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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Our Favorite Albums That Use Proco RAT Distortion Pedals

It’s no surprise why many a musician, famous and not, have gotten themselves a ProCo RAT to use and abuse.  It’s noisy, it’s heavy, it’s greasy, and it’s just the way mamma likes it!

RAT Distortion History

The RAT story begins in downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan, at the ProCo Sound Factory.

As RAT has always strove to be the “Sound of the Underground”, it seems only fitting that they found their beginnings in a basement, with actual rats, developing the prototype for what would become the first RAT pedal, the Bud Box Rat, from 1978.

There were only 12 of these pedals made, prototype included, and they were all hand made, drilled, and finished with a silk screen logo.

The first actual “RAT” came out in 1979 and was the first to be mass produced, achieving the classic look and sound of the pedal we (or some of us, probably excluding a few stuffed shirts out there) know and love.

From there, the RAT chronology goes a little something like this.

  • The Rat (ver. 2) 1981-83
  • Small Box RAT 1984-88
  • R2DU 1984-88
  • RAT 2 1988-present
  • Turbo RAT 1989-present
  • Vintage RAT 1991-2005
  • Brat 1997-2001
  • Deucetone RAT 2002-present
  • You Dirty RAT 2004-present

There are alternatives to the RAT pedal such as the VFE Alpha Dog, Dr Scientist Elements, Emma Reezafratzitz, and others.  But most RAT fans I think will agree that you can’t quite get the same effect as the real deal, which is why RAT users stay RAT users.

They might buy other pedals, but generally they don’t take the RAT away.

Not only have RAT pedals been used by just about everyone trying to get some decent distortion in their sound, but there’s a whole bunch of musicians you definitely would know that love the RAT’s distorted sounds to the point where they have featured the pedal in some of their biggest songs.

We wanted to share with you some classic albums that we think are life-changing for any rock fan to hear, that have a healthy dose of the RAT distortion sound.

Some of these albums you may know, some you may not, but we suggest you to go check these albums if you somehow missed ’em.

Kill ‘Em All by Metallica

When people think RAT distortion, they tend to think of that classic dirty sound, but then from there it becomes somewhat confusing as to what genres of music actually fully embrace the RAT.

The reason we say that is because in the gear forums, there are arguments on whether or not RAT pedals are good for metal or not?  Some say no, some say hell yeah.

The thing is, one of the metal gods themselves, Metallica, was big on RAT pedals back in the day, and featured them on their debut album – Kill ‘Em All.  Now, you might argue that Metallica wasn’t even “metal” at the time, but instead “thrash” (sub-genre of metal or punk? hybrid?).

But, the term actually lands, as far as we know, on “thrash metal”, so it’s a type of metal music.  No, it’s not not death metal, but it still falls under the metal banner, and paving the way for many bands to follow.  Because who is metal if not METALLICA!?

With Kill ‘Em All, we will say that there is even some debate about the presence of RAT distortion in the mix.  People attribute their sound back then to other parts of the early Metallica rig.

It does makes sense that it is slightly vague, because Metallica weren’t famous yet and so no one was keeping track of their rig by taking press pics or fan pics or whatever people do now to try to figure out what pedals a band uses.

However, we believe that RATs are in there, and once you tune into the sound, there seems to be no denying it.

Here’s a video that makes a good argument that Metallica was beefing up their sound with some RATs, particularly Kirk.  Watch this and see what you think.

If you are still on the fence about whether Kill ‘Em All was using RATs, it’s going to be hard to convince you 100% at this point, short of a direct quote from the band or a picture of their pedalboard (which we can’t find – goddammit).

Then, we feel, the question becomes – Can you use a RAT to get the Kill ‘Em All sound (since we can’t travel back in time to take pics of their gear back in ’83), and the answer to that we think is HELL YEAH YOU CAN.

Watch this video which seeks to mimic Search and Destroy’s tones and see if you think that the tones match.  We think you’ll agree, it’s pretty damn close.

Now, for the album in question.  Here’s Kill ‘Em All.  Listen and enjoy, and if you hear a RAT in the mix, let us know in the comments.


