Plug-and-play pedals are fun, but mastering a complex effects box can open the door to brave new worlds of sound. Try it!
How long should it take to get comfortable with a new pedal?
This is something I’ve been asking myself a lot recently, as I dream up ideas and concepts. How intuitive does a pedal have to be? Can it be hard?
Effects have a really unique role in music. They go in between other things. They don’t make the sounds, nor do they amplify or record them. They are the most optional part of music and, as a consequence, they generally receive the least attention. Learning to play the guitar takes time, and that’s fine because everybody knows this and expects it. Same goes for working a mixing board. But the same patience is not usually extended to pedals, and I wonder if this is a missed opportunity?
The versatility of pedals has greatly expanded over the years, but our expectations haven’t quite caught up. Pedals aren’t just variations on a common theme, like they were in the ’60s and ’70s. Some now have entirely distinct workflows and controls. They defy classification. Look at the 856 by Montreal Assembly. It’s ostensibly a looper, sampler, and sequencer, but essentially it’s a system. It offers something entirely new, and you don’t get something entirely new without investing some time.
I think it’s okay for pedals to have a “hard mode.” It’s okay for pedals to demand time and patience and force you to learn something new. This is the path to discovery, reward through challenge.
Something special can happen when you have to struggle with a device. You form a bond, and you discover techniques and applications on the path to comfort. You make it your own. My favorite experience with this was the Octatrack by Elektron—a sampler that allows you to entirely reinvent the sound you’ve sampled. It kicked my ass for months, and then suddenly it was my favorite thing. I felt connected to it.
There’s something powerful about applying this idea to pedals. Suddenly, this passive element between your guitar and amp can become something more than just a change in texture—an active tool … a second pseudo-instrument for you to engage with and manipulate.
But I’m debating with myself even as I write this. Is it unrealistic to expect that level of commitment? Is it inaccessible? One piece of the puzzle is that the level of difficulty is seldom discussed when it comes to pedals. If you’re taking up the trumpet, you already know damn well you’re going to have a time. It will be hard, and then it will be great. You’re prepared.
The purpose of pedals is increasingly open-ended. It’s best to think of them as a format rather than any specific thing. Electro-Harmonix has been building drums, sequencers, and samplers inside pedals for years, and this is becoming more common. A pedal is just a convenient, portable home for a musical idea. And you can kick it to make it go. That’s it. Where things get hazy is how focused and self-contained that idea has to be. Does too much flexibility spoil the fun? My gut says that it does, and the key is to find that line.
The important thing is that there’s room for both, and I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more “hard mode” pedals as time goes on. Sometimes you just want a chorus that sounds like a chorus, and you don’t want to fight to get there. That’s good. But there’s also room for pedals that bewilder and challenge. Pedals can be fast, efficient, and simple, but they can also be deep, versatile, and interactive, and unfold over time. Both are extremely useful.
Consider exploring the deep end and trying your hand at hard mode. You might find something in the struggle.
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.