Sick of playing predictably? Take a few tips from the booty-shakin’ masters.
Are you obsessed with “the brown sound” so much that you no longer notice the brown stains on your teeth? Do you lie awake at night weighing the pros and cons of jail vs. the tonal properties of illegal tortoiseshell picks? Do you sell your plasma weekly and raid gas-station penny bowls to fund NOS tubes? Are there more pedalboards in your bedroom than chairs in your living room?
Some of you think I’m joking. Some of you are imagining Raphael and Donatello kicking the asses of CITES-violating jerkwads. The rest of you either are—or should be—saying, “If you only knew the depths to which I have sunk for the sake of grand tone….”
To the first, I say, “Enjoy your naïveté.” To the second, I say, “Beware of Michael Bay.” And to the rest of you I say, “Enough is enough—it’s time to funk shit up.”
Take this literally or figuratively—either way, it’s turtle-soup-for-the-soul advice: We have a propensity to be too damn un-funky. Too prone to plodding, predictable rhythms. Too addicted to the same old progressions or chord shapes. Too dismissive of “icky” guitar tones. Too apt to go for that phat-toned whole-step bend on the G string—followed by either a fifth on the high E or maybe a super-sustained B-string bend up at the 15th fret. Too stuck on isolated-in-a-laboratory definitions of cool sonics. We chase after sounds that rage in our bedrooms, but we wrinkle up our noses at sounds that, in a full-band mix, might be the difference between only guitar dudes caring and regular people actually giving a cuss.
So try this: Buy yourself James Brown’s The 50th Anniversary Collection. Put some Sly Stone in rotation. Get yourself some Kool & the Gang, KC and the Sunshine Band, Earth Wind & Fire, and Commodores. Even if you don’t become a funk fanatic, you’ll learn tons. Plus, you will become a funk fanatic.
For starters, these bands have seriously dense mixes. But check out how the guitar pops like crazy. Everybody’s got their own space, and they dial in their tones so they don’t step on the organ or the bass or the sax, let alone the vocal. And that proverbial “ice-pick” tone we always dump on? Actually, it’s pretty freakin’ useful. That sped-up, crazy-compressed guitar at the beginning of the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight” would destroy small rodents by itself, but instead it gets you floating just before the nasty high-hat-and-snare grooves and the throbbing bass send you to boogie town.
But it’s not just the tones. Each of those bands is/was full of badass players, but their songs matter because the musicians could write a simple part that stuck in your cranium for, like, ever. And each of them wasn’t afraid to step completely out of the mix to let the song breathe.
Technique is also part of the equation. But it’s not about who has the nimblest wrist this side of the continental divide. And it’s not a swivel-action coordination contest between your wah foot and your picking hand. It’s about hypnosis.
There are gear considerations, too. But all of these things in isolation are worthless. It’s the combination of it all that works. And it doesn’t work for just funk. No matter what you play, see if you can’t occasionally get your rig to sound like a banshee whose reedy-as-hell shriek would make heads explode—if its ratty-ass rhythm didn’t combine with the rest of the band and channel the energy to everyone’s butts. If you can’t get your bridge or neck pickup to sound thin as a shiv, turn on your wah and leave it toe-down. Get a metal pick and work on riffs and rhythms that are exclusively spasmodic downstrokes. And those telephone-wire strings you’ve been using might make you feel like SRV, but if you want the cutting stank tone, try going down to .010s or .009s. And maybe throw a horrid-toned fuzz on top just to make sure the damage is done. Or, ignore your pedals completely and let the primeval snap of your axe and amp work their voodoo. Whatever you do, once you stumble upon a badass riff, grab on to that sucker and repeat it like a snake charmer messing with a cobra.
Just remember: Like everything else, funk can be predictable. But ain’t nobody got time for that kinda funk.
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.