10 Things You'll Learn While Watching "The Pedal Movie"

The Pedal Movie starts at the earliest days of effects, those inventive electro-mechanical devices of the early 20th century that even predate pedals, and it continues through the present day of elaborate pedalboards, DSP wizardry, and an ever-expanding galaxy of effects builders.

That's a lot of ground to cover. So let us whet your appetite with a few specific facts. Like what you read below and want to learn more? Rent or buy The Pedal Movie now.

Reverb Presents: The Pedal Movie


The first wah pedal was born out of an attempt to save money on the manufacturing of an amp tone switch. According to the original engineer of the wah pedal, Brad Plunkett, his original assignment from his higher ups was to come up with a cheaper way to implement a mid-range boost switch on a Vox amp. While tinkering with a new part to update the circuit, he stumbled upon the characteristic sweeping sound of a wah pedal. From there, the circuit landed in a foot pedal taken from a nearby organ and the wah pedal was born.


Nancy Sinatra had a direct impact on the early history of fuzz. According to Glenn Snoddy, one of the originators of the first commercial fuzz pedal, it was Nancy Sinatra coming to his studio for a session that requested the signature fuzz sound heard on Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry.” The request from Sinatra is what inspired Snoddy and his partners to try to replicate the sound—originally caused by a blow channel in a mixing console—via transistors.


The 2008 recession fueled the growth of the effects pedal industry. Many of the more contemporary builders profiled in the The Pedal Movie reflected on how their sales saw a huge increase following the recession in 2008. According to these builders, guitarists who perhaps previously looked to buying a new amp or guitar as a way to change up their sound were now looking to pedals as a comparatively more affordable means to the same end.


Many of today’s biggest guitar pedal builders got their start modding older pedals. Lots of builders on today’s boutique scene learned their craft by repairing or modding other pedals. Pedal modding refers to taking usually a cheaper pedal and swapping in some nicer parts to enhance the quality a bit—it’s like hot-rodding a Toyota.


The first reverb pedals didn’t exist until the 1980s. Today, reverb stands as one of the most popular pedal types on the market. The first reverb pedals, however, didn’t come around until the 1980s with the expansion of digital technology and microprocessors.


Two of Britain's most influential pedal figures got their starts working for the Royal Navy. Roger Mayer–known to some as Jimi Hendrix’s secret weapon—and pedalboard pioneer Pete Cornish both earned their electronics know-how while serving for the Royal Navy. Both of these British pedal powerhouses stand as key influencers in the history of effects.


Early filter and envelope follower effects like those of Musitronics used the same tech as the first generation of commercial synthesizers. In his interview for The Pedal Movie, Mike Beigel of Musitronics recounted how the early Musitronic effects, including the extremely influential Mu-Tron III, were taken from an earlier synthesizer project he designed as a student at MIT in the late ‘60s.


Frank Zappa stole a young Steve Vai’s favorite pedal. In his interview for The Pedal Movie, Steve Vai recounted going to his first rehearsal with Frank Zappa and bringing along a favorite combo fuzz wah pedal. Frank asked if he could have it, and Vai, not wanting to disappoint his hero, said “Sure.” Per Vai, the pedal is now probably in the Zappa vault somewhere.


J Mascis doesn’t understand the point of “transparent pedals.” “Transparent” has become a bit of a buzz word in pedal circles used to describe effects that enhance rather than cloak tones. Fuzz fanatic J Mascis asked, if it’s transparent, “Why would you bother turning it on?”


Peter Frampton learned about the famous talk box from Pete Drake during the sessions for George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” Years before the talk box became his signature effect, Peter Frampton was invited to play on the sessions for George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” It was there during a break between tracks that pedal steel legend Pete Drake first showed him the way of the talk box, becoming a true lightbulb moment for a young Frampton. There are thousands of independent builders and small businesses building and selling pedals today in a vast online community and market.

The Pedal Movie
And you thought you were obsessed with pedals.
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