An ode to pedal addiction
About three years ago I was playing acoustic on a master session for Ray Scott, an artist on Warner Brothers. Dan Dugmore was on electric. When it came time for a solo, Dan kicked on his flanger and hit a big chord at the head of each bar. That was it. It was perfect; so simple, yet I would have never thought of it. This lesson reinforced my pedal dependency.
Pedals are like beer: they make everything better until they make everything worse. If you’re on a gig and not getting any sound out of your amp, it’s probably your pedalboard, not the guitar, nor the amp. If your guitar sounds distant and weak, again, it’s probably your board stealing your tone. Your amp and guitar are fine. These are the lows of pedal dependency. I’ve learned to live with, and adjust for, pedal pitfalls. Here are a few tips to help if you’re suffering the same affliction:
Switching, or FX loop systems help. Not only do they prevent the pedals you’re not using from sucking your tone, but more importantly, when a pedal or jumper cable dies, the loop lets you cut it out of your path and keep playing. I’m an optimist by nature, so I tend to run my compressor and dirt straight from my guitar, then use switches for my delays, tremolos and swirly stuff.
Everything breaks. If you find a pedal you truly love, buy two or three of them. After my Homebrew Power Screamer died at a dusty state fair in Colorado, I sent it back to the company to be fixed and purchased three more, so I’d never be without at least one. Currently, I use three of them in different boards and leave a brand new one in the box at home, waiting on deck should one of the others go down.
Good connecting cables are more important than your pedals. When I switched out all my assorted jumpers for DiMarzio braided jumpers, I gained a whopping 7dB in my signal, plus a ton of crisp highs.
Velcro does not hold pedals in place for very long. Zip ties do.
The perfect pedalboard is not attainable. I have four pedalboards and am currently working toward the ultimate pedalboard. Here’s the rundown:
The Big Tour Board has power and wireless hidden under the board. The top of the board works as a guitar rack, holding two electrics, a mandolin and an acoustic. The switching system takes effects out of line; comp, boost and overdrive are in line.
The Small Tour Board has neither wireless nor loop; the case top holds two electrics and a mando. I chose smaller pedals.
The Studio Board has effects in a switching system that run to the effects loop in the amp. I plug my head into the board’s Furman power (even though the manual says not to).
The Club board is made out of the back panel of my Kustom 12 Cab and fits in my guitar gig bag. One Hot Spot powers it. Every pedal on here is missing a knob or a switch.
The Ultimate Board is a work in progress. It will have everything without being too big.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville guitar slinger who works primarily in television, and has recorded and toured with over 30 major label artists. His songs and playing can be heard in major motion pictures, major label releases and literally hundreds of television drops. Visit him at: youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger or facebook.com/johnbohlinger
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
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.