PG chief editor Shawn Hammond on why guitar-playing listicles are bad-news bears that push his filthy-mouth buttons.
I've lost count of how many times I've ranted about garden-variety “listicles" and clickbait headlines leading to worthless online bullshit, but the sad truth is that now it's becoming more and more prevalent from guitar-oriented sites, too.
"5 Licks Every Guitarist Should Know!"
"9 Scales Only Dipshits Can't Blaze On!"
"17 Pedals You're a D-Bag for Not Owning!"
I'm obviously making these up—but just barely.
Theses things push my filthy-mouth buttons. I hate these friggin' lists. It's hard for me to believe that—like their counterparts on everyday subjects—90 percent of them aren't crapped out in five seconds under the vengeful eye of some bean-counting overlord or editorial slave driver, or by the latest over-caffeinated social-media-sensation wannabe. But to me even the ones that aren't full of fluff, even the ones that accurately analyze some musical point or another, are bad-news bears.
I know what you're thinking: "Whoa, there, Shawn-boy—who pissed in your Verena Street Cow Tipper coffee this morning? They're just headlines vying for eyeballs amongst a potential viewership whose attention is increasingly fractured by today's snappy digital lifestyle. No one should take them literally." Maybe, Ms. Very Articulate Mind Reader. But a lot of players out there really buy into this hyperbolic crap (craperbole?).
So exactly why do I hate these lists so much? Well, I can tell you that it's not just because they're arrogant and condescending. It's also because they're mind-bogglingly blind to the folly they peddle. They teach us to be lemmings. Every one of these listicles leads to things someone else already did better than you or I ever will.
"[Da Vinci] disdained 'trumpets and reciters of the works of others,' and tried to live by his own dictum: 'Better a small certainty, than a big lie.'" —Leonard Shlain
Given that we're here to talk about guitar and music, an ostensibly creative endeavor, it's worth taking a lesson or three from what we know about perhaps the most creative person humanity has ever known: Leonardo da Vinci. A peerless scientific genius whose inventions were centuries ahead of their time, he possessed a restless curiosity and keen intellect that altered the course of human history. He was also one of the most gifted, insightful, and prolific painters and sculptors of all time—a master of anatomy, perspective, and how they reflect and affect emotion.
Yet, as Bulgarian New Yorker (and MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow) Maria Popova points out in her always-astute BrainPickings.org blog ("Leonardo's Brain: What a Posthumous Brain Scan Six Centuries Later Reveals About the Source of Da Vinci's Creativity"), he was also the opposite of everything a 15th-century listicle would've prescribed for success. Gay during a period when it was punishable by death, Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a wealthy playboy who later cruelly took him from his birth mother and treated him as something far removed from a son. Further, as a bastard child, da Vinci was not allowed to attend church-run schools of the day. Yet he went ahead and became the original Renaissance man anyway.
As Popova points out in her commentary on the late surgeon/inventor Leonard Shlain's 2014 book, Leonardo's Brain: Understanding Da Vinci's Creative Genius, all of these "disadvantages" and disconnections from the orthodox route to success in the 1400s likely preserved the unique natural aptitudes that led to Leonardo's place in history. As Shlain put it:
Unimpeded by the accretion of misconceptions that had fogged the lens of the educated, Leonardo was able to ask key questions and seek fresh answers. Although he could not quote learned books, he promised, "I will quote something far greater and more worthy: experience, the mistress of their masters." He disdained "trumpets and reciters of the works of others," and tried to live by his own dictum: "Better a small certainty, than a big lie."
"The source of Leonardo's extraordinary creativity," Popova posits, "was his ability to access different ways of thinking, to see more clearly the interconnectedness of everything, and in doing so, to reach a different state of consciousness…."
Food for thought next time you see one of those confounded listicles talking down to you from its perch on high, eh? Instead of falling for the bait, flush that cyber craperbole and hit the woodshed to start chiseling out your own "small certainty" based on what sounds and feels right to your ears, not some blathering blowhard.
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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.