Do You Have HDEPD? If you play electric guitar, you might want to read this and find out how I can help you . . . maybe.
Now that the remaster of my classic art rock album, SONCOMBER,REVISITED, has been released and the charity campaign associated with it is up and running, I'm able to start looking at the production timeline for the future. Coming soon for me, a new project is waiting. As always, it seems like yet another mountain I have to figure out how to climb. . . I wonder if Sir Edmund Hillary ever wondered how he would survive any of his expeditions? I'm not trying to complain. Certainly, I feel grateful for the opportunity to produce more music. Nonetheless, it does seem daunting at times. While I have survived (for now) my battle with Hairy cell leukemia, it's specter (until a cure is found) remains and my body is not the same as before. . . Again, this is not a complaint, just a statement of fact. I continue to make adjustments everyday. As I have stated many times previously, don't we all have demons to battle? Let’s battle them . . . On that note, what better way to engage the darkness than with a little levity. . . In this case, with a lot of light-hearted nonsensical musings by yours truly but with some serious real world advice at the end.
I once fought a certain little monster for quite sometime in my musical life. While It had no potential to end my existence, was really quite inconsequential, and was actually ridiculous, it still was "a thing" for me. . . Utilizing the many psychological degrees I had obtained . . . NOT, I decided to diagnose myself with Hallucinogenic Dissociative Effects Pedal Disorder. Yes, this is totally preposterous and made up, but it sounds good . . . or bad, depending on how you look at it. This is a disorder that only affects electric guitar players locked in a quest for “ultimate tone”. More specifically, the ultimate tone when employing the use of effects pedals. . .the quest for tone with regards to guitar amps and speaker cabinets go beyond the scope of this writing so I will not be addressing that here. One is afflicted with HDEPD when you: 1. dream of the ultimate effects pedal driven tone so much that you begin to see and hear things that aren’t there, 2. dissociate different potential tones into multiple conflicting sound “personalities” at war with each other, 3. collapse into complete hysteria due to the fact that you are unable to reconcile any of the sounds as “your sound”.
I use my Strymon Bigsky on all types of things other than guitar . . . synths, vocals, etc. Rightly so, because this pedal is not cheap. It's ability to store presets, produce studio quality reverb effects, is midi equipped, expression pedal controllable coupled with being able to handle a wide range of mono or stereo line level inputs / outputs justified the hefty price tag. . .at least to me.
There are literally thousands of guitar effects pedals on the market today. The explosion of a myriad of “boutique” pedal builders over the last decade has absolutely saturated the market with choices for guitarists. . . TOO MANY CHOICES! I have had the privilege to use and own a lot of different pedals in my personal hunt for the “ultimate tone”. I have bought and sold more guitar pedals over the years than any other type of musical equipment I employ. It can become a bit of an obsession. I’m sure this is sounding familiar to many a player reading this. . . It all came to a head when I realized one day that I had contracted HDEPD! Arrrg!
So, as someone who has since learned to run from the madness of Hallucinogenic Dissociative Effects Pedal Disorder, I wish to impart three (3) points of sober advice to the budding or experienced electric guitarist searching for his/her “ultimate tone”. This advice also comes from my many years experience as a recording musician, producer, and audio engineer.
Here are three concepts to hold close to your guitar playing heart:
1. There is no such thing as “ultimate tone”. It is as mythical an idea as Shangri La. . . There are only good tones and bad tones. Honestly, the differences between the two are judged within the context of the music in which they are used.
2. Use what is affordable or available to you. I guarantee, when making a recording, 90% of the time you can come up with something that works within the context of the song using the gear you have at the time. This is the method your favorite guitar hero’s used. Especially when they were just starting out. It forced them to be creative. They fiddled around with whatever they had or was given to them until it worked. Sometimes this simply meant plugging straight into a channel of the recording console and overdriving it’s preamp. No pedals (or even guitar amps) there! If you take the time to learn to use what you have in creative ways, whether by playing technique or recording technique, you will find less and less need to go on a multi-thousand dollar pedal quest. . .
3. Other than to other fellow guitarists, the music buying (or streaming) public DOES NOT CARE how you got your sound and what you used to get it. Whether you used a $50 recycled, road worn, ProCo RAT2 or a $2500 collectable Klon Centaur is of no importance to the public. They only care that it sounds good within the context of the music. The public is much more interested in what kind of guitar part you come up with than it’s sound. The public is very opened mined to different sounds. . . Only we guitar snobs care about “proper tone” and what seemingly prestigious gear we use to get it. . .
I freely acknowledge that there are many, many great guitar effects pedals out there from a seemingly endless list of manufactures. I’m not going to suggest you should only purchase budget pedals because that is all that is required or to only stick with much more expensive brands because they often offer expanded / exotic capabilities. Those decisions are entirely up to you and are directly related to what kind of pedal you’re after, what kind of music you’re playing and what kind of budget you have. My reason for writing this article is to simply help bring some perspective and insight to the quest for “ultimate tone”. Hopefully, these words will help keep you from spending thousands of dollars unnecessarily, over time, searching for something that does not exist and will likely only end in a serious case of Hallucinogenic Dissociative Effects Pedal Disorder!
My favorite multi-effects pedal. While this has good reverbs, delays, and special f/x, I mainly use the the MS-70CDR for chorus pedal modeling. . . Whether using the model of the Boss CE-1, EHX Small Clone, MXR M234, etc. the modeled sounds and characteristics are very close to the original hardware, many of which I also own or have owned. The advantage here is to not have to deal with expensive repair and upkeep of vintage pedals.