While plenty of people purchased guitars over the past year-and-a-half, our columnist predicts post-pandemic gear liquidations are on the horizon.
The COVID pandemic's effects on the music industry have dominated this column for over a year. Now that most of North America is essentially acting as if COVID is in our collective rearview mirror, it might seem to be time to swivel to another topic. But is there an interesting corner of the music business untouched by the events of the last 18 months? From what we buy and how we buy it, to where we can play or listen to others playing, not to mention how we learn to play, every stage in the music-making process has been affected by COVID. It's not just that something has changed. It's more like everything has changed.
It may be a little early for long-range forecasts, but it appears that after grim statistics are merely hand-wringing history and masks just curious artifacts, we'll probably still be waiting far longer for new instruments compared to 2019. And while guitar manufacturers can't keep up with demand, at least here in the San Francisco Bay Area, lots more guitars are coming back on the market. Unlike after the financial meltdown a dozen years ago, it doesn't seem that people are shedding guitars because of financial need, or because their vintage guitars are no longer appreciating in value. More people want guitars, and often want them ASAP, but at the same time more people are selling at least some of their guitars, so what gives?
The answer is that COVID's turmoil hasn't just changed how we shop for instruments we want to play. It has changed how we think about the guitars we already own, but aren't using. Months of lockdown may have led to a lot more guitar playing, but such a prolonged period when we were never far from our guitars was also an extended moment of reckoning. As one customer put it as he plopped a prized vintage Gibson from the '60s on the counter, "If being locked at home with this rig for the last six months hasn't made me play it again, nothing will, so I might as well get rid of it." One easy summary is that COVID robbed us of the excuses we'd long been using, especially when talking to ourselves, about why we hadn't been playing some instruments as much as we used to or wanted to.
COVID's turmoil hasn't just changed how we shop for instruments we want to play. It has changed how we think about the guitars we already own, but aren't using.
Lots of people adopted pets during the pandemic. Now that they can socialize again and have to go back to work, many of those animals are, sadly, being put up for adoption. While that COVID-inspired 7-string or terz guitar isn't as demanding as a puppy and won't suffer when it changes owners, how long will people keep an instrument they no longer have time to practice playing in hopes of mastering its quirks? Those who restricted their experiments to new tunings and playing styles may be the post-pandemic winners as all they'll have in excess are a few unusual picks and some weird sets of strings. But if lots of the stay-at-home–inspired instrument purchases become little more than excess baggage that's "oh so COVID," there may be another wave of instruments returning to the market.
Trends in guitar collecting are fascinating and often change in identifiable phases. When guitar collecting was picking up steam decades ago, many people gathered guitars that reflected the wide range of styles offered as the instrument's popularity skyrocketed in the middle of the last century. Guitars dominated popular music at the time and collections often mirrored the wide variety of guitar sounds the collectors had heard, especially when they were young. No collection was complete without an orange Gretsch archtop, a Martin dreadnought, and maybe a Guild 12-string. Often included was a metal-bodied National, a Dobro, plus at least one classical guitar. But in recent years, such broad-view collecting has fallen out of favor and, instead, many collectors are micro-focused. One person wants a complete set of all the Gibson flattop models shown in the company's catalogs in the late 1930s and early '40s, for instance, while another wants only Martins with the rare "dark top" (sunburst) option.
COVID has inspired a lot of people to purchase lots of instruments, and as players stretch out, often from boredom as much as curiosity, the quest for variety seems to have returned. A few years from now, will we look at a list of fretted instruments including an open-back banjo, a mandola, and several different types of guitars, and think "That looks like a COVID collection?" Only time will tell.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.