A Short Guide to Pedals Designed to Make You Sound Like A Specific Artist

If you've been following Reverb over the past few years, you may have seen one or two of our patented Potent Pairings videos. In these segments, we offer up suggested combinations of available and affordable pedals that will replicate notable recorded guitar tones. We have a lot of fun putting these together, and to date, we've covered bands like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tame Impala, and The Beatles to name just a few.

Using pedals to emulate a sound you love is, of course, nothing new. Over the past few years, though, some builders have pounced on this practice, resulting in an uptick of individual pedals designed to capture the tone of a particular artist.

Similar to amp–in–box style pedals like Wampler's Ace Thirty and Triple Wreck, these pedals represent a growing class of effect that will continue to expand as more and more builders put their own spin on the idea. Keeley Electronics — which seems to release a new pedal every month or so — is leading the pack so far, but there are other builders starting to embrace the approach as well.

Today, we're looking at a small representation of this growing pedal genre, focusing on the particular artists they seek to emulate.

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Jimi Hendrix

We'll start our tour with the most influential electric guitar player of all: Jimi Hendrix.

On his recordings and mythical live performances, Jimi Hendrix made some of the most iconic guitar sounds of all time, inspiring musicians — and later, pedal builders — to try to replicate them. Of course, Jimi's revolutionary playing style earned him a seat on guitar god Mount Olympus, but his use of effects like fuzz and vibrato have been just as important for legions of the tone obsessed.

The Keeley Monterey combines a suite of effects inspired by, as the name suggests, Jimi's set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. On the left you get a '60s–tinged fuzz like an early Fuzz Face, and on the right, a modulation circuit that can switch between vibe, auto–wah, and rotary emulation with an octave option.

A decade before the Keeley option entered the scene, DigiTech released its own Hendrix pedal dubbed the Jimi Hendrix Experience pedal, combining digital emulations of tones from seven classic Jimi tracks along with an expression pedal.

The Experience pedal has been discontinued, but used units are still often available on Reverb. It certainly came too early to be considered part of any new trend, but is still an interesting option for anyone looking for a one–stop shop of Jimi tones.

The Beatles

By the time the band recorded its most influential records, the Beatles were, of course, a studio–only affair. Their legendary distortion tones were milked first and foremost from a combination of preamps and consoles, but their amp selection did include a number of rare, solid–state Vox models.

The White Pedal from our dear friends at Jext Telez seeks to recreate the drive and fuzz circuits of some of these amps, with particular attention paid to how they interacted with the desk and tape during the '68 Beatles sessions. As you can see in this video, the White Pedal nails that tight, zippy guitar tone heard on many of the Beatles' lead parts.

Also worth mentioning here are the JHS Colour Box and its pared down counterpart, The Crayon. These pedals are designed to mimic the preamp section of a vintage Neve console like the Beatles used, and JHS specifically calls out the intro to "Revolution" — recorded directly into a Neve input — as a touchstone for its sound. Like the White Pedal, the Colour Box is capable of those tight, fuzzed–out guitar tones in addition to a range of other studio applications.

Admittedly, it may be a stretch to consider this a strictly Beatles pedal, but all the same, if it's Beatles sounds you seek, the Colour Box is an inspiring tool to have in your home recording rig.

Pink Floyd

When you listen to Pink Floyd records and read up on the different gizmos that Gilmour and the gang used in the '70s, you get a picture of someone who ventured on a very profound, always evolving tone quest. That quest would continue throughout his career, so there's no static Gilmour tone. There are, in fact many — each inspiring and innovative in its own way.

Any Gilmour wannabe (and I say that lovingly) needs a good fuzz pedal, and within the many hundreds of modern fuzzes to consider lies the Iron Bell from Mojo Hand FX. The Iron Bell is that it's not really intended to replicate any specific Gilmour tone or track. It honors his total fuzz legacy and designed as more of a base coat on which to build.

For something a little more fully featured, Keeley comes through again with its unambiguously named Dark Side. Like the Monterey mentioned above, the Dark Side is a multi–effect. This one combines op–amp fuzz, tape delay, phaser, flanger, vibe, and a rotary speaker effect. It's a lot of Floyd power to get your brain around. We recommend playing with it while watching the Wizard of Oz.

My Bloody Valentine

For a generation of guitarists, Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine set the template for how guitar effects should be used. Many blog posts and forum threads have been dedicated to how exactly Shields crafted his highly influential guitar tracks, but at the core lies a distinct combination of fuzz, reverb, and the constant riding of the whammy bar on a Jazzmaster or Jaguar.

The Keeley Loomer — named after a track from the MBV's seminal album, Loveless — pairs three fuzz modes with three reverb effects, including an essential reverse reverb setting.

For the shoegaze–enamored guitarists just interested in the fuzz end of the equation, there's the aptly named Shoegazer from Devi Ever FX. The Shoegazer isn't really about just one band, but for many guitarists, shoegaze and My Bloody Valentine may as well be synonymous. There's also a rare pedal called the the Noisemaker Loveless that crops up occasionally. It's similar to the Loomer in its dual offering of fuzz and echo.

Queen

When you think of the guitar tones of Queen and Brian May, you usually think of the super–charged solos from the band's many hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Killer Queen." May's zinging tone is unmistakable. His rigs evolved (and continue to evolve), but the basic form is a combination of a treble booster pedal like the classic Dallas Rangemaster with a modded, top–boosted Vox AC30 (or a wall of them).

The Catalinbread Galileo packs this exact combination into one box. Building on Catalinbread's straight AC30 emulator, the CB30, the Galileo adds a treble boost circuit to the mix for instant May madness. Not only does this pedal nail that Queen lead tone, but its intense gain–building output also makes it a lot of fun to pair with other pedals. It's like an adrenaline shot into the inner thigh of your rig.

Like the DigiTech Hendrix pedal mentioned above, there's also a now discontinued Brian May DigiTech pedal that uses the same format: seven modes for seven classic tracks with an expression pedal. Both this and the Hendrix version were designed in collaboration with studio legend Eddie Kramer who worked with both guitarists.

Further Considerations

As with any overview like this, there are plenty of other single band–focused pedals out there. Wampler used to make a cool Nirvana–themed chorus/vibrato pedal and the aforementioned Noisemaker Effects also made a run of Radiohead Kid A emulator pedals. Electro–Harmonix also released the Satisfaction Fuzz a year or two ago which, as you may have guessed, was a replication of the Fuzz-Tone pedal used to recording the Rolling Stones biggest hit. There are many more out there, and I leave it to you and the comments section to fill in the blanks.

By the way, for even more tone aping fun, spend some time exploring our gallery of Potent Pairing videos below.

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