Monster by R.E.M.

rem-monster-album-rat-distortion

R.E.M.?  What are they doing here? 

R.E.M. isn’t necessarily the first band you think of when you think of “dirty” or “heavy”, since they are generally considered to be more of a jangle-pop band by reviewers trying to describe their sound.  R.E.M. were disciples of Big Star, and Big Star liked their riffs to be sparkly and jangly, not RAT-ified.  R.E.M., over the years, wrote songs that were typically full of arpeggiated guitar licks and they never did release a metal album of any sort, did they?

To be fair, R.E.M. did have a period back in the ’90’s where guitarist Peter Buck got into using that unmistakeable RAT distortion sound for their Monster album, especially live on tour that year in 1995. 

The goal, at this time, was to hit people with something that they maybe didn’t see coming – a real ROCK album, followed by a real stadium rock tour.

Tracks such as “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”, as well as severals others from this album, feature RAT distortion.

By the time Monster arrived in ‘94, R.E.M. had long since left behind being maybe the best underground band to come out of Athens, Georgia besides the B-52’s.  They were, by the mid-90’s, well known for albums like Green, Out Of Time, and Automatic For The People. 

For the most part, R.E.M. was almost known as a sort of alt-rock folkster band because they used a lot of instruments like mandolin and acoustic-y sounds which gave them more of a lighter touch on their mid-career albums.

On Monster, Peter Buck finally let loose with some decidedly heavier riffage, influenced most likely by the “Seattle Sound” that had swept across the nation a few years prior.  R.E.M. must have gotten sick of being sort of a bunch of nice guys, and at least Peter wanted to straight up rock out, since the band were fans of punk rock, to an extent.

Although tremolo was also a big part of the Monster album, the RAT pedal was in there just as much as the tremolo, providing some spicy mids. 

R.E.M. eventually did return to their more subdued side before calling it a day in 2011, but for a while there, they were rockin’ the RAT and getting some fat sounds that must have shocked some of their more sensitive fans who wanted to hear more “Near Wild Heaven” type of songs.

Here’s Monster, for what it’s worth…


Blur by Blur

blur-self-titled-graham-coxon-rat-distortion-pedal

Blur is a band that has been around since the early 90’s, and they started their career as a Brit-pop band, writing slightly woozy and somewhat psychedelic songs like “She’s So High” and “There’s No Other Way”.  In other words, songs that had nothing to do with RAT distortion.  That said, Graham was always an effects buff, so it was only a matter of time…

Anyway, once they hit their second and third albums, the band was getting huge in the UK, and basically writing some of the UK’s most classic albums with Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife.  Still, they were not known to get “heavy”, in a “Down with the sickness” sort of way.  They did have Bank Holiday, which was pretty damn fuzzy for an album like Parklife, which featured a lot of strings and stuff.

That said, Graham Coxon, the band’s resident wizard guitarist a la Jonny Greenwood, a la John Squire, a la Noel Gallagher, is a master of tones and effects and can write a riff as good as any axe-man alive.  So, as the band grew, so did his pedalboard.  It was just a matter of time before Blur decided to do what R.E.M. did at the mid-life point of their career – get kinda pissed off, and go heavy.

In 1997, the band was fed up with being “brit-pop” and hit the public with their most distorted song to date – Song 2.  You know, the “Whoo hoo!” song.  Damon was apparently going through something, and things were getting weird.  The band had heard Sebadoh and Nirvana, and were ready to show the world that they too were damaged goods.

Song 2, aka Woo Hoo, well – this song was brought to you by RAT – specifically, not one but TWO Proco Turbo RATs to get that beefy sound, and on the bass yet, and maybe the guitar too.  It’s just one giant wall once the song really kicks in. Apparently some deny that Song 2 was pure greasy-tailed RAT, but most just accept it as a fact.  

But we wouldn’t put this album, actually called Blur, on this list if the RAT was just used on Song 2. Actually, we might, but…

If you’ve actually listened to this album, you would know that there are several really distorted, dirty songs that really boost up the grunge a whole lot.  Blur is a band with so much talent, that they basically can’t stick to one sound, and so every album shows off something different, whether it’s a string arrangement, a gnarly riff, a fluid bass part, or what have you.

