When you bond with an instrument, it pays to think twice about tearing it apart.
Most of us have a favorite guitar—the go-to you always reach for out of love, convenience, or force of habit. In the past, whenever I played something that grabbed me—a guitar that whispered “let me be your go-to”—I’d take it home and do a little setup to get it just right. Change the strings, tweak the action, adjust the pickup height—just simple stuff, or so I thought. I soon discovered that my “fixes” turned the instrument into something I didn’t relate to anymore. Talking with other players, I’ve discovered this phenomenon is not unique to me. One wouldn’t think such mundane things could make or break a love affair with a guitar, but, as I’d learn over and over again, what drew me to the instrument on the rack should be well understood before I crack open the toolbox.
That said, I do have a guitar I can experiment on without fear or remorse. It’s a faded pink Esquire-style job with a no-name ash body and a ’68 Tele pickup (Photo 1). I put it together with assistance from my colleagues at Valley Arts Guitars, where I was employed from 1978 to 1983. This was my go-to for years, with occasional modifications along the way, including a new neck. On the control plate, the slot for the pickup switch morphed into a round hole for a mini-toggle I used to activate an onboard Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer, which was popular at the time. Eventually the Squeezer outlived its usefulness and went away, along with the mini-toggle switch.
This guitar has proven largely immune to the dastardly things I’d done to it in the name of sonic progress, retaining its core personality regardless of playing style, regardless of amp. I often got compliments on the sound of my “pink Tele,” to which I would always reply, “Thank you ... and by the way, it’s an Esquire.”
This mutt had been mothballed for about 20 years, but recently I pulled it out for a fresh spin. I was surprised at how effortlessly it fit into my current stylistic convention (whatever that is), and what a blast it was to play! After riffing a while, I decided it sounded a little strident in the mids. Tempting fate, I opened the control cavity to see what was going on. Everything looked normal, except for some sloppy wiring and the number “180” on the volume pot engraved in my familiar, haphazard scratch. I put the pot on a meter and, sure enough, it measured 180k—a number you’ve probably never seen on a guitar volume pot. I realized this was likely causing the peaky midrange. After I installed a typical 250k pot, the mid peak shifted predictably, becoming less intrusive and inspiring me to pound away on it for another couple of hours.
After wearing out my feeble callouses, I felt it was time to do something about that hole on the control plate. I certainly had no interest in new onboard electronics, but I wanted something to make this instrument complete. I stumbled upon the solution while taking one last feedback blast for the day. Ever since I’d heard James Honeyman-Scott’s awesome use of feedback stutter on “Tattooed Love Boys,” I’ve found some way to weave that sound into my music. What my beater Esquire wanted was a kill switch! As amp builders, we buy a lot of switches and I’m always getting samples from our various suppliers. Digging around, I found a very cool Audi-style push-button ignition switch with a light touch. I connected it temporarily to try it out—it was perfect. I then drilled the first new hole in my Esquire in over 30 years (Photo 2). Once I had it back together, it was heaven.
While exploring the commanding tone and feel of this instrument, I rediscovered a life partner. But wiser now, I’m careful not to overdo the tinkering. As it turns out, my personal identification with this instrument still remains strong. At a recent trade event, an old acquaintance reminded me of a show I’d played with this guitar. “I still remember that pink Tele,” he proclaimed. To which I replied, “Thank you ... and by the way, it’s an Esquire.”
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.