Quick Hit: Big Tone Music Brewery Gray Box Overdrive Review

This '70s-style stomp mates a powerfully sculpting EQ to a muscular, malleable output.

Big Tone’s Gray Box Overdrive does not disguise its relation to the original DOD 250, but it sure takes the concept a whole lot further. It adds germanium/silicon diode switching, which effectively makes the Gray Box a shape-shifting DOD 250/MXR Distortion + hybrid. It also adds a very clever, capable, and tunable EQ that enables you to focus the slap-in-the-face impact of those circuits or soften their harsher edges.

This is a fantastic pedal for overdubbing or double tracking rhythm parts—especially with a softer clipping Klon- or TS-style overdrive or a bass-heavy clean tone as the other half of the mix. I used it primarily with my silverface Bassman and 2x12. It was perfect top-end counterpoint to that amp’s belly-shaking low-end capabilities for both ’70s rock crunch and Steve Albini-, Sonic Youth-, and Pavement-style indie-attack tones.

As fantastic as the Gray Box can sound in these applications, this isn’t an overdrive for everyone. Even with all the EQ flexibility, some soft clipping devotees will find it shockingly immediate and even harsh. But if you crave overdrive tones that inhabit the, well, “gray” area between civilized and brutish, you’ll dig what Big Tone has in store.

Test gear: DeArmond JetStar, Fender Stratocaster, silverface Fender Bassman, ’64 Fender Tremolux

Fender Telecaster Custom with silverface Fender Bassman and 2 X12 cabinet with Warehouse G-12C/S speakers.

Ratings

Pros:
Thoughtful, practical EQ section. Heavy-duty tones make a great match for bassy amps. Diode switching versatility.

Cons:
Can sound harsh with bright amps. EQ can be tricky to master.

Street:
$199

Big Tone Music Brewery Gray Box Overdrive
bigtonemusic.com

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Rig Rundown: Adam Shoenfeld

Whether in the studio or on solo gigs, the Nashville session-guitar star holds a lotta cards, with guitars and amps for everything he’s dealt.

Adam Shoenfeld has helped shape the tone of modern country guitar. How? Well, the Nashville-based session star, producer, and frontman has played on hundreds of albums and 45 No. 1 country hits, starting with Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown,” since 2005. Plus, he’s found time for several bands of his own as well as the first studio album under his own name, All the Birds Sing, which drops January 28.

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Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.

Advanced

Beginner

• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.

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Knowing how to function in different keys is crucial to improvising in any context. One path to fretboard mastery is learning how to move through positions across the neck. Even something as simple as a three-note-per-string major scale can offer loads of options when it’s time to step up and rip. I’m going to outline seven technical sequences, each one focusing on a position of a diatonic major scale. This should provide a fun workout for the fingers and hopefully inspire a few licks of your own.
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