Blur by Blur, while being a fairly gnarly album, goes in several different directions at once, and this is because Graham, the guitar player, is having a field day with some new sounds for the band.  This album came out before 13, where he really cuts loose with some wild stuff, but this album is a precursor, and is pretty weird and wild itself.

The RAT was just one sound Graham and co. incorporated into this mish-mash of an album, but he managed to succeed in creating what is definitely the heaviest, most speaker rockin’ album of Blur’s career.


Foo Fighters – Self-Titled Album

foo-fighters-first-album-rat-distortion

You may not remember this, but the Foo Fighters were once a quirky little punk pop rock band, where Dave was the only member and he tried to hide the fact that it was his band.  And so lo’, their first album was released to no fanfare with an alien laser gun on the front, and even the singles from that time had UFO imagery all over them.  For those of us hanging around CD racks in 1995, this album just looked like another weird new release by some alt-rock band somewhere.  Kinda cool cover, what is this??

This timeframe of the band as a wacky UFO-themed band from Roswell Records only lasted about a year (Roswell kept going, but the band being an X-Files band didn’t), with Dave Grohl running into a studio and ripping through all the tracks in like a week or something.  Roswell Records was an imprint of RCA, so it wasn’t exactly an indie label.  By this point the guy had cred, so he wasn’t just doing a super micro-label thing – he had distribution power, or else no one would have ever seen it on the racks.

dave-grohl-1995

Coming from the punk scene of being in Scream and then Nirvana (and let’s not forget Pocketwatch!), and having worked with Butch Vig and Andy Wallace, it’s not surprising that the first Foo Fighters album was pretty grunge-y itself, but well produced and well executed.  That is, full of big drums and distorted guitars, but played by a grunge God / total perfectionist.

People gave Dave flack for “copying” Nirvana somewhat, but Dave’s response was basically “Are you kidding me?  What did you expect me to do?” (<- not an exact quote) He was a rocker, and most of the songs on the debut were from before or during Nirvana’s time.  He had been writing songs the whole time, it turns out.

Here’s the band’s first appearance on Letterman back in 1995. (They were also the last band to perform for Dave, as well)

Anywho, Dave really wanted things to sound dirty, and scream-y, and punky.. but also huge, a la Butch and Andy.  So he turned to RAT for a boost, like many 90’s alternative rock bands did at the time.  It was kind of either Big Muff, RAT, or both.

Anyway, that first album is a whole lot of RAT distortion, and you can check it out below:


Radiohead – The Bends

radiohead-the-bends-on-vinyl

Jonny Greenwood isn’t so much a guitar player as he is a guitar slingin’ mad scientist.  The sounds he can make with his instruments are definitely out of this world, but Jonny has always had a way of approaching his sound that is like Matt Damon in that movie (??) solving a huge equation on a 10 foot blackboard, in that it looks complicated to us, but to him it makes perfect sense cause he’s a genius.  

There’s a lot of things going on upstairs with that guy in terms of musical ideas, and it reflects in his playing.  Of all the members of Radiohead, Jonny is the reason they were never, and never will be boring.  Did he not CA-CHUNK “Creep” into being a half decent song, just because he couldn’t handle it being a normal song?

So by now, we all now Jonny is a guitar wizard, and here is a video showing evidence of that type of behavior…

So, yeah, the guy likes to mess around.  That said, if you cast your mind back to 1993, Radiohead was just a band that was considered a one-hit wonder with “Creep” from their album Pablo Honey.  Some people loved the song, others hated it.  But, what defined Creep, was those CA-CHUNKS.

At the time they released The Bends in 1995, bands like Oasis, Blur, and The Stone Roses were the big British alternative bands of the day, and it didn’t seem like Radiohead were going to take over as the next kings of British alt rock.  And then they did, becoming the 90’s version of Pink Floyd (atmospheric British arena band obsessed with production).

But what really made people take notice, when The Bends came out, was the video for Just, which got everyone talking about them.  Like, what was that guy saying???

While they were definitely an alternative band during the Pablo Honey days, it was their embracing of the Pixies loud-quiet-loud aesthetic for The Bends, as well as Jonny’s interesting use of pedals, that really set them apart from Oasis and Blur.

