october 2014

Melissa Etheridge plays her favorite electric guitar, a custom 1982 Les Paul, live in February of 2014. There's no sitting allowed on her stage. "I want to make a sign of a stool with an 'X' through it," says Etheridge of her performance style.
Photo by Ken Settle.

From a badminton racket to her signature Ovation and various 12-string obsessions in between, one of rock’s reigning queens shares a few of her favorite guitar things.

In the days of the Ed Sullivan Show, it was actually the cartoon garage band The Archies that caused 6-year-old Melissa Etheridge to fall in love with the guitar. She didn’t have her own instrument then, so she pretended to play on a badminton racket. “I really wanted to be Reggie,” she remembers.

When her father brought home a Stella beginner guitar, Etheridge was 8 years old and very determined. “He brought it home for my sister,” Etheridge says. “I was like, ‘But I want to play!’ My sister was 12 and the teacher said I was too young. Finally the teacher said, ‘Let her come but she’ll quit after a week because it’ll be too hard. Her fingers will bleed.’ Of course, yes, my fingers bled ... and I did not quit [laughs].” (Her sister, however, did quit.)

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This re-imagined classic octave fuzz is mean, massive, and musical.

What is it about octave fuzz? Hendrix-based hero associations aside, there’s something else that draws us in. It’s a sound that’s a bit filthy, a bit decadent, tough, chaotic, and exploding with sass—like the electric feel of strutting big city streets in the wee hours. Like all rich and intoxicating things, octave fuzz is best in moderation. But used with discretion and timing, it’s one of the most distinctive ways to drive a riff or solo home.

MXR’s La Machine is as mean and heavy as a good octave fuzz should be. But there’s also a civility (and we use that word loosely) that makes it very rewarding and a bit more user-friendly—an octave fuzz that works as well for the neophyte as the experienced octave fuzzist.

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This compact analog delay bubbles over with impressive modulated echo tones.

Seymour Duncan is just about the biggest name in aftermarket pickups. That focus doesn’t reflect the bounds of the company’s know-how, though. The company has built guitars, amplifiers, and a bunch of effects over the years. They’ve reenergized their pedal-building efforts over the last year, and one of the latest products from the Santa Barbara workshop is the Vapor Trail, an analog bucket-brigade delay that also incorporates a chorus-like modulation section. Despite its small size, it sounds huge.

Undercover Powerhouse
The Vapor Trail is a pretty simple affair on the surface, but the compact control set gives you a lot of sound-shaping power. The delay controls are pretty conventional, with knobs for mix, repeat, and delay.

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