State of the Stomp: Conserving Energy
Are we in the “Golden Age” of pedals? If so, how best to embrace it? Photo by Mark Elliott

The power of positive thinking is the best adaptor for the voltage flow of life.

The energy I have in my early 30s is fleeting on my best days—spread thin between ventures and responsibilities, my dreams and hobbies, and even the responsibilities, dreams, and desires of those closest to me. I need and want to help with those, too.

And then there’s what everybody else in the world is doing. Which, I think, is what this article is about. Maybe you’ll get a brief glimpse into a guitar pedal company owner’s brain and thought process, as scattered and full of bullshit as it may be.

Us and them. It’s easy in this industry to think about what everyone else is doing and be affected by it—make decisions because of it, have hurt feelings or a sense of encroachment based on previous products, ideas, or marketing. It all feels like fair game to find offense. We mostly know each other. We at least have a sense of our peers’ backgrounds: if they’re a new kid, if they’re a seasoned veteran, if they’ve made some good decisions or made some questionable moves.

Most of those judgments are subjective. How I see one manufacturer varies from the next. This is a huge part of my business that has nothing to do with my company, products, or sales. Or it could, because I have that choice. And here’s the juice: I don’t want to spend precious energy worrying about, critiquing, or mentally fighting what other companies do. As a consumer and pedal user/hoarder/appreciator, I would much rather be excited about the next great pedal or improvement on an existing pedal. I want people I know to create something awesome. And then I want to play it.

I want people I know to create something awesome.
And then I want to play it.

I’ve been fighting off this example the last couple of weeks when thinking about this article, but go with me, because I couldn’t squelch it. Let’s take an appliance that almost everyone uses—a refrigerator. Fridges have been in homes since 1913. So there have been a lot of fridge makers and many improvements upon the initial design and principle: to keep food cold. Some people prefer one fridge over another. Maybe it’s the brand, maybe it’s an additional feature, maybe it makes ice quicker, colder, or in different shapes. Stupid analogy, sure, but there are a lot of pedal makers out there coming up with good, innovative ideas and getting their ideas made and into the hands of players. That’s great. We seem to be in the “Golden Age” of pedals. I’ve heard that said. I don’t want to believe it, because I think the age that comes after “Golden” is usually pretty dismal. And that’s my future. Bummer.

Accentuate the positive. As I write, I’m in the midst of the holiday takeover, fielding a Black Friday sales stretch into the bulk of late December. So now we scramble. We build. We organize. We build. We sleep a little. We build. And hopefully we ship everything in time for people to be happy. Then we sleep a lot.

If you’re reading this column at the end of January or beyond, all of the new pedals and musical toys have been rolled out at NAMM. When that happens, do I get jealous, petty, nitpicky, critical, or harsh about what other manufacturers are putting out? Or upset that I didn’t come up with the same idea, or that maybe it’s close to an idea I had, executed or not? Or do I try to see these pedals and toys as innovations and exciting developments? It’s a big struggle, but celebrating cool things that others made is how I want to expend my energy.

I’m working on this in myself—to not react to what other companies do, to not revel in their perceived failures or be bitter about their perceived successes. Sure, it’s all business and we’re all competing, but I use pedals, too. Mostly not even the ones I make. It is the “Golden Age,” after all. Why not share in the excitement? Put the positivity out there. Let other companies be responsible for their decisions and I’ll be responsible for mine. I have the energy for that.

My years-long search for the “right” Bigsby-outfitted box finally paid off. Now how do I make this sumbitch work in my band?

Considering the amount of time I’ve spent (here and elsewhere) talking about and lusting after Gretsch hollowbody guitars, it’s taken me a remarkably long time to end up with a big Bigsby-outfitted box I truly love. High-end Gretsches are pricey enough that, for a long time, I just couldn’t swing it. Years ago I had an Electromatic for a while, and it looked and played lovely, but didn’t have the open, blooming acoustic resonance I hoped for. A while later, I reviewed the stellar Players Edition Broadkaster semi-hollow, and it was so great in so many ways that I set my sights on it, eventually got one, and adore it to this day. Yet the full-hollowbody lust remained.

Read MoreShow less

See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

Marty Stuart

Submit your own artist pick collections to for inclusion in a future gallery.

How does a legacy artist stay on top of his game? The pianist, hit singer-songwriter, producer, and composer talks about the importance of musical growth and positive affirmation; his love for angular melodicism; playing jazz, pop, classical, bluegrass, jam, and soundtrack music; and collaborating with his favorite guitarists, including Pat Metheny and Jerry Garcia.

Read MoreShow less