The Affect of Effects, Guitar Toys Then and Now

Posted on February 4, 2011


In this modern era, guitarists have more sonic and tonal capabilities at their disposal than ever before. Multi-Effects, guitar synths…the list goes on. Yet still, many of today’s players look back at the pioneers who created sound tapestries that were truly ground breaking to try and catch the subtle nuances, even though today’s “toys” usually have these things pre-bundled at the tap of a toe.

The difference? An old saying: Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. TEACH a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime. If we understand how our 6 string forefathers created these sounds without modern technology, we can better use our advanced tools to go even further.

Let’s look at a few things from the past that may trigger our imaginations.

Now: The E-Bow gave modern guitar players a violin effect in the palm of their hand. A later model had a switch on it to give you an additional, though limited, feedback capability.

Then: A real cello bow…A much truer drawn string sound, and more quickly movable to accentuate staccato work. Combine this with an echo effect and a volume pedal and you’re in a whole new realm of sound. If you still have some brain cells you can spare, try this combo and blow your mind.

Now: The envelope filter. This effect truly pisses me off, because it’s a wah pedal for people too lazy to rock their foot.

The Wah pedal. So many people don’t realize that a wah pedal is not just an effect, but an instrument unto itself. At the proper volume, a wah pedal can alter feedback pitch with the slightest tip of the tootsies. The ringing harmonic overtones can make you cry or shiver! And the bonus? Use only your neck hand to move from note to note while using your pick hand to work the guitars’ volume knob. Freakin’ Beautiful!

Now: Playing backwards: Achieved thoroughly by computer.

Then: Record a passage on to the Ampex Grand Master 450 tape on the Otari 24 track tape deck (ask your dad or oldest guitar playing relative), flip the reels, and play it back while recording to the main deck.

A nice trick…but no way to pull it off live, right? WRONG.

You can create the illusion of a backwards guitar track by using a volume pedal and a reverse reverb setting on even the cheapest of reverb pedals or multi-effects.

Next time, we’ll get into the business of creating more incredible sounds using modern tools WITHOUT having to be a f*&^ing engineer.

Ever Forward- Drew

Posted in: Guitar