Sweaty Spice, the other Spice Girl

Taking a pause in the series on building a "sound" to just comment on the state of the guitar pedal situation.

When I first began playing in the early 1980's, there were two sorts of amps. The iconic big sound tube amps (Marshall, Mesa-Boogie, Peavey, etc), and the smaller, less iconic, mostly solid state amps that us mere mortals could play. Sure, if you could afford a 50 or 100 watt Marshall, cranked to 10, with a germanium fuzz box, you got blissful sounds, at the risk of permanent hearing loss.

For us bedroom players, you got a much smaller amp whose dirty channel - frankly - sucked donkey balls. So, you would head to the music stores (that were practically on every corner in the 1980's) and tried the effects pedals (aka "stomp boxes") to try to get a tone and sound that didn't cause you to cringe.

They weren't terribly expensive, and most of them were crappy. Sure there were some gems. The Ibeanez Tube Screamer of this era is still prized today (good examples routinely fetch near $500 on eBay).

I recall a revolving array of distortion and delay pedals until I settled on the previously written about Digitech pedal. I think I paid $60 for it at the time, and that seemed like a lot of money. (it was WAY less than the $250 or so I dropped on the Boss DD3 pedal that I hated)

Of course, pedals improved, and the variety of sound modifiers was wide, powering the rise of grunge, and heavy metal, but also a lot of modern rock and pop sounds through the ages. But until the early 2000's the market seemed reasonable.

The rise of the boutique pedals

Now, I didn't participate in this phenomenon, but I have read about it. The advent of digital signal processors, and multi effects, like my Line6 PodXT, has spawned a genre of boutique pedals. Some clever analog electrical engineers, and DSP programming wizards came together to start a trend of very high quality, specialized sounding pedals, that can be combined to give you a unique sound.

Want that lush vibrato of Robin Trower on "Bridge of Sighs"? Sure. Want the classic Pink Floyd sound? Sure. Heck, you can buy it all together, Keeley makes a pedal called "The Dark Side" that combines the tape delay effects of the Binson Echorec magnetic drum delay with the modulation effects that Gilmour uses to build his tone, all in a single pedal.

Now comes my complaint. It seems that there is a standard price for a pedal, and that is $200 (plus or minus). Some are $220, some are $180, but in general, if you want a great Chorus, or a Phaser, or a Vibrato, or a Reverb, or an overdrive, or ... expect to drop a couple of Franklins.

Sure, you can buy used (and I have) but between shipping and tax you aren't saving that much money.

So far, I am up to about $700 in pedals, and I still need a chorus and a phaser to round out what I want my sound to be.

Bye the time I am done, I will have spent enough money to buy that Fender American Professional II guitar I was eyeing last year. (but then I would be still looking for my tone, and dropping some serious coin on pedals or multi-effect processors.

My latest acquisition is back to Catalinbread for their Echorec delay pedal. It mimics the Binson Echorec magnetic drum delay, and I am totally grooving on the sound it gives. Still experimenting with it, but it is very versatile, it sounds GREAT, and it will remain a part of my signal path.

I need to buy some microphones to be able to record what I am talking about to share.

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