The First Day of School
We’re going to take this space that PG has given us to discuss our favorite topic, and the favorite topic of nearly every guitarist today – tone!
Greetings, fellow tone seekers, and welcome to our new Premier Guitar column, Stomp School. I’d like to start off by telling you a little about what we’re doing and what you can look forward to in the months ahead. Basically, we’re going to take this space that PG has given us to discuss our favorite topic, and the favorite topic of nearly every guitarist today – tone! More specifically, tone as it relates to the use of guitar effects pedals. We’ll be covering all things effects related, from vintage to boutique and beyond. Plus, we’ll have lots of useful tips, tricks and technical info, presented in easy-to-understand terms to help you get the tone you’re trying to achieve.
The folks at PG had originally asked Analog Man, Mike Piera, to write the column. But as most Analog Man customers know, Mike has his hands full seven days a week just being Analog Man – running the business, answering emails, and trying to develop new mods and effects. So, Mike has asked me to do the heavy lifting and most of the writing for the column. As the author of Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects, I guess I’m sort of the de facto in-house Analog Man writer, so turning the majority of the writing duties over to me seemed like the obvious solution. Just like with the book, Mike will be helping out with ideas and reading the drafts of every article, making any necessary additions or corrections and providing some commentary of his own. So there you have it – two analog guys for the price of one!
Before we continue though, I have a confession to make – I am a gear junkie. I always have been, since before I could even play three chords. And not just pedals, I love it all – guitars, amps, keyboards, drums, sound reinforcement, and recording equipment too. Anything that plugs in and has the potential to make an amplified sound can give me palpitations and shakes. It’s almost embarrassing to admit, but the sight of a panel full of knobs, sliders and switches gets me googly-eyed and swooning. My gear obsession shifted into overdrive several years ago when I grew weary of low-paying, late-night gigs in smoky bars and decided to get the proverbial day job. That’s when I began working at Analog Man.
I can’t even begin to describe the effect that experience had on me. Working in that environment every day was the equivalent of a seven year-old going to school at Santa’s Workshop. I was exposed to every kind of stomp gadget imaginable – not just Analog Man pedals, but vintage and boutique effects of every kind. Specimens from all corners of the stomp kingdom found their way into the workshop, either for sale, trade, mod or repair. From there I totally immersed myself in anything and everything having to do with effects.
After being around pedals all day, I’d go home and play with them at night, look for pedal info online, or pore through the volumes of effects-related literature that Mike had accumulated over the years. On weekends I spent hours soldering things and unsoldering other things, attempting to read schematics and learning about the various electronic components most often used in stomp circuits. Without hesitation or regret, I spent all my money on effects – every last cent! I literally learned something new every day, and I’d say in that I time I earned the equivalent of a Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. in Stompboxology.
I eventually left the shop to write and publish the aforementioned book (a story in itself), and to find my own little niche in the wide world of tone. Over the past several years, I’ve had the opportunity to get my greedy, gear-mongering hands on an astounding array of sweet music-making machinery and have treated my tone-hungry ears to a host of treasures that are rarely within the reach of most players. I feel truly humble and grateful to be in such a privileged position, and I’m pleased to be able to share with you from the experience of my adventures as a hardcore sonic conquistador. Needless to say, I’m pretty enthusiastic about this stuff, and I know there are plenty of you who feel the same way. Analog Mike and I are looking forward to turning you on to some cool things we’ve discovered about effects over the years, because that’s what we’re into and that’s what we do.
Next month, find out why today is the greatest time in history to be an electric guitarist. Until then, keep on stompin’!
Tom Hughes (a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For Musicians Only (formusiciansonly.com) and author of Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects. For Musicians Only is also the home of the FMO Gear Shop.
Analog Man (analogman.com) is one of the largest boutique effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993. Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com