There is some debate who used what pedals back in those days, what with three guitar players in the band, all of whom enjoyed the sound of distortion.  That said, there was a RAT or two in the studio when The Bends was made.

While you might assume that Jonny was the one using the RAT pedal, it was supposedly Thom who loved using the Turbo Rat for The Bends (and for many distorted parts he’d play), while Jonny used a Marshall Shredmaster on songs like My Iron Lung, which is similar to a Rat.  Meanwhile, there’s Ed O’Brien, who is also known to dabble in weird sounds – mostly atmospheric, although even he was rumoured to use a RAT for a period of time – maybe on The Bends, but can’t be 100% sure. Oy vey, what a conundrum!

When it came to recording The Bends, it’s difficult to really say who did what in terms of guitar parts, as you’d have to be a fly on the wall to know which musician used which pedal for which song, although if you have a keen ear for guitar effects, you can probably make a good guess.  Each song does have an interesting melding of sounds, as a result of  the 3 guitarists in the band, each experimental in their own way.

What we can safely say is that Radiohead, particularly Thom, loves him some Turbo RAT distortion, and distortion was a huge part of what made The Bends such a classic album.  It slams!


Sonic Youth – Dirty

Sonic Youth has been around since the early ’80’s and they are one of those bands that has a ton of music that they’ve released.  Some people love the band, some hate it and don’t understand it.  They are definitely a strange group, with some pretty “challenging” songs to listen to.

At one point, they were dubbed as “no wave”, which is like a form of new wave but inverted to sound like the nightmare version of that movement, just kind of avant garde noise and the occasional sax.  In fact, Thurston might have been the one who came up with that no wave label in the first place.  They were always kind of a heavy band, though.

With songs like Shaking Hell, Society Is A Hole, and Tom Violence, Sonic Youth established themselves as a band that were not on friendly terms with mainstream society.  Even though they did achieve some sort of mainstream success, they were basically a punk band to the end, with some prog leanings, psychedelia, punk for sure, and plus some Jandek leanings.

In ’88, they surprised a few people with Daydream Nation, an album that showed that they had some great super catchy riffs up their sleeve, and were willing to take their creativity to the next level.  By this point they had Steve Shelley, who allowed them to really rock with some power.

It was then that their cult got very big, especially in Europe, where they toured a lot to some huge crowds who could relate to their “fuck absolutely everything” aesthetic that they managed to ooze through their amps and through the throngs of disenchanted Europeans of the ’80’s.

In ’92, Sonic Youth was back again with their album Dirty, which was…quite a dirty little album, featuring better production thanks to their label Geffen, more money thanks to Nirvana, but nastier and trashier songs that featured more noise, more guitar jams, and frankly more vision.  It was enough to drive your grandparents to go back to drinkin’ and druggin’.

Thurston Moore, being a real music nerd as he is, was always into pulling in as many influences as he could grab out of the air into the Sonic Youth palette, but one thing he always loved was a bludgeoning heavy dissonant riff.  Lee was the same way, it seemed, and so together it was two fractured souls against the world.

And yet, they also loved beauty, so him and Lee and Kim (who some say can’t play bass but meh, yeah she can) would come up with some nice, melodic passage, and then drop the hammer on it with some heavy distortion and “ruin” everything.

This is where the RAT pedal came into play heavily for Sonic Youth.  Thurston, being a RAT man for a long time by then, was way into the pedal by the time of Dirty and he really let it fly for that album. 

The RAT was the perfect pedal for Thurston to thrash out to, and when you turn it up loud, it really raises the hair on your arms and makes your dog go into spasms and your cat just drops dead from sound poisoning.  You better not have any wee ones around, they’ll also get a disease – headbanging disease that is!

The RAT isn’t the only pedal used on the album, because the band loves their effects pedals, but the RAT certainly it gets its day in the sun on Dirty.  Hear the full album here – best listened to while skateboarding at a mall.


So there ya have it – classic rock albums that sink their teeth into a RAT sandwich.  Visit the RAT website below.

Visit http://ratdistortion.com/