with just a dash of jazz) vintage-oriented amp, the looks definitely correlate to its tone and features.

Performance

Now we’ve come to the main part ñ how this amp actually sounds in action. Well, it’s a pretty convincing replica of the old models. However, it’s not the classic vintage-oriented amp with a very narrow use. In fact, there’s a lot of stuff that you can do with it.

Sure, it’s best known for its sparkling bright channel, producing those ear-piercing tones, especially if played through any standard Fender Telecaster with single-coil pickups. But tweaking the controls, you can achieve some smoother and even harder tones.

Pushing the volume over the limits delivers a great response from the preamp and power amp tubes. In fact, the amp can just scream when you need it to. In addition, the dynamic response when the tone breaks at higher volumes is just out of this world. All this while managing to keep heavy yet tight bottom ends in your tone.

Using it with your own pedals can be really interesting, although we would advise for you to go with an overdrive pedal and not a high gain scorching distortion. Softer clipping just goes better with this amp. However, you’re free to experiment and maybe you’ll be able to find distorted tones you need some other way.

Conclusion

As we said, this amp is a pretty convincing recreation of the old ’59 with just some minor differences, usually not noticeable by an average guitar player’s ear.

On the other hand, some more trained and experienced vintage lovers might point out some differences. However, this does not change the fact that it’s a great amp. It may be slightly different compared to the original, but it’s clearly a high-end professional guitar amp.

But with this being said, it for a specified target group only. Sure, it may be able to deliver some versatility, but Bassman’s true power lies in its classic blues-oriented tones.

The price in the area between $1,400 and $1,500 is most certainly justified, as long as you know what you’re getting yourself into. A great choice for all the vintage lovers who desire some versatility.


Feature Picks

 

Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Fender Acoustasonic 15 – 15 Watt Acoustic Guitar Amplifier

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Marshall Code 50-50-Watt 1X12″ Digital Combo Amp

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Blackstar Electric Guitar Mini Amplifier, Black (Fly3)

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Orange Amps Electric Guitar Power Amplifier,

 

Buy On Amazon

Recommended Videos

Marshall JTM45 Review

JTM_45_MK_II_Reissue_1997

The guitar lovers usually go crazy for some of those good old vintage tube amps released way back in the 1960s, or even the 1950s.

Despite the technological advancements which gave birth to some really refined amps or even digital amp modellers, the fans of the vintage stuff still take the significant portion of the guitar-playing population.

But the one model we’re going to focus on here is really special. In fact, it takes us back all the way to the very beginning of one of the biggest companies of the guitar world.

In 1962, a guy named Jim Marshall started a small shop, not knowing that his name would be celebrated by all the coming generations of musicians.

The first product that came out of his shop was the almighty JTM45 amplifier that marked the beginning of the revolution in rock ‘n’ roll.

JTM_45

In this review, we will be explaining a thing or two about this legendary amp model and a few of its different variants that came out over the decades.

Features

First off, since it was originally made so long ago, the JTM45 has some pretty simple features. The total power of this amp head is 45 watts, although there are different versions with different wattage.

The newer model like the JTM45 2245, which was introduced in 1989 and is made to this day, features 30 watts.

Interestingly enough, the amp was made after legendary Fender’s Bassman. So the earliest versions of the Marshall JTM45 used 6L6 tubes in the power section or even the US 5881 tubes.

During the later years, these amps implemented KT66, KT88, and the classic EL34 after which Marshall amps are now known for.

The preamp section had the classic ECC83 valves, and some of them had the 12AX7 variants. The currently produced 2245 versions bear two 5881 tubes in the power section, three ECC83s in the preamp, and one GZ34 rectifier tube.

As far as the controls go, they have always been straightforward. And even the newer versions still have some of those intentionally vintage things to offer. The amp has two channels, each with high and low gain inputs.

Then we have the presence knob, as well as the 3-band EQ with bass, mid, and treble. Then we have two knobs labeled as “high treble” and “normal.” This “high treble” controls the first channel and the “normal” controls the second channel.

The controls and some of these basic features remained the same over the years with the releases of the new models.

On the back end, we can find the two standard 1/4-inch outputs for speaker cabinets. There is also a selectable load switch that allows you to choose between 16, 8, and 4 ohms.

Being vintage-oriented, even the present-day versions do not come with any kind of effects of effect loops.

Design

The initial versions of the Marshall JTM45 differed in design from the classic Marshalls we know of. They had the gold plexiglass front panels, with “Marshall” written in block letters.

marshall amp jtm45

It was only after 1965 that they introduced the Marshall logo as we know it today ñ the white plastic one in cursive.

But the overall looks changed as well and we got the well-known easily recognizable Marshall amp heads. The original ones had the so-called “offset” control panel, which was located in the bottom right corner.

The versions from 1965 and onwards had the classic golden plate located in the low middle part of the front face. It’s the same design we see on many other Marshall amp heads as well.

Performance

All that we can say – really vintage and really British. Even the newer versions manage to capture that classic old sound conceived back in the early 1960s.

However, if you do get your hands on one of those oldest models, like the aforementioned “offset” ones, you’ll be in for a treat. With volume control pushed over its limits, you can get some surprisingly great distorted tones with some fuzziness on top.

Of course, these amps came, and still come, without any reverbs or other effects on it. It’s the pure sweet organic distortion that comes out of it. Even the clean tones get some sparkle on it without “spilling” all over the place.

The bright “treble” channel does this perfectly. But if you’re playing the guitar with single-coils, you might want to get some of the high ends toned down a bit if you want to avoid those “icepick” ear-piercing tones.

It is probably easier to control with those vintage-styled lowe output humbuckers. This is probably why the Gibson Les Paul plus classic Marshall combo has worked so well over the years.

The moment you play the first notes through it and the moment you hear it’s tone, it becomes pretty apparent that the JTM45 and any of its versions are dedicated exclusively to vintage tone lovers.

Conclusion

While it is true that you’re allowed to experiment and do whatever you feel like doing in music, this amp is not exactly recommended if you want to play anything that’s modern.

It’s dirty, it’s fuzzy, it’s filthy, but all in a good way. As we said, it was designed to copy the legendary Fender Bassman amps, but it features a bit of a different twist.

Then we come to this amp’s price. The new models, which were introduced in 1989 as sort of a re-release of the original JTM45, can be around $2,500 or even more.

However, if you somehow have one of the old versions from the 1960s, then you’re in for a treat. The ones in good condition can reach staggering prices, even somewhere around $10,000 or more.

Well, this comes as no surprise as even Jimi Hendrix used these back in the 1960s. Now, we could argue whether these prices are overblown due to Marshall’s reputation, but one thing remains – their tone is still highly sought after by even the biggest professionals in the guitar world. So there must be something other than just simple hype.

 


Feature Picks

 

Fender Frontman 10G Electric Guitar Amplifier

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Fender Acoustasonic 15 – 15 Watt Acoustic Guitar Amplifier

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Marshall Code 50-50-Watt 1X12″ Digital Combo Amp

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Blackstar Electric Guitar Mini Amplifier, Black (Fly3)

 

Buy On Amazon

 

Orange Amps Electric Guitar Power Amplifier,

 

Buy On Amazon

Recommended Videos